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Collective action to meet community needs sustainably

Representatives from 38 organizations at a children and youth CoLABS session, which enables companies to deepen their understanding about education needs and bring about scalable impact.


AS companies today find themselves caught between the dilemma of limited resources and the compelling desire to create social impact, it is increasingly apparent that the key lies in collective solutions.

Challenges facing our society are ever-changing and usually stem from multiple root causes. Therefore, systemic solutions for such issues need collective knowledge, resources and will. Melissa Kwee, CEO of National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC), says: "Our current giving landscape tends towards fragmentation with sporadic and inconsistent efforts, and givers operating in silos. These make it difficult to assess and address the real needs within our community. It also fosters wastage and gaps in coverage."

By leveraging partners who seek the same social outcome and share a common purpose through the collective impact approach, companies such as Credit Suisse are venturing into new horizons of corporate giving.

Credit Suisse CEO, Asia Pacific, Helman Sitohang advocates taking on a collaborative approach to meet community needs in a sustainable way. He says: "The idea behind 'collective impact' involves deep collaboration among public institutions, private foundations, non-profit organisations and corporations. These partnerships and collaborations fund and drive programmes that create lasting social impact and address social challenges in a scalable and sustainable manner."

Credit Suisse acknowledges that there is a limit to how much individual institutions can accomplish when it comes to creating a sustainable corporate social responsibility programme.

Angeline Chin, head of corporate citizenship APAC, Credit Suisse, says: "The model of 'giving in silos' cannot solve complex issues. We therefore decided to relook how we could scale our impact and found that the 'collective impact' model helped us achieve this."

Credit Suisse embodies a culture of openness towards collaboration and co-creation of solutions. In 2016, Credit Suisse, together with four other financial institutions (CLSA Ltd, Macquarie Group Limited, State street Corporation, Nomura Holding, Inc) jointly organised a not-for-profit (NFP) director programme designed to train employees with an interest to sit on NFP boards.

The programme provides participants with sound knowledge of a NFP director's responsibilities and graduates will be connected to specific charities seeking directors.

Not one to rest on its laurels, Credit Suisse was involved in discussions with NVPC to explore how similar models of collaboration could in turn achieve collective impact.

Credit Suisse, alongside NVPC and Community Foundation of Singapore (CFS), hence formed a working group to provide education for disadvantaged children and CoLABS was launched on Feb 8, 2017.

Credit Suisse says CoLABS is a collaborative platform that enables companies to not only deepen their understanding about education needs but also bring about scalable impact and a platform for risk diversification and creation of innovation solutions.

Ms Chin adds: "Partnering with NVPC and Community Foundation of Singapore makes a lot of sense to us because they are able to galvanise companies who are already part of the Company of Good (COG) platform and are also able to reach out to the relevant ministries and not-for profits", and allows Credit Suisse to expand its partner network.

Founder of CoLABS initiative, assistant director, philanthropy, Ramandeep Sidhu says: "In my daily work, I see many passionate companies, individuals and institutions trying to create an impact but are limited by their own resource constraints. This presented us with the opportunity to optimise and connect these individual actions and individual finite resources into a big collaborative force that can go behind complex problems in a systematic manner and leveraging across other cumulative resources."

By linking the different companies and its staff together and amplifying change through these networks' resources, Credit Suisse shows how companies are nimble enough to take risks and tackle complex challenges.

Ms Chin says: "It is time for corporates like Credit Suisse to tackle big issues and solve root causes by working across sectors. It takes a lot of humility for each party to say 'we don't know what is best but with our collective wisdom as peers in this journey, we will find a solution'."

With education as one of their primary focuses, Credit Suisse lends its support to numerous education and training initiatives around the world, including Singapore.

Since 2012, Credit Suisse has supported the Food from the Heart Foundation in Singapore through providing grants to needy students and their Food Goodie Bag programme serves as an award system to encourage young children from disadvantaged communities to maintain good attendance at school.

Ms Kwee says it well: "Sustained collective impact, fuelled by thought leadership, is vital to grow the giving ecosystem in Singapore. Brought together, compassionate and impact-oriented individuals or corporates, when armed with knowledge and strong partnerships, can move mountains and even change a nation."

  • The writer is from the National Volunteer & Philanthropy Centre (NVPC). This article was contributed by NVPC as part of a series of stories on sustained giving. Visit for more information.

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