In the second series of NSN Connect 2022, we focus on “Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in India: The Big Picture”. Ms. Meena Ragunathan, a CSR Specialist, is the eminent guest of the six-episode series. She is an expert in the development sector and has decades of experience setting up and leading Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) departments for big organizations.
The fifth episode in the series focuses on the “Evaluation of CSR Projects and Reporting”.
Ms. Meena Ragunathan talks about monitoring and evaluating CSR projects, presentation of impact studies in CSR, tangible and intangible aspects of impact in CSR, defining and assessing social impacts and developing impactful reports which go beyond measurable outcomes.
Here are some of the highlights from the episode. To watch the full episode, please visit our YouTube channel.
Evaluation of CSR Projects and Reporting
“Monitoring and evaluation are essential components of a strong project design for every development project. One must begin with a needs analysis, a baseline survey, and documentation outlining the theory of change”, says Ms. Meena Raghunathan. This documentation should be able to explain the cause-and-effect relationships. From there, one can determine the indicator changes and how it is measured roughly.
Monitoring and evaluation come with proper planning. Evaluation marks either a project milestone or its conclusion. For every project, small or large, we must reflect on our past work, keep an eye on it online and make corrections as we go. Evaluation and impact assessments do not necessarily require a large budget, staff or outside consultants.
Some corporations assemble a team from several departments, sit together to look at the project to reach a milestone, debate about the project, speak with stakeholders, and bring in fresh perspectives. It is a good approach because it draws on the company’s competencies. For instance, a foundation has undertaken a project to construct toilets and bring in their company engineers as part of the monitoring or evaluation. They also bring in their HR professionals who can speak with stakeholders and gauge their views, obstacles and issues they may face.
However, the evaluation involves getting stakeholders’ feedback and obtaining an unbiased opinion. It is necessary to evaluate how CSR projects impact society. The objective is to persuade companies to thoroughly consider their options before allocating CSR funds to assess the results of their CSR investment.
Everybody wants to present success stories and demonstrate the goals they achieved. There is less room in this process for making mistakes and showing our impact. It is critical for development projects because there is pressure to declare that everything went as planned. To avoid drawing attention to what went wrong or did not work, we are publicizing all of the success stories and trying to cover the failures. The reflection process is vanishing as a result of the haste to declare everything to be going well.
Sensitization is necessary as it alters the types of projects taken by people who are aware of the situation’s realities and will value it. The ongoing interchange of viewpoints and experiences is needed for the situation to resolve itself. As the board ultimately decides on the impact report for the evaluation.
Assessing social impact is a very challenging skill to have. One must be sincere in accomplishing it, but strategies like Social Return on Investment (SROI) can also be a method because business understands this language. People are already familiar with the concept of ROI. Therefore, if we look at something like SROI, even though it is a very complex process and it is not objective because of all kinds of subjective values assigned, for every rupee spent, this is the benefit received.
Case studies and stories are excellent approaches to communication. A valid argument must be made when we say that we should not just share success stories supported by data figures. However, we are aware that what ultimately differentiates them are human interest stories.