Emerging Technology Needs Of Social Enterprises/Not-For-Profits, With The Increased Tightening Of CSR Norms
LabourNet is a social enterprise that enables sustainable livelihoods for men, women, and youth in urban and rural areas.
A very large percentage of donations for Social Enterprises (SEs) and/ or Not-for-Profits (NFPs) are from the CSR Budgets of corporates and a majority of these funds are spent on educational and vocational skilling programs. So, I am drawing on the needs of these programs to throw light on the technological needs of social enterprises.
Now, the various stakeholders who are interested in the data and success of these CSR Programs are each looking at it from different perspectives:
Corporates: Many of these corporates, have aligned their CSR Activities along with one or more of the 17 SDG (Sustainable Development Goals) adopted by the UN for achieving a sustainable future for all. Hence, measuring the success of a CSR aided program with achieving the respective SDG is key for them which means, the impact caused by the programs is something they are very keen to monitor.
Additionally, since CSR Spend is mandatory, therefore it is critical that they demonstrate full utilization of their CSR Budgets in an auditable manner.
Governments: Since, a portion or all of the CSR Spend is tax-deductible under Section 80G of the Income Tax Act, Governments and Tax authorities are keen to ensure that the spend was indeed made and can be audited.
Social Enterprises: The Social Enterprises themselves need to gather sufficient data about the programs to ensure sharper mobilization of the target groups and achieving of greater impact through their activities.
There are other needs, but for the purposes of this article, the above stakeholders identified and their perspectives are more universally applicable.
So, when we analyze the needs of the various stakeholders, we can distill down their requirements to the following shortlist:
- Evidence - of the impact created and of the CSR Spend made.
- Compliance with Donor Norms - to ensure that the end goal is achieved.
- Utilization Certificates – to account for every
expense made and ensure that the full budget was utilized.
- Proper Accounting – that all expenses on the program were accurately tracked and only the applicable expenses are being correctly booked to the program.
- Data – about the beneficiaries mobilized, the impact created (i.e. improvement in skills, if it was a vocational skilling program being funded), information about the various partners used, employment opportunities generated, job roles which succeeded and those that did not, etc. all of which help the donors and the social enterprises to assess the efficiency of their programs and improve the focus, planning or execution of them for achieving greater impact in the future.
The definition and utilization of budgets and the expense tracking are of particular interest to the donors
In order to address the above list of needs and their varied requirements, the following technological capabilities and platforms are now becoming necessary for social enterprises to invest in.
1) ERP: The selection (or development) of and implementation of an appropriate ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) to ensure that the main activities of the social enterprise are both well planned and their execution tracked is key to the success of the programs.
Taking the example of a vocational skilling program, it would be the entire candidate lifecycle covering registration, enrolment in batches, attendance of the students and trainers, assessments, certifications, job placements and tracking of the candidates in their jobs post-placement.
The ERP Systems allow for efficient execution of the programs, save on significant operational costs and allow for efficient operational reporting. Secondly, the necessary evidence of the operations is logged and available for audit purposes.
2) Learning Management Systems: The LMS is required for two key activities – (a) tracking the learning curve of a learner and (b) ensuring the most current learning content is delivered to her in small bite-sized chunks, on a plat-form they are most familiar with – perhaps their mobile phones.
A capable LMS platform would help in assessing the impact as well as the performance of the trainers and the learners.
3) Financial Accounting Platform: A ‘medium enterprise’ class, Financial Accounting Platform, which is fully integrated with the ERP System, ensures that the operations are converted into financial numbers with full audit ability and traceability is the key. The definition and utilization of budgets and the expense tracking is of particular interest to the donors.
4) BIPlatforms: While a Business Intelligence Platform may not immediately come to mind, since a CSR Project ends up gathering huge amounts of data, either in manual forms or digital platforms, the analysis of the data to elicit meaningful information helps in the successful targeting of the right populations, with the right programs, and assesses the results in a comprehensive manner.
Even if no other system is invested in, then this one system can help demonstrate impact, improve efficiency, cut costs and help collect data that would help hone future programs.
5) Mobile Apps: With the largescale adoption of smartphones, it has presented us with an opportunity to start collecting data using mobile apps, direct from the field. Therefore the adoption of Mobile Apps is critical in doing away with the latency of information, ensuring the authenticity of the data, and ease of data capture.
The adoption of the above systems would help any Social Enterprise to meet the accounting, reporting and operating needs of most CSR Programs.