The Kellogg Foundation considers the involvement of the corporate sector in social matters to be essential. Besides being an important source of funding for the programs, companies can also contribute with technological and managerial innovations.
Four years ago, the Itinerant Seminars on Social Responsibility and Corporate Citizenship became an important tool for engaging private companies. Held alternately in countries from Central America, the Andean region and Brazil, the seminars are organized by the Corporate Citizenship Institute of Pernambuco (Northeast Brazil), with the support of Save the Children and funds from the Kellogg Foundation.
After a positive evaluation of the experiences of these meetings held between 1994 and 2000, the format of the seminars was adapted to cater to the changes in Kellogg Foundation programming for Latin America and Caribbean (LAC). Prior efforts carried out in the area of philanthropy and volunteering were redirected towards the fields of Social Responsibility and Citizenship. “Since then, the Foundation has applied a strategy directed at corporate social responsibility on a broader scale,” explains Andrés Thompson, WKKF program director and coordinator of the seminars.
One of the key instruments was the support for projects such as Business Alliance, in Northeast Brazil; the Cooperation and Development Initiative (INCIDE), in Argentina; the Alliance NGO, in the Dominican Republic; and the Enterprise Foundation for Social Action (FUNDEMAS), in El Salvador, among others. The exchange of know-how between businessmen at the Itinerant Seminars has helped intensify the efforts to set up groups that contribute to social development on a local level. It has also inspired meetings such as the conference in December of 2004 in Córdoba (Argentina), organized by INCIDE, which analyzed the work done at various corporate social responsibility promotion centers in different countries around Latin America.
The methodology of the seminars was updated to incorporate the suggestions of the participants. Divided into five themes, discussions always revolve around the main focus: the creation of work opportunities for excluded youth.
“In this way, the Kellogg Foundation continues on its strategic course to build up a critical mass of active groups that make changes and implement actions that raise knowledge and support better practices in the field of social responsibility,” says Thompson.
The Brazilian private sector has boasted some strong results since the outset. In the Northeast, a series of activities marks the initiative to help youth alter the course of poverty in the country. In the state of Maranhão, youngsters are encouraged to set up their own microenterprises after they receive training that prepares them for their first job. The project has attracted the attention of both companies and the government.
Other countries in Latin America with programs of note are: Mexico, where the Oaxaca Community Foundation has set an example in the preservation of long-term institutional initiatives; Chile; Colombia, which is experiencing a period of revitalization in its corporate social responsibility movement; and Ecuador.
Published in Interaction n° 9