Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Sustainable Disaster Recovery for Nepal.

The recent 7.8-magnitude earthquake in Nepal is a heartbreaking disaster with thousands dead and much of the infrastructure destroyed in Kathmandu.

Nepal is a poor country. Nepal’s GDP per capita was only $694 in 2013, unemployment is at about 40% and overseas workers account for 30% of the economy.

The disaster relief phase will be in the headlines as many countries send armies on the ground for search and rescue missions and medical support, saving lives. Providing much needed shelter, food and water will also be very prominent and large NGOs like Red Cross and Global Giving will raise a lot of funds for this purpose.

For people who donated and supported in the relief efforts, I really respect you for taking action and making a difference to the survivors after the earthquake. In disasters however, the rebuilding process is not as easy as providing shelter, food and water. In poorer countries like Nepal, the rebuilding process is extremely complex as the stability of the government is in question and even with a lot of funds from donations, it may never recover to even the state before the earthquake.

From my experience in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010, even with US$3.5 billion in aid, Haiti still has not recovered much and in some areas, the situation seems to get worse. The local economy that is supply similar products will find increasing difficulty to earn a living and resort to relying on just foreign aid to get by.

I have worked with a few great organizations in Haiti like Haiti Partners' Children's Academy which does great work and empowers the next generation of youths with holistic education with affordable education. However, there are also a lot of other NGOs which does not provide real social impact. Many NGOs still provide free services or free food, 5 years after the disaster, and local businesses are affected badly.

The situation of Haiti and Nepal may be quite similar, I would like to look at the disaster as an opportunity to rebuild an infrastructure for growth to reduce poverty. My experience at different disaster areas and getting inspired by the great projects and people I met over the years, I believe I have a lot of value to add to the disaster recovery efforts in Nepal.

I'm interested in forming a Relief 2.0 recovery team for the following tasks:

1) Deliver donated products to partners on the ground. (Solar panels, 3G connection, etc.)
2) Relief B2B, helping local businesses to restart, giving them access to crowdfunded loans (locally or online)
3) Gather information about local capacity and state of business and infrastructure. Find out what is needed to help economic recovery.
4) Gather and share information about marginalized communities and connect them to social enterprises in the world to find solutions collaboratively.
5) Document with photos, accurate information about the magnitude of destruction. Perhaps follow up in the future on the progress of recovery and what else needs to be done.

-- Robin Low

Monday, April 6, 2015

CSR came out of a necessity

I was involved much in Social Media in 2008, and got into more public relations and social projects. As I did some consulting for various corporates on crisis management, from the things I read, the things I learn and the cases that I work on, I realized that CSR like participating in Social Media was a necessity.

In the digital environment today, It was critical for an organization to have social media engagement. The public is already on social networks. The Internet gave the public a voice to share about the things they care about. And with this fast hyper-connected world, the public also want a quick channel for customer feedback.

When there is a problem, when a person cannot find any ways to resolve their problem, they will try to look for a Twitter account, Facebook page to inform the brand of the problem. This is the lucky bit because the brand gets notified of the problem fast before it becomes a crisis.

When you have a Facebook page or Twitter account to engage fans, the problem if its user generated gets resolved fast from other fans as well. And when a fake complains come in, the brand's reputation can be protected as well.

The goal of the CSR may be to explore issues and increase understanding of the linkages between business ethics, the community and the business activities, however, from many case studies that show that a brand with a good reputation tend to recover from a crisis faster, it is important for brands to build a good reputation through CSR.

“88% of consumers said they were more likely to buy from a company that supports and engages in activities to improve society.
- Better Business Journey, UK Small Business Consortium

For big brands, having a good CSR program can bring in more sale, retain talents, differentiate from competitors and much more. Its not only good, but it is actually essential.

However, CSR needs to be managed wall and I'll be talking more on it in my next posts.

-- Robin Low