Entries in charity (3)


Kasturi Rangan on CSR realities

Despite the widely accepted ideal of companies pursuing "shared value"- creating economic value in ways that also create value for society - Kasturi Rangan and two colleagues argue in a recent HBR piece that research suggests this is not the norm.

Most companies actually practice a multifaceted version of CSR that runs the gamut from pure philanthropy to environmental sustainability to the active pursuit of shared value. Further, well-managed companies seem less interested in totally integrating CSR with their business strategies and goals than in devising a cogent CSR program aligned with the company's purpose and values. But although many companies embrace this broad vision of CSR, they are hampered by poor coordination and a lack of logic connecting their various programs, and must develop coherent CSR strategies. Rangan lists the following practices to create such strategies:

  • Focusing on philanthropy - Programs in this theater are not designed to produce profits or directly improve business performance;
  • Improving operational effectiveness - Programs in this theater function within existing business models to deliver social or environmental benefits in ways that support a company's operations across the value chain, often improving efficiency and effectiveness; and
  • Transforming the business model - Programs in this theater create new forms of business specifically to address social or environmental challenges.

Once a company opts to pursue those three practices, managers can begin the rigorous undertaking of bringing discipline and coherence to the portfolio as a whole by following the four steps:

  • Pruning and aligning programs - The initial step for many firms is to bring coherence to the existing programs in each theater. To do so, they must reduce or eliminate initiatives that do not address an important social or environmental problem in keeping with the company's purpose, identity, and values;
  • Developing metrics to gauge performance - Gauging the success of a theater one program requires measuring its nonfinancial outputs;
  • Coordinating programs across theaters - Forming a coherent portfolio, one whose initiatives are mutually reinforcing and consistent with the firm’s business purpose and values; and
  • Developing an interdisciplinary CSR strategy - Establish a position whose primary responsibility is to integrate initiatives across all three theaters, regularly convening the key players in each theater to ensure ongoing communication and alignment, even if responsibility for individual initiatives remains dispersed.

-- Clara Shen


Charities, cross-sector collaboration, and "stealing" models that work

Corporations are re-assessing business models and moving, in some cases, to implement social business frameworks in collaboration with nonprofits. What about the nonprofit sector itself?

I enjoyed this article by Eric Stowe (founder and director of Splash -- an international nonprofit working on smart solutions to the water crisis in developing countries), advocating the need to keep social business models open source to achieve transformational scale. He provocatively suggests that chartitable organizations should promote the "theft" of their operating plans in order to foster greater, faster success.

By opening up our models, successful groups will make second-mover advantage (when a company benefits from feedback on a competitor’s earlier release) possible—in fact, probable."

It's an example of the charitable sector opening up to cross-sector collaboration, giving the opportunity for nonprofits, funders, governments, and companies to work more closely and act collectively to deliver effective solutions for global social and environmental problems.

Stowe has also shared his vision for the charitable sector on achieving sustainability through local community empowerment in his recent TEDx talk, "How To Kill Your Charity."

-- Jia Yan Toh


Behavioral economics for consumer insights, digital currencies, and corporate culture in job transitions: Catalyst weekly briefing

Each week we are scanning the horizon for interesting content on topics we like that we will post for your reading pleasure. These may be items that we agree with, or not, on issues that touch in some way on what we are working on in our labs. We hope you enjoy them, and that they provoke discussion and additional thought.

The full briefing, with abstracts and links to original sources, is available here.



  • Digital currencies will be the disruptive innovation of 2015: Walter Isaacson

  • Collaboration needed between Western volunteers and those they are helping abroad

  • Farmland assets offer incentives for investors willing to overcome barriers


  • Executive Coach Ed Batista provides guidance on transitioning to more senior roles

  • Creative, fun employee manuals used to reach into culture at EF China


  • How behavioral economics can give consumer insight

  • Retail loyalty programs dependent on store quality