Welcome back to Reimagining CSR! This isn’t the first time I’ve said that, but things have changed a bit around here, and I’m finding myself very much in need of this space to work out my ideas about CSR. I hope those changes will also make this blog more useful to you.
A little over a year ago, I joined the brand-new CSR department at a large education company. There were just two of us to start, and then for awhile I was the only employee in the group, but we also worked very closely with a consulting team from FSG. For the first half of 2010, when I was working with my now-employer as an independent consultant while finishing up a fellowship, we focused on the big blocks of strategy: identifying the key social issues that impact our business, figuring out which departments we would be collaborating with, laying out the core pillars of our CSR strategy. I joined the company full-time in summer 2010, and we started working to bring that 30,000 foot picture down to about 10,000 feet – we weren’t implementing, for the most part, but we were exploring partnerships, developing pilot projects, and otherwise figuring out how we were going to bring that big picture strategy to life. In early 2011, we hired an SVP to run the group (hooray for having a senior leader for the CSR team!), and we really started building our team’s infrastructure. We figured out what kind of team we needed to implement our strategy, we fleshed out the budget, and we started to develop the processes we needed to work effectively as a department. Then finally, starting around late spring, we staffed up and really started implementing. We are absolutely, 100% still a work in progress, but what started out as a giant PowerPoint deck a little over a year ago is slowly but surely coming to life.
What does this have to do with Reimagining CSR? When I started this blog, I was in the last semester of my MBA, and I used it to refine my ideas about what CSR could and should be. I’d previously been a corporate philanthropy consultant at Changing Our World, an intern with the MAC AIDS Fund (the foundation at MAC Cosmetics, part of Estee Lauder), and the corporate philanthropy editor at onPhilanthropy.com. While I was still blogging regularly, I started doing research on CSR for Jane Nelson at the Harvard Kennedy School’s CSR Initiative. I’d also been a student of the subject matter, taking one business school class specifically on CSR and several others that touched on the issue. I’d approached CSR (mostly strategic corporate philanthropy, but other aspects as well) from a range of angles, except one big one: that of a day-in, day-out full-time CSR manager in a company’s CSR department. I learned a massive amount in those other roles – particularly consulting, where I had the chance to work with the CSR groups at a number of companies and to research and profile hundreds more – and they prompted me to mull over questions and offer opinions about the big picture of CSR, of CSR an ideal.
This job is different. Now, for better or for worse, I don’t spend three months perfecting an ideal strategy, distill it into a beautifully formatted report, and then hand it over. Instead, that nice, big PowerPoint is where my job begins. That leads me to think about a really different set of issues – issues of implementation, issues of structure. I’ll probably still mull the ideal – that’s just my nature – but I’ll spend more time wondering about the balance between ideal and reality, about the tactical how-tos of getting even a little bit close to perfect. Some of my questions are probably common in any business unit – how do I get the business units that I work with to care about my objectives? How do I get senior management involved in the issues that matter to my team? Others are pretty similar to the issues I addressed when I first started this blog – for instance, now that I’m not regularly researching and profiling best practices in CSR, I find myself feeling out of touch, so I’ll use this blog to profile interesting practices and people.
As always, this blog is part personal learning journal, but I also hope it will be helpful to other people. If there are issues you want to analyze, practices you want to learn more about, people you want to see highlighted, please don’t hesitate to email me at .
Less blog-related, but the other change around here is that I got married and changed my name – I’m now Jessica Hubbard, instead of Jessica Stannard-Friel. Simpler, right? At least, once I figure out all of the million places I need to change it – they seem to be multiplying daily…
By the way, I’m writing this from a plane as I fly out to the BSR conference. I plan to tweet extensively – you can follow at @JessSF. If you’re there, too, let me know.
Thanks so much for joining me as I jump back into blogging!