Archive for February, 2009

Growth-For-All helps CII anchor a hugely-successful CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Corporate Social Responsibility!

When Growth-For-All was invited by CII Northern Region to be the Knowledge Partner for the CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet, one of our key recommendations was focus! Focus on the specific needs of the ‘home’ states of a majority of the delegates, viz. Punjab, Haryana and HP. And, more important, focus on some real action, instead of just listening and discussions.

We were delighted when other CII members agreed to go down this path.

That brought us to the real question: do these ostensibly-prosperous states have any real challenges at all?  After all, Punjab, HP & Haryana are ranked 1,3 and 6 respectively in India Today’s 2008 ‘Ranking of States’. We spent time talking to NGOs and government officers to debate this. Simultaneously, we also commissioned a researcher to scan through all available published information.

Growth-For-All at CII’s CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet

A closer look revealed that Punjab itself had real problems. Its economic development is now the second-slowest, while its human-development indices for health and education are comparable to backward states. Livelihoods is a real challenge: while Punjab and Haryana face unemployment and underemployment on account of crisis in agriculture, HP’s problem is to meet the aspirations of its educated youth. The gender challenge is serious in all three states.

We now had our direction. And set about creating three highly-focused Panel Discussions: on livelihoods, gender and CSR. These, we knew, would provide delegates with ample food-for-thought on the real challenges facing their states. At the same time, we wanted to ensure that delegates ended the day with a clear, actionable CSR plan. So, we invited Mumbai-based Green Kettle Consulting to do a workshop-format session which would provide delegates with a framework within which to plan their own CSR.

I am delighted to announce that everything went as per plan, and we had a very-successful CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet.

Growth-For-All’s ‘Knowledge Paper’ released by Union Minister Meira Kumar; gets great reviews

Monday, February 23rd, 2009

Inclusive Growth!

As many as 113 books, papers and articles were reviewed in order to take stock of the entire body of knowledge available in the public domain. The result is a comprehensive ‘Knowledge Paper’ focused on the challenges faced by Punjab, Haryana and HP. Union Minister, Ms Meira Kumar, released the Paper at CII’s ‘CSR Best Practices’ Meet recently.

Knowledge Paper being released by Union Minister

Having been through a common, lived history, the three states have somewhat common trajectories of growth as well as challenges faced.

Meira Kumar addressing the audience

An important focus of the Knowledge Paper is on Livelihoods. It would come as a surprise to many that Punjab & Haryana, considered as the grain-bowl of India, are actually faced with a serious crisis in agriculture. Consequently, both unemployment and underemployment are big issues. There is an urgent need for crop diversification and agri-business initiatives, as well as rural, non-farm options. HP has a different problem; with big success in education, the challenge is to have livelihood opportunities keep pace with the inflow of educated youth into the workforce. At the same time, balancing industry, tourism & ecology assume importance.

The ‘gender’ issue, on the other hand, is a problem that cuts across all three states. The most common manifestations being declining sex ratios, poor health, insufficient women in workforce, as well as the deserted NRI brides of Punjab. The Paper analyses failures and successes closely, looks at legislative interventions tried out, as well as other interventions and case-studies.

Beyond ‘livelihood’ and ‘gender’, the Paper looks at a host of other issues in these three states.

The Knowledge Paper got a great response, and the general view being that it would be a good ready-reckoner for any Corporate looking at CSR in these three states.

CSR ‘Best Practices’ Meet provides some practical answers to the huge gender challenges in Northern states

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Remarkable People!

It would be no surprise to anyone that the states of Punjab, Haryana and HP face huge gender-related challenges. However, what is surprising is that not enough positive action has been witnessed; in fact, the reality is that this issue is usually brushed under the carpet.

Based on the strong hypothesis that gender discrimination can hinder the pace of development, Growth-For-All worked with CII to assemble a strong panel of speakers to focus on finding practical answers that could be supported and endorsed by CII members. Prof. Pam Rajput( Executive Director, Women’s Resource & Advocacy Center) anchored a spiritied discussion that went way beyond normal expectations. While Mr Anurag Agrawal( IAS; and author of a path-breaking book on the ‘missing girl child) emphasised the need to capture data and build case histories in order to sensitise people, Mr Subhash Mendhapurkar of NGO, Sutra, provided fascinating insights from HP. Dr Ashish Banerjee(Director, Fortis Hospital) & Mr Rajat Ray( UNFP) spoke about successful experiences with women in work-force, and the need for effective communication strategies.

Animated discussion among panelists before the session

What can corporates do to start making a difference?

The Panel came up with simple, elegant, and practical suggestions that corporates can start with. That corporates should hire more women, and focus on gender diversity was one clear answer.( In fact, Dr Banerjee provide a ringing endorsement when he said quite simply, ” women work better”). The other, equally-simple answer was that corporates should track the health and nutrition standards of their workers’ spouses as a routine practice, thereby driving widespread sensitization and awareness. Likewise, corporates are in a position to monitor incidences of domestic violence as well. Finally, corporates -especially those running factories - can create awareness about gender issues in their immediate neighbourhoods.

1.5 crore youth need jobs each year. Dire need for a ‘Repair & Prepare’ strategy

Saturday, February 14th, 2009

Inclusive Growth!

Who would ever believe that the prosperous states of Punjab, Haryana & HP have an underlying unemployment problem?

Raghuttama Rao, Managing Director, ICRA Management Consulting Services, and his team of consultants have looked at the livelihood problem closely across the country, and especially in these states.

As Raghu put it so succinctly at the CII Meet, almost 1.5 crore youngsters need into move the workforce each year, nationally. And the important thing is that they are completely unprepared for it. While a majority of these youngsters are from rural, farm backgrounds, most of the opportunities are in urban, non-farm sectors. At the same time, the education system does not prepare them at all with the kind of skills required for available jobs or self-employment opportunities.

In Punjab and Haryana, traditionally the granaries of India, a multi-faceted agricultural crisis has created a large unemployment and underemployment problem. Crop diversification, and initiatives in agri business and rural, non-farm sector haven’t quite kept pace. HP, on the other hand, has the twin challenge of generating livelihood avenues that keep pace with the inflow of educated youth, while- at the same time - balancing industry, tourism and ecology.

So, what can corporates do - as CSR - to help ‘prepare & repair’ this massive influx of unprepared/under-prepared entrants into the workforce each year?

Expertly anchored by Pradeep Narayanan, the CII ‘Best Practices’ Meet generated a set of ideas ranging from simple, practical ones( donate old computers; take interns) to more-involved ones( active participation in skills development and vocational training), to those with strong business linkages( e.g. co-create businesses that engage and benefit rural communities; make their produce part of the supply chain).

Reshma, Pradeep and Raghu

Reshma Anand, Founder & CEO of Earthy Goods, described her experience in helping horticulture producers in HP and Uttarakhand scale-up by providing market access, in a manner similar to what successful packaged goods companies have done for years. Anish Kumar, of Pradan, narrated how rural families in Central India have grown their low family-incomes by diversifying into mushroom, poultry, and tasar. 

The important thing now is to translate these ideas into concrete actions.