The goodness of life

Two functions stand out in this time of pandemic. One is clearly communications, which is at the center of it all. The other is corporate social responsibility (CSR) – the vehicle that ensures the corporate does good and more importantly, does no harm.

Both of these functions are inter-connected. The intersection is at the point wherein one has to communicate the good work done under CSR. I have been on both sides of the table – one that is critical of any publicity to CSR and the other, which believes that good work needs to be shared and perhaps, even applauded by members of the society, community, employees of the organisation and other external stakeholders.

There is a deeper change that is being witnessed during the COVID times. And that is of the goodness of employees, of ordinary people, who have come out in a show of solidarity for their brethren who have suddenly found themselves homeless, jobless and without food. We have multiple examples of movements and people who have redefined the meaning of philanthropy and have taken upon themselves to reach out and alleviate the misery that the pandemic has given rise to. Amongst the many, chef Vikas Khanna and actor Sonu Sood stand out prominently. 

What makes them do what they do? Various interviews with the above two celebrities showcase humanity and humility at its best. There is no tom-tomming of their reach out. There is grandiose PR campaign working behind the scenes. There is no brand machinery that highlights their achievements. Yet, the work that they are doing is being noticed, talked about and appreciated at every level. The movement is growing with people joining in and supporting it in whatever way they can.

Can we say that a vacuum created by the dearth of support (by the government) extended to the most impacted by the pandemic lead to the rise of these movements? Probably. There is a saying by the famous Persian poet Rumi – ‘the wound is a place where the light enters you.’ We are closest to God when tragedy strikes. You may even interpret it to a situation in your own life wherein a suffering/pain/work issue led you to introspect and find a new meaning, a new rationale and made you find your feet once again. The light comes from within. Perhaps it is this light that guides the philanthropists in these challenging situations.

A recent McKinsey article on ‘A transformative movement for philanthropy’ talks of how the positive changes in individual and institutional philanthropy sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic can take root and grow. Why let a good opportunity go waste? The article espouses five practices that can be adopted during the recovery phase. 

  • Reduce the burden of grantees – create a common grant application in philanthropy
  • Accelerate the pace and volume of giving
  • Partner with other donors
  • Increase your investments in local communities
  • Support the government – in finding solutions e.g. Vaccine development or re-designing the health infrastructure of the country

The pandemic has certainly led to the formation of a strong movement to do things differently, to create something new and now the quest ought to be to ensure that what is being created new, sticks and stays. That, it does not wither away as life goes back to the old familiar ways of living.

In this movement, communications can play a centerstage in drawing up a framework that is weaved along with the business strategy of the organisation and is yet empathetic to the cause and suffering that it aims to alleviate.

Here are some tips to build on to your goodness story:

  • Do not exaggerate – people can see through pompous proclamations
  • Chose a medium that resonates with your audience – you do not have to put up large advertisements or hoardings of the good work done by your organisation
  • Stay human and be humane – humility will lead to richer dividends 
  • Not everything is to be told and branded – be selective. Be quiet if required. Stay in the shadows if that works. Anything is better than being loud and on-the-face

The pandemic has certainly given birth to a new class of communications. It is up to each one of us to ensure that we stay on track and use the opportunity to catalyst a movement that rests on the goodness of life.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Sarita Bahl
Sarita Bahl is an alumnus of Tata Institute of Social Sciences and the Swedish Institute of Management Program. An experienced and versatile leader, she comes with nearly four decades of professional experience. She has over the years successfully overseen the communications and public affairs function and led the corporate social responsibility strategy for Bayer South Asia, Pfizer, and Monsanto, among others. Sarita has held multiple roles across diverse industries, the public sector, trade associations, MNCs, and the not-for-profit sector. Her areas of interest include advocacy, stakeholder engagement, sustainability, and communications.

As an Associate Certified Coach (ACC) from the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and Senior Practitioner (Mentoring) from the European Council of Mentoring and Coaching (EMCC), Sarita specializes in career transition, inner engineering and life issues. Sarita enjoys writing and is passionate about animals, books, and movies.

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