On the 25th of March 2013 thirty CSR practitioners from twenty-five companies based in Egypt came together at the American Chamber of Commerce. The day was organized by the CSR Committee of the AmCham and facilitated by Natural Innovation. The purpose of this meeting was to explore the current context for CSR in Egypt and identify main focus areas – within the business and in the communities they are supporting. The aim was to uncover opportunities and identify challenges for more collaboration between CSR practitioners and their projects and to share and learn from each other’s work.
The day was highly participatory and everyone was invited to contribute their thinking and to share their experience. Participants shared with openness and honesty the challenges they are currently facing and what they saw as opportunities. In the morning conversations were happening in a circular setting and then in small groups of four people using the ‘world cafe’ method. In the afternoon the topics for small group discussions were decided by the participants themselves using the ‘open space’ approach. After both of small group sessions in the morning and in the afternoon insights were shared in plenary.
From the conversations during the whole day it became apparent that there is a need for the CSR movement in Egypt to address four interconnected areas:
1. Focus on impact of the CSR projects; there was a clear sense among participants that the impact created from their work with the grassroots and NGOs needs to be made relevant to communities’ livelihood priorities.
2. Rethinking the role of the CSR function in the society and within the company; a clear observation from the interaction was the difference in understanding and defining the role of CSR in Egypt.
3. Synergy, cooperation and coordination of efforts among CSR practitioners and projects to ensure stronger impact of the CSR work; several discussions revolved around how to interact with the government and other stakeholders in a meaningful and effective way.
This meeting was the first step and an attempt to find out if there is potential for more collaboration among CSR practitioners in Egypt and their companies, to increase our positive impact on society. The results of today and the many positive remarks show that there is definitely potential for more.
The organizing team met to share observations and explore potential next steps. The need was felt to build on the momentum for creating a shared project. At the same time – as previous experience has shown – there is an awareness that there are are many challenges preventing collaborations between companies to happen smoothly and timely. The desire to learn from each others successes and challenges was voiced strongly. A next meeting in the same spirit is planned.