We can trust our social connectors to serve communities well

For many years I worked in the area of SR (social responsibility). There was a heap of training to go through, and years of field experience, so that I could prove my competence. And was I proud when I landed a senior job at a major Corporate, to use my skills. Then something happened that informed my understanding of responsibility. And, boy did I have a rude awakening.

I learned to degree level, to understand the metrics of social reporting. This was to allow the business and political world a method to share data that would be consistent. This all made total sense. Since if we cannot compare apples with apples, then how would solutions happen? I found myself involved with issues that affect people that:
• are denied access to technology
• are suffering from poor well-being
• are minorities in their home countries
• are harmed by natural disasters
• are forgotten about

Many projects down the road, I started to experience the same consistent problems. So much of what caused issues to remain issues, was down to a lack of trust in the social connectors – the people on the front-line, making things happen. These connectors would burn out, faster than they could put in place solutions. Because, the world was too cynical to believe in the solutions, the connectors or had another agenda.

I moved on from the world of SR in the context of big business, politics and NGO implementations. I then learned what we had done to grass-roots project funding. Whilst everyone focused on metrics for large social projects, we overlooked small community activities. The metrics we were working with made no sense if you operated a local youth soccer team, for example.

This meant that in corporate reporting terms, the bigger UN type activities looked better in annual reports. This became the focus of company giving programs – staff would support the company SR goals, the company would donate resources – this made people happy. At least at the corporate level.

I started being more involved in local grass-roots activities. And, I saw first-hand the problems of putting all your financial eggs in the big baskets of big SR projects. Small literacy initiatives, run by amazing volunteers with fantastic skills, were not made sustainable. They needed small amounts of money, over a long period of time. And, being small, meant they did not have charity or not-for-profit status. This excluded them from traditional funding channels. Even though what they were doing delivered value to the locals in their community.

Myself and some friends, recognized the problem. We connected with a registered umbrella organisation, with the purpose of helping many grass-roots projects and activities. But, we still had a problem to overcome – to convince everyday citizens and business to fund raise with us, or for us. The local youth soccer team or literacy projects are not as sexy as the bigger World Food Program (WFP) projects. Both are worthy of anyone’s support and both will have a positive impact on the life of individuals. There are many funding channels for WFP like projects. There are no, or few, official funding channels for grass-roots projects. Local projects rely on local enthusiasts to develop required funding. These days however, local enthusiasts are rare to find, and their desire to be involved in long-term projects has been overtaken by surviving all that life is throwing at them.

The people that stay committed to the cause of gross-roots projects, are the social connectors. They remain steadfast in their conviction that without local engagement, a community can be stripped of opportunity. Connectors are struggling to engage people to support projects. The skills and the people are available. However, they are in need of small amounts of pocket money to cover basic expenses. We are permitted as a registered not-for-profit to cover basic expenses for volunteers. We need to have the funds available, and we are talking about small amounts of money. Our fund raising can raise 3000-euro one year, and 30,000 the next. Much depends on how much time we can dedicate alongside full-time work or studies.

Our experience is that our community of social connectors are trustworthy. They all have a proven track record of delivering amazing social change. Many of connectors, including myself, have to undergo regular background checks because we work with youth, the elderly or other vulnerable people.

Can you support us? We do receive regular small amounts from individuals, and we are grateful for these donations. People have hosted parties or dedicated a birthday event on social media to raise funds. No one wants to give money away, and I am very aware of the need for trust and transparency. Our key donors (angel investors and philanthropists) speak with me on a regular basis to talk about what our team is doing. People check on my activities through Social Media and others ask me for a short report to be emailed.

I now dedicate my time locally, away from the big social responsibility (SR) projects of the corporate world. I have found this to be more rewarding and to deliver change that I can see and touch immediately. I can also ensure that 85% of donated funds go on projects with only 15% being consumed by operating costs. This is a much better outcome for society.

To make a donation by bank transfer – details can be found here https://www.ptpi.eu/contact/

To make a donation by credit card – please use PayPal to send money through email chalks@ptpi.eu

Thank you for reading this. I hope that I have provided a small glimpse into the challenges my community face, to deliver local social projects and activities. If you would like to learn more, please do feel that you can connect me chalks@ptpi.eu.

Chalks Richard Corriette
Consulting Social Entrepreneur