August 29, 2013

Changing Mindsets

posted by Swearer Center

Florian Schalliol ’14.5 is a Starr Fellow living in India working on GOOD/CORPS India.

As a social entrepreneur offering a product or service, there are two types of changes you can bring: a shift in availability and a change in mindsets. The former occurs when a new social innovation increases access to a certain product or ease with which a certain impact is achieved. In the last few decades alone, such changes have given financial credit to millions of the world’s nearly impoverished and provided foodstuffs to hundreds of millions of the truly impoverished.

The latter occurs not when an innovation increases the availability of a certain product or service, but instead when the innovation creates a new type of demand altogether. Such a shift occurs by changing entirely the mindsets of consumers — or really, of people altogether. This type of change is often much more meaningful, but also often much more difficult. Examples such as the civil rights, women’s rights, and LGTB rights movement often come to mind in this category.

I have often thought about this dichotomy in the past few months. This summer, the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament) voted into law the 2013 Company’s Bill, requiring about 8,000 companies in India to contribute a combined roughly $1.25 billion of their net profits on corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs. But having spent months interviewing CSR managers and scouring India for experts in CSR, it became clear that there are few people who are deeply knowledgeable or even passionate about CSR. In CSR in India, the availability shift has occurred, but mindsets remain unchanged.

Changing mindsets is often the opportunity for the first mover, and this is the opportunity I have been working to seize. In the last few months, I have been working to construct a partnership between GOOD/CORPS, a creative shared value consultancy based in LA, and Samhita Social Ventures, an NGO database and CSR consultancy headquartered in Mumbai. With the creative experience and social sector outreach that GOOD/CORPS has through GOOD.is and GOOD magazine, and the deep local non-profit experience of Samhita, our partnership seeks to not only make more available advice on how to strategize, implement, and monitor corporate social impact programs, but also to make CSR an everyday consideration in business—to make people aware of the broader impact of their decisions and leverage this awareness as a tool for generosity, empathy, and development in the US, in India, and across the world.

In short, we seek not to just change products; we aspire to change mindsets—to make CSR not simply a term, an acronym, or a company’s separate department, but to make it an integrated, impactful, and natural way of life.

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