The purpose of this paper is to explore and explain the benefits of centring learning and development initiatives around charity projects, whether as part of an organisation's community engagement/corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy and/or as a sensible way to pool internal budgets for practical and identifiable return on investment (community action learning). It also aims to highlight the importance of understanding both the business' and the charities' motivations, expectations and capabilities about the process, in order to maximise success for all parties.
The paper examines the range of benefits of choosing charity or community projects as a “live” vehicle for learning and development, then identifies common misconceptions, assumptions and mismanagement issues concerning the charity project‐learning link, and offers helpful strategies to gain the best outcomes for all parties concerned.
There is a growing interest in the value of action learning, in CSR and community engagement, and in developing leaders who recognise the responsibility for how their business activities impact on society and the environment. However, the option to link them all through charity projects is still under‐utilised, and commonly misunderstood and mismanaged. This paper demonstrates that there are methodologies and best practice that can be employed, by both charities and commercial organisations, which break through preconceived ideas about the concept and gain the best tangible results all round.
In times of recession, combining community engagement with solid learning and performance outcomes offers potential cost and resource savings, and ongoing justification for activities which go well beyond traditional “volunteering”. The paper explodes a number of myths and dysfunctional thinking about the business‐charity relationship. In good economic times or bad, this approach helps to weave CSR principles and practice into the mainstream activities of a business. It is an approach that should have particular appeal to organisations keen to develop inspirational leadership which reaches well beyond the office or factory doors.
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