Let’s begin with an introduction. I’m a Senior CSR (Corporate social responsibility) Manager at 1E, with over 20 years of experience as a child psychologist. I have been with 1E for almost seven years.
I know what you’re probably thinking — “what is a child psychologist doing working at a tech company?” Thinking back to when 1E called me for an interview, it was intriguing that a software organization would be looking to bring a psychologist into the CSR role. Then, when I learned more, I was surprised to find out the motivation was children’s wellbeing.
What is corporate social responsibility (CSR)?
So, what is CSR? Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is a focus on the ethics which drive an organization’s activities. According to CIPD (The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), it “starts with recognizing that organization’s activities impact on society, the environment and the economy, as well as on their own workforce.” How does a company make a social impact and look beyond profits and contribute to society? A jumping off point for many companies is by financially supporting the social cause it believes in.
CSR, the 1E way
CSR needs to be much more than finance allocation, or a “box-ticking” exercise. Bringing in experts and professionals knowledgeable on the social cause being supported is a game changer. For example, companies working for environment responsibility need to have environment specialists, or companies working for healthcare need to have medical experts to ensure meaningful impact.
It was Sumir, Founder of 1E, who had a vision to help and support underprivileged children and young adults. 1E’s CSR work began in 2002 with Manav Mandir Gurukul Ashram in Sarai Kale Khan, New Delhi. The orphanage provides a home for destitute and orphaned children in India. Despite financially supporting the educational needs of children from the orphanage for over 20 years, he felt there was more 1E could do. In particular, helping to raise the confidence and self-esteem of the children we supported. That’s where the idea of bringing in a children’s wellbeing specialist comes in.
According to the United Nations, there are around eight million children living in institutional care across the globe currently. Being raised in an institution presents issues or problems with development and well-being as there may be a lack of positive individual attention from consistent caregivers. As a result of such challenges, young adults raised in institutional care can find it challenging to function and participate well in society.
As part of my work at 1E, I have been working with the children and young adults on life skills. As a Psychologist, I know there’s a huge difference between sympathy and empathy. It’s important for their wellbeing and self-esteem to treat those we’re working with as individuals, not charity cases. Though formal education is extremely important, it’s also very important to understand that these children and young adults need to work on themselves so that they aren’t viewed as being different and don’t feel inadequate as compared to others.
Currently we have three CSR initiatives in India aimed at a journey to self-reliance. The children and young adults we support come from humble backgrounds and have dreams. We want to help them realize their dreams. In all our initiatives, we provide long time support, access to life skills workshops, and the opportunity to interact with employees of 1E through mentorship.
We had been supporting the Manav Mandir Gurukul Ashram orphanage for 20 years, when it closed in March 2022, 1E decided to continue our involvement as we believe in long term commitment. The young adults who had completed schooling were supported with higher education. We also help with life skills training, living expenses, etc.
We have collaborated with Udayan Care, an NGO under the Udayan Shalini Fellowship. Through this we are working with 10 girls on life skills and education for the next six years, from Class 11 until they complete graduation. A third initiative from 1E is funding a tutor’s salary for a home for boys. We run monthly reward programs for children who have done well in academics and co-curricular activities. We have also sponsored three children’s education in a private school.
I have many proud moments; from a child excited to share their drawing or seeing videos of their street play, to their clearing an entrance exam (for enrollment into higher education) or getting a job. Ashok bought a TV for his parents; Tarun started his own business venture; Prachi learned to be assertive, and Krishna took out his younger sisters for a treat. These are all milestones and achievements.
One last CSR success story I will leave you with is that of a boy we took guardianship for, Shubham. He was orphaned at a young age and housed in one of the homes we supported until its closure. Shubham was studying hotel management in Punjab but had no home or relatives to support him. We proudly took on his guardianship for college admission and enjoy seeing his ongoing success. I feel so proud to share that Shubham got the highest marks in Semester 3 at his institute and has recently completed a four-month training at a five-star resort in Goa.
We all as individuals and companies (collectively) can make a difference or make an impact in the lives of others. We need to realize that, while the allocation of CSR funds is important, thinking outside the box when building your CSR function
could go that step further in making the world a better place. Bringing in new hires that may seem, at first, out of place in your org, could bring unique insights. I do hope companies think strategically and creatively when it comes to CSR.
If you’d like to learn more about the topics discussed in this blog, you can do so here.