Giving Back: 5 Ways to Use Your Social Intranet to Organize Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

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With sustained winds over 200 km/h, Typhoon Haiyan was one of the strongest tropical cyclones ever recorded. It devastated the Philippines on November 8, 2013, killing at least 6300. Thousands of miles away, Winnipeg-based Assiniboine Credit Union (ACU) posted a simple news article to their intranet, explaining how staff and members could contribute to humanitarian relief. What happened next was unexpected.

Dozens of Filipino staff members commented on the page, thanking the credit union for making this provision. ACU executives hadn’t realized how many employees were Filipino and had family and friends affected by the disaster. So they quickly posted another news article to the intranet, offering to match all employee donations. Staff warmly welcomed this initiative, and thousands of dollars were raised.

According to Duane Nicol, ACU’s marketing manager at the time, it is the transparency of a social intranet that made this possible. “It’s flattened the organization. It’s a communications exercise between executive management and staff. It was a powerful demonstration of what a social intranet can do for us.”

Globally, there is more interest in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) efforts than ever before. How can you use a social intranet to support your CSR initiatives?

1. Create awareness of CSR initiatives

Every CSR initiative starts with letting employees know that it exists.

News articles, blog posts and informational pages on your intranet are a great way to do that.

Notice the first news article on the home page of RetroNET, the intranet of the US Military HIV/AIDS Research Project. It reminds employees of the upcoming Earth Day Fair and Electronics Recycling Drive.
Notice the first news article on the home page of RetroNET, the intranet of the US Military HIV/AIDS Research Project. It reminds employees of the upcoming Earth Day Fair and Electronics Recycling Drive.

2. Organize long-term initiatives

Long-term initiatives need an online home: a place to organize people, dates, and documents.

Try keeping the editing permissions open to encourage participation. In organizations where employees can join and contribute at will,  we’ve seen many examples of CSR initiatives being self-organized.

Placemaking created a home on their social intranet for sustainable development: "The Green Place". No one was asked to join — employees self-selected, and were more engaged as a result.
Placemaking created a home on their social intranet for sustainable development: “The Green Place”. No one was asked to join — employees self-selected, and were more engaged as a result.

3. Raise money with auctions

Auctions are a common way to raise money for charity. ThoughtFarmer’s forums, time-stamped comments and email notifications make it easy to run auctions online.

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Engineering firm KWL raised money for Ronald McDonald House by using ThoughtFarmer to auction off old smart phones.

4. Coordinate emergency relief

When an emergency arises, a cloud-based social intranet is a great place to coordinate relief:

  1. It can be accessed from home or mobile if you can’t get to the office
  2. It’s accessible even if your office network is down
  3. Forums, blog posts, news items, comments and calendars are all effective at getting the word out and coordinating your response
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As related in the introduction, Assiniboine Credit Union used ThoughtFarmer to encourage employees to contribute to Philippines typhoon relief.

5. Celebrate CSR success

After your CSR initiative is complete, celebrate success! News items, shout-out walls, and photo galleries can all be used to thank employees for their participation. Give everyone the ability to post their comments. Comments beget comments, and the more positive social reinforcement received, the more successful similar CSR initiatives will be in the future.

Common Ground, a New York non-profit that combats homelessness, participates in an annual "HOPE Count"
Common Ground is a New York non-profit that combats homelessness. Each year they participate in an annual “HOPE Count” to conduct a census of people sleeping outside in New York City. A post-event photo gallery on ThoughtFarmer celebrates the success of the initiative.

Side benefit: technology adoption

Many employees are passive consumers of their social intranet. They read, but they don’t write, edit, or comment. For those passive users, we’ve observed that CSR initiatives are often the first time they actively participate on their intranet. Perhaps it feels less risky because it’s not directly connected to their job. Regardless of the reason, CSR initiatives not only benefit humanity and strengthen workplace culture: they also help employees adopt social intranet technology. It prepares them for online communication and collaboration that more directly benefits the business.

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