HR DIRECTOR’S CHARITY OF THE SEASON IS THE RANDAL CHARITABLE FOUNDATION, WHICH HAS AN ASPIRATION TO DIRECTLY SAVE OVER 1 MILLION LIVES IN THE UK AND GLOBALLY.
Dr Nik Kotecha OBE, reflects on whether the modern trends of social entrepreneurship and corporate social responsibility can address the scourge of world poverty?
For many millions of people, each day can be a struggle for survival, as a lack of opportunity, resources and infrastructure often leaves them hungry, without clean water and unable to work for a living.
The United Nations reports that 10 percent of the world’s population, or 734 million people, live on less than $1.90 a day. Southern Asia and sub-Saharan Africa are expected to see the largest increases in extreme poverty, with an additional 32 million and 26 million people, respectively, living below the international poverty line, as a result of the pandemic.
Worse still, the cycle of deprivation looks set to escalate, as one out of five children live in extreme poverty with the negative effects of poverty and deprivation in the early years having ramifications that often lasts throughout their lifetime.
The UN’s International Day of Poverty Eradication was on October 17th and this year had a theme of ‘Building Forward Together’ to end persistent poverty. But after decades of work, the future still looks very challenging for so many.
I have experienced extreme poverty myself when I came to the UK as a child refugee at a very young age. Since then I have been fortunate enough to have built a number of successful businesses, which have been able to ‘give back’, as part of wider corporate social responsibility programs focused on being a good corporate citizen.
Looking back, I am very grateful for the support my family and I received which presented me with opportunities that much of the developing world will never experience. These opportunities allow people to flourish and grow out of poverty, but the disparity between their availability in the rich west and poor lower-middle-income countries are profound.
In 2017, I established the Randal Charitable Foundation, which has provided significant grant funding to many charities that are working on the ground with communities to lift them out of poverty in a sustainable way. The ambition for the Foundation is to save 1 Million lives in the UK and Globally
A key part of this work is providing infrastructure to grow crops or pump their own water, as well as providing people with the tools, skills and training. Our mission is to directly save lives, which we’re able to achieve by supporting charities looking to establish social enterprises within communities.
Establishing this type of social entrepreneurship is important because there is very little state aid. I am reminded of the analogy of providing people with fish to eat, but if they could be given a fishing rod to catch their own fish, then they would never need more fish providing again. So if we can provide communities with the tools and resources to earn a living and support their families, then the cycle of poverty begins to be broken.
Social enterprises can be set up by charities, or by companies based all over the world, which have built their entire business models around improving community healthcare, education, infrastructure or alleviating poverty.
This is social entrepreneurship in action, where the outcomes of the entrepreneur’s work are not measured entirely by profits and revenues, but also by generating a sustainable ‘return for society’.
On the flip side, one could argue that this type of support has been around for decades in the form of corporate-social-responsibility where businesses and entrepreneurs seek to create a positive social impact through their existing practices.
Both clearly have an important role to play but there is a clear difference in that social entrepreneurship is very much proactive, whereas CSR is invariably reactive in its approach to delivering social change.
Social entrepreneurship also builds ‘doing good’ into a permanent fixture of their business model and foundations, whereas CSR is often connected to amplifying the mission, values and brand of the company they represent through their charitable endeavours.
When looking at the proactive and reactive approaches of the two philanthropic movements, perhaps it’s important to also focus on a third factor, which sows them all together and undoubtedly enhances the social impact – Collaborations.
I have seen first hand through my work with the Foundation and business community support how collaborations between the Public, Private and Charitable sectors help foster sustainable entrepreneurship, which directly responds to poverty alleviation within communities.
These collaborations often benefit the whole community, as well as foster new social entrepreneurs, which overall reduces poverty and uplifts both the individuals and their communities.
So to come back to our question; can social entrepreneurship and CSR be the panacea for ending global poverty? The answer is yes; as long as they are supported by a network of collaborations and focused on providing sustainable ways for communities to do it themselves, rather than having to rely on the charity of others.
Perhaps the words ‘ending global poverty’ are too ambitious, but businesses, social enterprises and their partners must have this level of ambition to truly turn the tide.
What’s clear is that where it’s done well, it works, which has already freed thousands of communities from the cycle of poverty; not just today but for generations to come.
Let’s continue this by working together to achieve the International Day of Poverty Eradication’s aim of ‘Building Forward Together’.
Dr Nik Kotecha OBE is the Chairman of the Randal Charitable Foundation and the Founder and Chairman of Morningside Pharmaceuticals. He has also been named as one of LDC’s 50 Most Ambitious Business Leaders 2021 and is a 2021 EY Entrepreneur Regional Champion.
For more information on the Randal Charitable Foundation visit here: www.randalfoundation.org.uk
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