Archive for September, 2010

NGOs and Corporations: Collaboration and Conflict

September 23, 2010

At the International CSR Conference in Berlin on September 23, this topic is getting the attention of a major plenary session. A few months ago, there was a major cross-sector panel on the same issue, featuring key environmental NGOs and, amongst other corporate representatives, a major energy company. This panel, coincidentally, also took place in Berlin, and a key question there was, just as well as at the conference here now: Can you collaborate and criticize at the same time?

Corporate representatives often assume that NGOs should be thrilled about the opportunity to partner with them. I must admit that, coming from the corporate side, I also held that attitude for a long time. I am still passionate about cross-sector partnerships and their opportunities.

NGOs, however, are often concerned with a mix-up of their roles. As civil society representatives, aren’t they supposed to be independent, critical of and, if necessary, protest corporate activities? They are concerned whether they are giving up power, will be influenced or interfered with too much, compromise their own stakeholder base – becoming “corporatist” and “losing their power and their teeth”, as Michael Yaziji of IMD’s Forum for Corporate Sustainability Management calls it during the plenary session at the conference.

Cross-sector collaboration is certainly an interaction of ideologies, value sets, visions, missions and expectations that can become quite complex and controversial – and I am noticing that for corporations, it is certainly necessary to be sensitive of this and pay good attention to NGOs’ concerns. An important questions to be asked is: Taking complexity and concerns into consideration, what can be done to build a relationship of mutuality/reciprocity and trust? In that context, a question to be asked as well is: What does each side have to give up (e.g. interests, positions, attitudes) to collaborate well?

Peter Eigen, founder of Transparency International, said wisely yesterday: “You need to always keep the dialogue open, while keeping the right distance.” What the ‘right’ distance is probably needs to be negotiated case by case, and re-negotiated periodically and situationally?

Global heads of citizenship for leading multinational companies have registered for Boston College course that I’ll facilitate

September 21, 2010

When we first came up with the idea, we were not sure how many people would register. Now, as Boston College tells me, they “have to fight people off” – there are more people wanting to register than they can offer seats on the program! And it’s great people – I look forward to meeting and working with them. Quite a few are the global heads of Community Involvement for leading multinational companies.

The program is the Community Involvement Leadership Academy, offering experienced Community Involvement practitioners additional, also experiential, training in leadership, change, influencing and persuasion, difficult stakeholder conversations, and social innovation.

The CI Leadership Academy is taking place November 8 to 12 at Boston College Center for Corporate Citizenship. My co-facilitators will be two of the Center’s much-loved trainers, Ron Brown and Bea Boccalandro. Looking forward to working with them! Special treat: Three of Boston College’s top academic lecturers will each run a session. More on this soon …

If you’d like to read more, check out the Boston College website here: http://blogs.bcccc.net/2010/07/community-involvement-leadership-academy-added-to-center’s-educational-programs-latest-catalog-released/

Or get in touch with me!