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Reinventing community engagement: what Samsung have learned

Samsung Electronics has entered the next level of community engagement where research, relevance and shared value are key, says Sthe Shabangu, PR lead at Samsung Electronics Africa Office

sthe-shabangu

Sthe Shabangu PR lead at Samsung Electronics Africa

African Media Agency, Despite the best intentions of major businesses, too many corporate social responsibility projects do not always deliver the expected outcomes intended. Businesses may go into communities without mechanisms to follow-up and support. Or the projects may not be suited to the needs of the community.

In many instances, where the business isn’t doing well, the non-revenue generating segments, like CSR and communications, are the first to experience budget cuts, leaving communities suddenly without access to a project they had come to depend on. Understandably, this has resulted in criticism and caution over CSR projects brought into Africa by many corporates.

Samsung acknowledges these turbulences and continuously learns from them. This is why Samsung took a strategic decision to relook at its community engagement model to one of Corporate Citizenship. The model encompasses a great deal of economic and societal benefits relative to costs, ensuring joint company and community value creation.

Ensuring that projects are beneficial begins with research. Samsung’s R&D experts take a depth assessment approach on the environment, infrastructure and community needs before devising a solution that address the specific needs, resulting in innovate product and solution design.

For example, research in Africa revealed a great deal of available sunshine, along with erratic and unreliable power supplies. This informed the development of our solar-powered internet schools and healthcare solutions. Water scarcities informed the development of washing machines using less water; while the tendency for consumers in some markets to use multiple SIM cards drove our development of dual SIM handsets.

In Nigeria, our research revealed a skills mismatch in the technology sector. We discovered that while sufficient graduates were emerging from tertiary institutions armed with electrical engineering qualifications, much of their knowledge was theoretical and they were not equipped with the practical skills needed by industry. This prompted us to establish the Samsung Engineering Academy, where learners and graduates are given intensive, hands-on training so growing the skills pool available to Samsung and its partner ecosystem.

Our community engagement model has been warmly welcomed in communities across Africa. Because programmes are implemented in consultation with communities and are designed to meet their needs, they develop a sense of ownership of the projects. Our Smart School for Teachers initiative in Nigeria is a case in point – we have worked with State governments and local schools and teachers to ensure that we are aware of how they want to be engaged and what they want to learn, all while making them active participants of the process instead of a ‘static’ recipient.

Our Corporate Citizenship model also stresses the importance of impact assessment. Quantitative and qualitative assessment programmes must be carried out on an ongoing basis across multiple tiers of beneficiaries, and their findings must contribute to the research into future programmes, to ensure the sustainability and relevance of future projects.

Samsung has discovered that by building a business case into community engagement, researching projects thoroughly and ensuring they are relevant, projects become a true value-add and beneficial – both to the communities involved, and to the enterprise.

Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of Samsung.

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