Article submitted by: Brett Dvoretz

Shared Values is a hot topic among non-profit and corporate CSR departments in search of an optimal match, but often the underlying principals and practical implementation aren’t always clear. Put simply, ‘Shared Values’ refers to the common ground where commercial objectives meet desirable social change.

The appeal of a meeting of minds in this way may seem self-evident, yet it is surprising how rarely building a ‘shared values’ based relationship is the objective of NGO’s searching for corporate partners. By the same token it is by no means a given that corporations look to facilitate socially responsible initiatives to align with their long term commercial objectives.

iStock_000020481143XLargePerhaps this is truer in more modestly sized organizations where budget planning considerations are an annual event rather than a five or ten year strategic planning session. Nevertheless there are sectors where a more nuanced approach along these lines would seem to be an obvious way to go for everyone, regardless of size or long term objectives.

Education is one area where non-profit and for-profit come together effortlessly and almost seamlessly. Appreciating the fact that for commercial organizations even socially driven programs must ultimately translate into a bottom line benefit, the results of successful education programs directly impact long term corporate objectives.

The hard truth is that in most developing countries it is not the lack of jobs or employment that is the issue. It’s that the available workforce is simply unemployable. Low levels of education and lack of expertise in even the most basic skill sets render whole markets unattractive and commercially unviable. This is the point where a shared value concept truly works.

Relatively few companies have adopted a shared value approach to the educational arena mainly because it is often perceived as a governmental responsibility. Additionally, the relatively long timeline before results are realized stops many corporations from tackling educational issues in developing countries. Nevertheless there is a direct correlation between business interests and social welfare when it comes to education.

How Poor Education is Affecting Corporate Profitability

In the USA, it’s no coincidence that we have unfulfilled jobs at the same time we have record levels of youth unemployment. We reached this point for a number of reasons, but one of the major underlying factors is a lack of investment funding and resources in the educational sector as a whole.

In the global economy, many corporations look to outsource much of their workforce to developing countries for cost reasons, but due to the lack of educational infrastructures, finding the skilled workers necessary to meet job demands is a huge problem. The issue isn’t a deficiency of workers; as already stated, it’s the lack of skill sets that makes them unemployable.

Until recently, the only significant players focusing on education have been NGOs and governments. The inherent problem here is that neither governments nor NGOs manufacture or create wealth and therefore almost by definition operate at a deficit. The result is high levels of unskilled workers and a large number of jobs that cannot be filled.One fact that becomes apparent is that corporations who invest in educating a workforce are really investing and building the foundation for future growth. It’s Shared Value in action.

Spotlight on NGOs Focusing on Education in Developing Countries

It’s worth noting that already on this site, CSR Match, the opportunities to build relationships rooted in education projects are readily available through several very focussed initiatives.

  • The Whole Child Model addresses three of the most pressing student needs; education, health, and social engagement. They have already reached 8,000 students in 34 schools across Guinea and are looking for support to reach an additional 4,000 students.
  • The Children of Haiti Project focuses on providing learning opportunities for Haitian children. In addition to addressing the educational and nutritional needs of the children, they have created an afterschool sewing and literacy program for the parents aimed at providing financial independence and making alliances with overseas buyers. Donations go towards healthcare, educational materials, and the purchase of medicine.
  • The International Youth Foundation is working zealously to fund youth programs in 70 countries. Focused on creating educated and employable young people to address the changing needs of the global economy, they are making a huge impact. Check out their programs page to find out about organizations that need help.

The opportunity to make a long term difference in people’s lives and in the community at large through these projects and others sums up the case for a shared value approach through educational projects while simultaneously noting that nothing ensures corporate growth quite like a well trained workforce.

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