Crisis and victory: the experience of associations in meeting challenges

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Challenge of Encouraging Corporate Activism for an Inclusive Society[1]

The World Summit for Social Development, held in March 1995, established the concept of social integration to create an inclusive society, “a society for all”, as one of the key goals of social development. The key outcome of the Summit pledged to make eradication of poverty, full employment and social integration the overriding objectives of development. Member states made a commitment to promote social integration through fostering inclusive societies that are stable, safe, just and tolerant, and respect diversity, equality of opportunity and participation of all people, including disadvantaged and vulnerable groups and persons.

“An inclusive society is a society that over-rides differences of race, gender, class, generation, and geography, and ensures inclusion, equality of opportunity as well as capability of all members of the society to determine an agreed set of social institutions that govern social interaction”. (Expert Group Meeting on Promoting Social Integration, Helsinki, July 2008)

Economic players, especially multinational companies that operate across national borders, have gained unprecedented power and influence across the world. Companies have an enormous impact on people’s lives and the communities in which they operate. Sometimes the impact is positive – jobs are created, new technology improves lives and investment in the community translates into real benefits for those who live there. However, there are countless instances when corporations exploit weak and poorly enforced domestic regulation with devastating effect on people and communities.[2]

In order to minimise the negative effects, ‘corporate activism’ is a concept which needs to be specifically emphasised on. Corporate bodies can take a step in this direction by following implementation mechanism such as foundations or trusts, partnerships with governments, NGOs or other corporate bodies. Partnerships are important not only for effective implementation of corporate activism (including CSR activities) but also for reach and long-term sustainability and to achieve measurable change brought about by social initiatives.

Partnerships with other companies could help in supporting cost-intensive social initiatives and increasing the reach of CSR projects. This is one area where strategic deliberations are required in order to evolve mechanisms and platforms where companies can collaborate to support important social initiatives in a focused and comprehensive manner and avoid duplication of effort and resources.

Partnership with local and state governments is another important factor that will help in better utilization of resources. Establishing partnerships and supporting the government have the potential to strengthen ongoing social programs and ensuring long-term sustainability. The support may be in terms of improving infrastructure, providing equipment, learning aids and other supplies to government programs. This is another area, which needs strategic thinking and efforts so that companies can complement government’s efforts by supporting government run programs and welfare schemes. Most companies implement CSR activities through NGOs.[3]

The aim now is to combine this corporate activism with the concept of social inclusion. Multiple levels of social inclusion involve global, regional, national, local, community, household and individual.

Removing Obstacles to Social Inclusion

  • Eliminating/Amending Discriminatory Laws and Practices: Eliminating or amending customary laws or practices that are discriminatory will be the fundamental first step to lay the foundations for an inclusive society.
  • Special Measures: State Parties to take special measures to eliminate discrimination and stereotyping or protect the rights of certain specific groups in order to meet their particular needs. Quota systems are another effective way of ensuring inclusion of excluded groups into employment opportunities and political institutions.
  • International Policy Frameworks pertinent to social groups: There are mechanisms in place through a variety of international bodies and groups to support empowerment and capacity building of vulnerable and disadvantaged groups, including women, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities, and indigenous peoples.
  • Transforming the Mindset of People: It is vital that the entire educational system is geared towards addressing the patterns of exclusion, and promoting pluralism, and respect for diversity and dialogue, as exclusionary behavior is often perpetuated through educational curricula. School curricula promoting social inclusion should be established.


Challenges of running of a secretariat spread across multiple continents and establishing a consistent visual identity for your association

There are many signs that times are not very favourable for action or coordination through international organizations and universal multilateralism as both these related spheres of coordination are facing enormous challenges.

In the first place, we see that the capacity to agree internationally is very limited. In consequence, successful multilateral rule making is now a rare occurrence.

The complexity of the contemporary world has legislative authorities busy in all other instances. Nationally, legislative agendas are so full that it is a challenge to succeed in having a subject figure on the agenda. Bilaterally, an indeterminate, but large, number of free trade agreements are under negotiation or are being concluded, as are several high-profile plurilateral trade agreements. Likewise, many regional organizations are actively pursuing normative agendas.

Globalization, population growth, urbanization, technology and interconnection have produced a regrettably long list of suitable problems and appropriate subject matter for multilateral attention, many of which seem inherently to lie beyond the power of any one State to resolve because they involve the movement of persons, arms, pollution, diseases, capital, products or ideas across multiple borders.

The size and number of issues calling for attention and the paucity of outcomes seems to have spawned a rich array of plurilateral groupings of States, groupings that are multilateral in the sense of involving more than two States, but not universally multilateral. Lengthy process are required in order to enable all nations, with varying degrees of development and major information and knowledge asymmetries, to be comfortable with the perception and analysis of problems and the democratic development of responses.

The world of classical international organizations and universal multilateralism offers some assurances against certain risks of the new international community. But it is insufficient to rely upon these assurances solely. Rather, we should look to see how we might be able to preserve the advantages of universal multilateralism, while at the same time adapting to the new circumstances of a fast-changing world. For that, the international organizations will need to acquire the characteristics needed for survival in the new world, especially speed and agility. This is the challenge that lies before them.[4]

Some other problems commonly faced by regional international organisations can be listed as:

  • Member countries fear that international organizations might dictate their terms.  So, they implement protectionism in regulatory practices at the domestic level, which poses strains.
  • Multilateral liberalization might face difficulties due to growing regionalism.
  • International organizations are likely to face the challenge of enhanced international reforms in the world trade[5].


Challenge of Engaging, Educating and Motivating Volunteer Workers in a Competitive World 

In today’s competitive world the main issues to engage, educate and motivate the volunteer workers are time poverty, responsiveness, technology and changing expectations. These issues create new challenges to recruit, train and retain volunteers in the international associations.

“Lack of time” is considered to be as the number one barrier or obstacle to volunteering. Respondents usually say “I’m too busy”, or “I have too little time”, or “I cannot make a long term commitment”. People today feel increasing pressures and demands for their time. Time is becoming a precious commodity and people are saying they just don’t have enough hours in a day or week to do all the things they must/want to do. There is a lingering perception that volunteer work requires a long-term commitment. While we know there are many ways for people to become engaged in short term activities, it is still true that many volunteer positions require an ongoing commitment.

The issue of time poverty is not a passing trend. People will continue to feel pressures for their time. To overcome this challenge one has to design smaller, easier, more flexible options, to consider shared responsibility and shared leadership, to create family and friends options, and to clearly identify and promote the personal benefits of volunteering.

Another challenge is to find ways to communicate information and resources quickly and equitably to all volunteers. Today we are living in a time when people expect answers, information, and resources to be available “NOW!” We seem to live in a constant state of immediacy. Volunteers want immediate access to information, resources and people. They expect you to supply them with answers promptly. They want easy, quick ways to do training.

Not only this, technology has also certainly caused the challenge of responsiveness. It has introduced us to whole new ways of work and has also created even larger gaps between those who have technology and those who do not have it. To overcome this challenge we have to engage technology to help us change as it offers more opportunities to link with volunteers. Teleconferencing, video conferencing, etc. virtual volunteers are new ways of doing business and encouraging participation.

Volunteers and association members have changing expectations of what they want from volunteer service. We have a younger generation that is more entrepreneurial and less likely to be attracted to a large, bureaucratic structure. They want the freedom to try new things in new ways. They are technologically literate and prefer to use technology. Unlike their parents, they do not see technology as impersonal or cold. Indeed, they see technology as a means of connecting to a global world in new ways. They are comfortable searching for answers and information on the web. They are comfortable working alone or in virtual teams.

Leading and managing volunteers in today’s world is hard work. To make it possible we should find new, diverse ways of increasing communication, providing education, attracting younger volunteers, utilizing technology and respecting people’s limited time.






Brussels, Belgium