As companies compete to attract the best IT talent available, they're finding that the best of the best are looking for more than just good compensation, a flexible work environment and a stimulating, meaningful way to use their skills. They're also looking to be part of an organization where social responsibility is ingrained in the corporate culture.
A lot has been written about Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) as a tool to attract and retain top talent, from scholarly works to business studies to press reports. While all of that is extremely important, what might be especially useful is a sharing of ideas about things companies can do to promote CSR. Here are three ideas to get the conversation started:
Goodshop.com is a website that encourages businesses to purchase office supplies and the like through its network of retailers, with a percentage of the proceeds going to your choice of almost 100,000 nonprofits that have signed up with the site. There are a ton of retailers in the network that supply businesses, including Microsoft, HP, Dell, Office Depot, OfficeMax and Staples. Microsoft, for example, will make a donation of 3.5 percent of whatever you spend to whatever charity you designate.
The small band of game changers at Kiva has come up with a way to enable individuals like you and me to easily lend as little as $25 to hardworking people who are trying to make a go of a business venture. You can choose to help fund a farmer in Kenya who needs $700 for seed and fertilizer, or perhaps a woman in Ghana whose $625 loan will be used to expand her cornmeal dumpling business. In any case, the people you help are approved by a local microfinancing institution that you otherwise probably wouldn't even know exists. Interestingly, I've come to find out that there are IT leaders who are devoting their careers to nonprofit organizations that are engaged in this sort of microfinancing activity.
By sheer coincidence, a couple of weeks ago I received an e-mail out of the blue from Jiten Patel, CIO of one such organization - FINCA International in Washington. Patel was eager to make us at Computerworld aware of FINCA's mission, which he said is to "assist the underprivileged, the poorest of the poor in the Third World and developing countries to be able to stand on their own two feet" by means of microloans of $80 to $200."Most of the people we lend to happen to be women, which speaks volumes in terms of the impact that has on a child's mind when they see their mother, sister or cousin running a micro-enterprise," Patel said. "[That will] slowly break down social taboos, a very good side benefit."
By the way, as I was writing this editorial, I took a quick break and loaned $25 to a woman in Afghanistan named Rohena Faiz Mohammad who needs $300 to buy beans and peas to sell on the street. The write-up on Kiva's Web site noted that it's difficult for women in Afghan society to engage in a business like this and that Rohena is struggling to overcome that obstacle.
It took me about 10 minutes to make the loan. It was worth it.
Earlier this week, wearing a different hat as a partner in QVerity, a startup that does training and consulting in deception detection and interviewing techniques, I had the opportunity to help conduct some pro bono training for a group of volunteers working with Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, or CASA. These volunteers are dedicated to helping children who are neglected or the victims of abuse at home by representing their best interests in court. The training we conducted was for the CASA group in Fairfax, Va., which happens to be where I grew up, and where there is a waiting list of children who need a CASA volunteer to help them. I know there are waiting lists at other CASA organizations around the country, as well. It would be difficult to find a more worthy cause to serve.