G8 2008 Opportunities

I was recently elected as a Trustee on the board of the Interfaith Youth Trust (IFYT). Later on the same day from 8pm to almost 10pm I attended a charity organisation meeting – The Birmingham to London cycle ride organising committee – SACA.

Both of these have a common thread: Youth and working for a common cause. In the case of IFYT, the aim is interesting – Encouraging greater understanding for each other’s religion. For SACA – Sikh Arts and Cultural Association, it is to encourage greater community cohesion through working for a selected children’s charity.

Essentially, the the term Service can be applied but it is important to consider it from a humble perspective. NB The reason why I’m talking about it is not to publicise my activities but to highlight others who give up their time to work in a self-less manner. I’ve often said that the true celebrities are those unsung heroes who work tirelessly, for example, in villages where children are amazed at the sight of shoes.

On Friday night I attended a cultural evening organised by AFP – The Asian Foundation for Philanthropy. This UK-based charity was established in November 2004 to support British Asians (a term that they use – I prefer British Brown!) Diaspora who want to make a difference to social and economic development in India. They use their extensive networks in both the UK and India to provide means for both individuals and businesses who wish to contribute towards social change in India.  They aim to ‘identify projects and organisations which seek to empower local people and encourage them to see creative solutions which will be sustainable and contribute to development over the long term.’ I noticed that the charities they work with are ‘local’ in nature, often finding it difficult to attract the international support that they need.

I’ve written in the past about corporate social responsibility (CSR) in the context of multi-nationals missing a great opportunity to develop people, for example through involvement with charitable initiatives. AFP provides a great opportunity for an increasingly affluent community to get involved. This is not to imply that the rich club do not today. I’m just talking from my personal experience with involvement with SACA over the years. For example, gaining sponsors for the annual bike ride is always a challenge. Often questions on budget allocation, payback and market worth of being associated with a cause are raised. Not as a barrier but as a discussion point. Many of the sponsors for the ride are consistent and reliable and the organisation is certainly grateful for their continued support.

Maybe part of the problem is that apart from Gift Aid there is little incentive for commercial organisations to give-up their talent. Instead, people who care enough will do it anyway.

Yet, the irony is that many of today’s issues are based on commercial decisions and international trade rules.

Today, the G8 commence another exciting summit. With talk of rising oil prices and rising food prices will there be a consideration for being creative. For those who already live on the border line of life, recession will impact them harder. Greater tax breaks for organisations, both developing, mature and willing to invest in development projects could be a way to encourage greater world unity and harmonisation. Else the predicted downturn could escalate into a spiral of depression where corporate leaders may become protective of their funds rather than innovative to deliver real change.

Categories: 2008, Charity, Corporate Responsibility, Cycling, Interfaith

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