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A CSR Strategy That’s Good For Business

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For companies looking to kick-start, or jump-start, their in-house CSR programmes, they would do well to look at Deloitte Ireland’s partnership with Nurture Africa. 
Far from being a tick-box exercise, where employees are sent off to ‘do good’, the programme is focused strictly on achieving results, and prides itself on shared learning rather than a one-sided fix. 
We take a look under the skin of this long running partnership, and hear from both sides on how they benefit.
  

Nurture Africa approached the Deloitte CR Team in 2013 when it began to encounter challenges with the local organisations it partnered with in Uganda. The Irish founded charity, whose goal is to support vulnerable children and families, mentally and physically, who are affected by HIV/AIDS, were concerned about a lack of financial accountability and transparency that was rendering partnerships almost impossible.

“Nurture Africa (NA) works in partnership with Community Based Organisations in Uganda that support HIV infected families within extremely resource constrained environments”, explains NA CEO, Brian Iredale. 

“The ability to maintain the required levels of treatment and care for a family can be their biggest challenge. THIS is where Nurture Africa supports these organisations and HIV infected people – by providing the necessary treatment and care to maintain and improve the health status of any person living with HIV.”

 

We discovered huge gaps in the accountability and transparency of organisations whom were doing really great work

 

“For any partnership to work within this setting, Nurture Africa always exercises due diligence and ensures that any potential partner has up to date annual and financial reports in place. It was at this point of the growth of Nurture Africa that we discovered huge gaps in the accountability and transparency of organisations who were doing really great work.”

“Upon investigation, we discovered there to be a major skills gap here and viewed the possibility of working with Deloitte to capacity build local staff and organisations as a big opportunity. We worked together to establish an impactful overseas volunteer placement for skilled Deloitte staff in order to support the growth of these organisations.” 

“Suddenly, an employee in tax or audit who wondered “What can I do to assist?” could now use her or his skills to support the financial accountability and transparency of an organisation working to provide HIV care to vulnerable families in Uganda.”

 

It changed the traditional model of volunteering for Nurture Africa. We now had measurable impact that was supporting higher standards of operations where it was needed most.

 

“This ongoing support provided by Deloitte volunteers enables local organisations to establish the required financial systems and oversight to source both national and international funding in order to support their day to day operations and continue the fight against HIV.” 

“It changed the traditional model of volunteering for Nurture Africa. We now had measurable impact that was supporting higher standards of operations where it was needed most.”

 

Graduation System to Prove Results

Getting to that point was not a straight forward journey; it took dedication, planning and constant review by Deloitte’s CSR team to ensure the programme was working for both Deloitte and NA. 

“In the second year of the volunteer placement, there was a decline in the number of volunteer applications”, says Claire Bergin, Corporate Responsibility Manager at Deloitte Ireland. 

“For the first year, we offered two volunteering days specifically for this programme. However, we reviewed the policy to allow five volunteer days, covering half of the time required to take to participate, with the remainder from their annual leave. Since then we have had a consistently high number of volunteers.”

 

The organisations had to show that they had made progress from the work of the previous volunteers.

 

“We also noticed that our skillset wasn’t being optimised with some of the local community organisations we were supporting in Uganda. In year three, we completed a review of the organisations and implemented a policy that the organisations had to show that they had made progress from the work of the previous volunteers.” 

“In addition to this, the CR Manager travels to Uganda in advance of the placement to prepare the volunteer’s work and stays throughout the placement to manage the group.”

“Through this continued review process, we now have a “graduation” system where organisations graduate once they have met the requirements such as audited financial accounts, board of directors, bank accounts etc. set up to move forward and apply for government funding. To date, three organisations have passed through this system.”

“Any support that a company can offer its staff in terms of annual leave is generally a very positive support”, agrees Brian. “It is of vital importance that this placement is viewed as an opportunity for shared-learning.”

 

We were asked to look into developing software which could track the movement of  prescription drugs from the arrival in the pharmacy to the collection by patients.

 

Tangible Achievements

On a practical level, how much can really be achieved in a short term placement? A lot, according to Deloitte volunteers Niamh Kennedy and Dane Hickey. 

“I was based in the Nurture Africa headquarters where I worked each day till lunchtime”, explains Niamh. “Myself and a Deloitte colleague who also had a technical background were asked to look into developing software which could track the movement of  prescription drugs from the arrival in the pharmacy to the collection by the patients.” 

“At the time all records were handwritten and they were wary that items may be going missing. We had to spend time looking into how they tracked on paper, how often they completed stock checks and balanced stock numbers before looking to build a system.”

 

It is a challenging environment and people are pushed out of their comfort zone working in physically different environments.

 

Dane’s main tasks were working with Alliance High School and teaching vocational students basic accounting at the skills centre on-site at Nurture Africa. 

“The lecturing and teaching of basic accounting really consisted of presentations and practical exercises for the students to understand the core concepts that could be applied to managing their own small businesses. My work with the high school revolved around improving the fee tracking and billing process and a couple of other ad hoc tasks.”

“We have seen people shine while participating on the volunteer programme”, says Claire. “It is a challenging environment and people are pushed out of their comfort zone working in physically different environments as well as project work they may not be used to, and adjusting to a different pace of life in Uganda.”

 

Deloitte Ireland Nurture Africa volunteering CSR
Claire Bergin and Niamh Kennedy at Victoria High School, Nansana, Uganda

 

“Some team members may lead out on a project where they may not have had that experience before and then return to Deloitte with some leadership skills.” 

“Or some members may end up learning more about the operations of a charity or working on a computer project with school children and test their facilitation and teaching skills. They bring that experience back with them to their core work here in Deloitte.”

 

The benefits back to Deloitte are not only from a recruitment perspective, but also in retaining and motivating key staff members.

 

Benefits to the Business

Recent research has shown that a companies social conscious is an important draw for millennials when evaluating whether or not to work for that business. 

“Our volunteer programme is open to staff at all levels in the firm”, says Claire. “We have received interest and applications from people at nearly every level in Deloitte, but it is definitely most popular amongst the graduates in Deloitte.” 

“We even get interest from potential joiners to the firm out at campus events and also at the interview stage for the graduate programme in Deloitte.” 

 

Staff get a new lease of energy while out on the projects in Uganda

 

The benefits back to Deloitte are not only from a recruitment perspective, but also in retaining and motivating key staff members. 

“We have seen many benefits from the Nurture Africa programme back into the business. Staff got a new lease of energy while out on the projects in Uganda and also on their return to the office and we have also found that everyone has more of an appreciation of the life that we have here in Ireland and of the important things in life.”

“I had so many personal wins from this experience”, says Dane. “Being surrounded by like-minded individuals and cut-off (for the most part!) from all the distractions of modern technology like phones and television, it meant that I got to really connect with other volunteers on a personal level, and really get to know them.” 

“Having walked into the programme not previously knowing anyone in either the Deloitte volunteer group or the other volunteers that were on the same program, and then being able to complete the program with new connections and friends is something I would never have expected.”

Now in its 6th year of partnership, Deloitte will “continue to develop the work we do together to empower thousands of families whom Nurture Africa support to lift from poverty through educational and financial empowerment”, says Claire.

“On this year’s programme, we have volunteers at trainee level up to manager, and even Director grade, so we are very excited about what we can deliver for Nurture Africa this year.”

 

Deloitte is a member of Business in the Community Ireland, the network for CSR and sustainability. To sign up to their free newsletter, which rounds up all the top CSR and Sustainability news in Ireland, visit https://www.bitc.ie/sign-up-to-newsletter/

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