How Can CSR Drive Innovation?

One of the things I enjoy most about Corporate Social Responsibility is that it's really everywhere.  Just under the surface of HR, Marketing, Leadership and Operations, it doesn't take much of a scratch to get beneath the topic at hand and see where there's a practical application to building social engagement.  

In fact, one of the questions on the GivingSpring assessment asks whether innovation is a strategic challenge for your organization in the next 2-5 years.  If the answer to this question is yes, CSR might be one tool to consider.  Take, for example, this article in Fast Times, "HOW TO CREATE A CULTURE OF INNOVATION."  where Hoque lists 5 ways to drive innovation in your organization.   

For a practical approach, I'm explaining why CSR might be a tool to support each of these activities: 

  • Listen to your community:

    • There's no better way to understand your community than to work along side them to find solutions to their challenges. CSR, done properly, provides this insight for your employees and your organization. (And yes, you can make this apply for B2B businesses as well!)

  • Stay open to ideas

    • Online surveys post volunteer engagement can be a great way for employees to reflect on recent experiences. What did they learn? What are they thinking about differently?

  • Collaborate

    • CSR initiatives are, at its most basic level, collaborative. Across teams, organizations and the community - if it's not collaborative, you might be missing the point.

  • Go flat

    • Particularly in hierarchical structures, organize outreach events where cross-departmental teams have the opportunity to work towards a common goal.

  • Embrace Failure

    • Oftentimes, it's easier to be vulnerable and willing to make an error if you know you're coming from a place of good intention. CSR programs that are extensions of shared corporate values can make it easier to take a risk, or forgive an error by a colleague.

Of course, there's no silver bullet to innovation in any businesses, but for businesses striving towards this goal, CSR programs, done properly, can be a useful and innovative tool in itself.