Strengthening Brand’s Equity with CSR

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Raheem Akingbolu writes on the essence of the MTN Foundation’s ‘What Can We Do Together’ initiative and its impact on communities

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), one of the stems of sound corporate governance is increasingly attaining wider global and local adoption as its impacts in helping nations meet their sustainable development goals become more perceptible. Today, top executives across different industry want to demonstrate their corporate citizenship through altruistic, ethical and legal initiatives that presents their organisations as socially responsible.

However, the big challenge for executives is how to develop an approach that can truly deliver on these lofty ambitions—and yet, few have found the way. Some innovative companies have managed to overcome this hurdle, with community partnership as one way to create value for both the business and society simultaneously. Some others have also been able to create a sustainable CSR Strategy tailored towards their values.

The MTN Example
For MTN Nigeria, it has been a journey to “brighten” the lives of Nigerians for the past 17 years through its social investment vehicle, MTN Foundation.
With the “What Can We Do Together (WCWDT)” initiative of the Foundation, the company has extended its mission of brightening lives to local communities across Nigeria. The “What Can We Do Together (WCWDT)” initiative was launched in 2015 as part of the 10th anniversary of the MTN Foundation, and in just three years more than 10 million Nigerians in 400 communities and 347 local government areas across Nigeria have been impacted.

The interventions by the MTN Foundation evidently reflect the MTN mission of transforming lives by addressing the pressing needs of the Nigerian populace for maximum impact.
The MTN brand is passionate about Nigeria’s growth and is determined to help Nigerians reach the heights of their potential.

This mission is executed through the three focus areas – health, education and economic empowerment – that are crucial to the socio-economic development of any society.
The uncontrolled population growth has further contributed to the prevailing negative indices in these essential areas of our nationhood.

A recent UNICEF report ranks Nigeria as the leading country with the highest number of out-of-school children with over 10 million children outside school. This reality is essentially facilitated by the shortfall in school infrastructure. It is believed that many schools in the country lack friendly classrooms for learning, and the ones with classrooms lack required furniture. The same reality is visible in the health sector with ill-equipped health facilities spread across the country.
To change this narrative, MTN through ‘What Can We Do Together’ is brightening the lives of Nigerians, one community at a time.

The underlying philosophy is predicated on the belief that Nigerians are talented and possess enormous capacity for greatness. However, the inherent potential cannot be unlocked without an enabling environment.
The foundation realises that sustainable change can only be achieved in Nigeria when stakeholders work together and put in place the right things in the right places. It is evident that the government cannot do it alone but requires the collaboration of all well-meaning corporate citizens. Promoters of MTN understand this enormous responsibility and continue to support through the MTN Foundation.

Partnership
Over the years, the management of MTN Foundation has emphasised the importance of collective ownership of social investment. Besides, research has shown that social intervention projects are more durable when the receiving community is extensively involved in the conceptualisation, implementation and delivery of the project. This is contrary to the popular practice, where many organisations usually make the error of dumping projects in communities that do not reflect the immediate need of the receiving communities. The resultant effect of this model is the rapid deterioration of such projects.

According to the telecom firm, it is on this premise that the, “What Can We Do Together,” initiative was introduced in order to ensure that social investments truly reflect the burning needs of the benefiting communities.

The hand-in-hand principle on which the initiative rests was once summarised by MTN Nigeria Chairman, Dr. Pascal Dozie with the words of the 26th President of the United States of America, Theodore Roosevelt, who said, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” Benefiting communities under the initiative are chosen through a nomination process that allows any Nigerian resident to nominate a community for possible selection. The nominated communities are scrutinised through a verification conducted by an expert verification team. Successful communities are subsequently enlisted to benefit from the initiative.

The journey so far
To date, MTN Foundation through the “What Can We Do Together” initiative has delivered 40 transformers, 40 borehole installations, and 14,200 items of school furniture to students who previously had to sit on sandy floors to receive lessons across 347 local government areas in Nigeria. A total of 66 orphanages were also said to have received highly essential household items and 80 primary healthcare centres have been supplied with vital medical equipment.

Speaking on the success of the last edition of the initiative, the Executive Secretary of the MTN Foundation, Nonny Ugboma said that the executed projects were selected from a pool of thousands of nominations by members of the public in Phases 1 and 2. “At the end, 200 communities were chosen to benefit in Phase 1, another 200 communities in Phase 2 and announcements were made in the print, electronic and digital media platforms. We are pleased to report that all the 200 projects in Phase 1 have been successfully implemented, while all the 200 projects in Phase 2 are at various stages of delivery and installation,” Ugboma said.

On his part, the Chairman of the MTN Foundation, Prince Julius Adeluyi-Adelusi praised the nominators for being true change agents.