AMCHAM’s CSR Committee organized the 4th CSR Conference: Capacity Building in the CSR Ecosystem on August 17th that brought together key stakeholders in corporate social responsibility for panel discussions that addressed challenges, opportunities and avenues for capacity building in CSR though the pandemic lens. The conference began with a warm welcome to speakers and participants by Ms. Ranjana Khanna, Director General CEO, AMCHAM, who briefly highlighted the work U.S. companies have done across sectors in CSR, spending more than $200 million on the ground over the last several months on pandemic relief efforts. Mr. Harish Krishnan, Chairman – CSR Committee, AMCHAM and Managing Director, Public Affairs & Strategic Engagement, India & SAARC Cisco Systems India, discussed the previous three editions of the conference and set the scene. He appreciated the level of involvement the Government of Haryana has had with corporates investing CSR funds in the state. Ms. Vrunda Bansode, Head – Marketing and India Data Insights, Sattva Consulting, gave a detailed overview of the India’s CSR landscape and provided insights on a new report which used data from 2014-2020 to showcase American Corporations contributions in CSR. Apart from the investment trends, the report also gave a snapshot of the regional spread of CSR spends by sector and geography. The report, created by Sattva in collaboration with AMCHAM, was officially released: India’s CSR Landscape and American Corporations.

Mr. Pawan Choudhary, Advisor to Chief Minister, Foreign Cooperation Department and CSR Trust, Government of Haryana, in the keynote address, discussed the meaning and origins of charity and shared that Haryana received support for healthcare matters and infrastructure from U.S. companies throughout the pandemic. He mentioned the gap in donating and implementing projects and how the state has set up a project management unit to facilitate CSR contributions end-to-end. Ms. Karen Klimowski, Deputy Mission Director, USAID/India, in her special address, applauded AMCHAM members on their CSR contributions and elaborated on the rich history of the development partnership of USAID in India. The organization mobilizes private sector investments in collaboration with the Government of India and works across sectors on digital connectivity, healthcare and clean energy, among others. Ms. Klimowski shared about REVIVE Alliance, which aims to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic by providing grants and returnable loans to the underserved who have experienced a loss in livelihood and is on track to be a $15 million blended finance facility. Closing remarks for the session were given by Mr. Ankur Malhotra, Co-Chairman – CSR Committee, AMCHAM and Head, Corporate Affairs & CSR, Hewlett Packard Enterprise India, who thanked speakers for their valuable inputs and shared the pride CSR professionals take in their work.

Session 2: Emerging Models of Education During COVID-19 was moderated by Mr. Rathish Balakrishnan, Co-Founder and Managing Partner, Sattva Consulting and featured panelists Mr. Pranav Kothari, Chief Executive Officer, Educational Initiatives (EI), Ms. Merlia Shaukath, Founder & CEO, Madhi Foundation and Ms. Samar Bajaj, Program Manager, India Programs, Michael & Susan Dell Foundation. The panel deliberated on the overall impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on children of all ages, including their mental, social and emotional health and cognitive levels. The impact on learning and the limited access to digital learning was highlighted. The necessity of parental engagement in digital education was emphasized. On the EdTech front, software for education must be adaptive, personalized and contextualized in order to be effective and data driven for improvement.

Ms. Aarti Mohan, Co-Founder and Partner, Sattva Consulting moderated session 3 which focused on healthcare learnings with speakers Mr. Ravi Krishnan, National Executive Board Member, AMCHAM and Chief Administrative Officer, Goldman Sachs, Mr. Sandeep Singhal, Co-Founder & MD, Nexus Venture Partners and Co-Founder and Leadership Team, ACT Grants, Mr. Devesh Varma, VP & CTO, Piramal Swasthya and Dr. Kshama Kothari, Director of Healthcare, Social Alpha. The panel discussed pandemic learnings on communication, capacity and capability building in healthcare infrastructure, community ownership and collective action. Throughout the 2nd wave of COVID-19 challenges in supply lines were exposed and philanthropic collaborations were leveraged to reach people in need. Speakers shared what their organizations focused on to support healthcare and survival during the pandemic and distinguished between individual and institutional action during these times. The role of technology in healthcare proved vital. The panel agreed that the newfound recognition of mental health matters was a positive outcome of the pandemic.

Session 4: Research and Innovation for CSR was moderated by Mr. Srikrishna Sridhar Murthy (Krishna), Co-Founder and CEO, Sattva Consulting with esteemed panelists, Dr. Sapna Poti, Director Strategic Alliances, Office of the Principal Scientific Adviser, Government of India, Dr. Ram Turaga, Chief Development Officer, Office of Development and Alumni Affairs, Indian Institute of Science and Mr. Ravishankar Rao, Director – Strategy and Operations, Cisco. The panel discussed funding for research and innovation in certain pockets having shifted to new priority areas and various oxygen related projects from the IISc and Office of the PSA. Panelists shared what drives companies to fund research and innovation as part of their CSR and what companies can expect from these investments. The importance of identifying a societal problem and finding a solution is crucial to impactful CSR. The Office of the PSA’s engagement with the start-up ecosystem was highlighted and how funding research has a multiplier effect globally. A model of academic clusters and institutions with areas of expertise for future proofing and risk sharing was discussed. The panel was a perfect picture of how government, academia and corporates can come together to benefit the ecosystem.

The conference concluded with thoughts for the way forward from Mr. Harish Krishnan, Chairman – CSR Committee, AMCHAM and Mr. Ankur Malhotra, Co-Chairman – CSR Committee, AMCHAM highlighting the need for AMCHAM to engage with the start-up ecosystem and for AMCHAM to find a way to support matchmaking collaboration. It was well noted that technology has crept into all sectors and especially education, hence more attention to the pedagogy of online learning should be explored. Mr. Krishnan thanked the esteemed speakers and partners for this event – Cisco (platinum partner) and Sattva (knowledge partner). Ms. Valerie Swope, Program Coordinator, AMCHAM emceed the event. More than 175 participants joined the event. Session wise conference resources can be viewed here: https://amchamindia.com/4th-csr-conference-capacity-building-in-the-csr-ecosystem-resources/

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