In management we are frequently reminded of a teamwork concept where collaboration results in a ‘whole that is greater than the sum of its parts’. Two people, two organizations, or indeed two horses, can pull more weight when together, than if they did so separately.
When Safaricom Foundation, M-PESA Foundation and Rotary clubs in Kenya agreed to collaborate, that is exactly what we had in mind. We are two organizations that are particularly good at uplifting the less fortunate members of society, and we can change the lives of a greater number when we work together. Building scale in our projects will help to fill the gaps that our taxes don’t reach.
Safaricom is particularly good at making money, but they are also good at reinvesting their profits into the community through their CSR programmes. Rotary is good at raising money and our endowment fund is the largest of any voluntary service club worldwide, valued at over USD 1 billion — but we are also good at project stewardship and building partnerships.
With a joint purpose and the ability to do more, the new corporate communication model from the Arthur Page Society comes to mind. Where several companies spend an inordinate amount of effort solely on visibility — photos of the CCO giving big cheques to little kids, targeted at the business pictorials in the dailies — the Building Belief model focuses on activating corporate character and authentic advocacy.
We wanted to advance and fulfill the corporate character of our respective organizations, and in doing so we set to the task with a bias for action, because these arrangements can sometimes end up establishing talk shops with nothing to show for the effort. Within a short space of time we signed an MOU between Safaricom and Rotary that defined the nature of the relationship and a vision for the future.
Our Rotary clubs are spread far and wide within the country, with over 100 clubs working with like minded organizations and community groups to uplift the needy. Together we set up a criteria to ensure that the resources raised within the partnership would go to the regions with the greatest need and in focus areas that were relevant to the beneficiaries.
It was important to avoid the clustering phenomenon where charity beneficiaries that have the highest visibility get a disproportionate amount of resources because they are based in urban areas where they have easy access to the media and other forms of modern communication.
Through our Rotary clubs we were able to build advocacy at scale as members spent time with residents of towns and villages understanding their needs and developing programme proposals that would address them. Our criteria put an emphasis on long term effects of interventions that would have an impact on a larger number of people.
We received many proposals from the clubs and eventually selected an initial project that met the requirements, and from the outcomes we will be able to evaluate the relationship between the partners, the impact the project, and the advocacy that it generates.
The payoff for Safaricom is the expansion of its donor network, and the deepening of its relationships among communities, volunteers and organizations in order to meet the objectives set out in their sustainability strategy. As Rotarians, we also want to strengthen our network and scale up the ability to serve the less fortunate in our country, by working with corporations and government with a long term view in mind.