Below you find a copy of a conversation that took place on email with a small group of Constellation friends. We want to open the floor for all of you interested in the topic of CLCP and the Private Sector.
See attached Gastons first draft that brings together thoughts on inviting business people to SALT visits, which was the starting point of a very interesting further exploration. Enjoy the reading! And we will look forward to hearing your advice based on your own experience?
Email exchange so far in chronological order:
Gaston Schmitz, 11 november 2011:
Dear friends in the private sector working group,
Based on some first interactions with companies over the last months and our own core strengths, we decided that it might be worthwhile to simplify our offer to companies. We all agree that at the basis of what makes us unique is the International SALT visit.
By offering only this one thing from which other alternatives can follow, we offer what we are good at and what we know will bring results and transformation. After that, we can have much more meaningful conversations with executives to explore where they think this can add value in their organization.
Therefore, attached a first 2-pager (with lay-out of Laurence!) with a pitch for business executives, HR managers and management development professionals.
Your thoughts are welcome, also on the above assumptions.
Olivia Munoru, 11 november 2011
It is beyond brilliant.
In my years working with World Vision's Corporate and Donor Partnerships, we never once could offer something like this. But I got asked, EVERY DAY, "I want to inspire my staff. Can I take them to the field?".
Now the Constellation offers not only a chance to visit the field, but to experience SALT, and learn the power of local responses. This is going to transform mindsets and change the way teams work together.
I'm clearly very excited about this.
One small language suggestion - regarding the Karnataka example. The other two examples stand out strongly against this one, which is less clear. Here are my suggested changes:
Karnataka state outperforms many other states in terms of economic growth, education and health care. One of the driving forces is that local communities have taken charge of their own development. For you and your team, a series of profound conversations with communities across cultural, religious and linguistic barriers will unlock the power of local wisdom and inspire you to work together differently towards achieving remarkable results.
Lau - I LOVE the layout. It's pretty, professional, clear and just plain sexy!
Phil Forth, 14 November 2011
We started this conversation in Chiang Mai. I didn't feel that we finished it.
Here is the issue that is in my head. If we take, for example, Standard Chartered executives, on such a trip, we could certainly charge a very large amount of money in Constellation terms. If the Constellation were to earn such a sum of money, what amount of money would we give to the communities that we visit. If they are indeed the source of the knowledge, what is the reward they receive for their contribution to the learning process? Is it nominal or is it substantial? Are we comfortable to be entirely clear with the communities about the financial arrangements?
I think that we need to make sure the text does not mislead?
So, for example, how would we answer the question, 'How does our cost-effective and innovative growth model allow us to reinvest 100% of our revenues back into the communities?'. Doesn't every not for profit enterprise invest all of its income in communities in one way or another? The rest of the paragraph also raises questions in my mind.
If Luca is to provide us with a testimonial, then we must accept that there will never be a financial transaction between the Constellation and Luca and/or Accelerance.
My concern is for our reputation. It is very easy to lose it.
Joke d'Haese,15 November 2011
Philips mail is of great concern to me.
It reflects to me a taste of fear and relations becoming impure once big amounts of money might become involved.
I am pro the step of involving the private sector.
I believe that both CLC and some private partners are ready for it.
Although I understand the pressure on resources for the constellation,
I don’t believe it will gain the most by asking money for visits.
The message you give in doing so, is that money can buy the richness of the communities.
What you create, is a loss of value.
Because the richness of the communities, of people joining and getting in charge of their lives, far compasses what money can buy.
Especially in an era where the worth of money will be ever more questioned, the need for initiatives like CLC, where people unite to transform their challenges into growth, will become ever more urgent. So even in economic terms, it’s bad timing to sell out…
Yes, invite the companies to come and learn from the richness of communities.
Be clear that we want them to become part of this great adventure, not pay to watch it.
We want them to get inspired, to address the strengths of their own people, to truly start valuing that and build common dreams in order to overcome the challenges they face.
If they want to make their resources available, let them support this process, just like any other member of the community. The impact will be so much bigger.
Imagine the different impact this perspective has on how both communities and companies perceive themselves after a visit.
Imagine the difference in how they are challenged.
Warm Regards, Joke
Marlou de Rouw, 15 November 2011
Thanks Joke - to me this is spot on!
Gaston Schmitz, 15 November 2011
Thank you for these profound reflections. I think it's good to have these on any serious new endeavor we go for. I have a few thoughts:
- Yes, we need to be transparent and accountable towards the communities, just like we always are. Let's have open conversations about sharing the participant fees etc, just like we have with country teams when we sign a new contract. And yes other NGOs could state the same about the 100% reinvestment in communities, but I feel we can justify it really well. I feel comfortable with the fact that our entire organization and movement has to my knowledge no signs of greed. We would never use any funds for unethical purposes. I have no problem to publish our full accounts, salaries etc on our website as I know we have nothing to hide. As long as we safeguard this, I don't see any ethical dilemmas even if companies would pay us large sums of money. I see so much potential for PNG Competence, Mali Competence, RDCCompetence etc that could be revealed much more with increased financial support. I'd like to achieve our common dream to a larger extent and currently one of the restraints is funding. If companies pay us for SALT visits and we discuss the division with the communities and our movement/ assembly openly and SALTy, I don't see any issue arising.
- We have been organizing international SALT visits for the last 6 years where we asked participants to pay for the visits around 350-500 USD excluding coverage of their own costs. In several cases we made some margin on the event (though we didn't always calculate the human input into the costs). So far, this structure turned out to be no problem and a great success for participants, communities and the Constellation. A win-win-win situation. There was no concern about buying the richness of communities or the other tensions outlined below. I did not perceive a loss of value by charging participants a fee.
So just to understand, does the tension lie with the amount of money only?
- I agree that the value of SALT visits go far beyond what can be expressed in money terms . However, this doesn't mean we should not attempt to monetize or sell our services. I am now facilitating a workshop with church leaders of 14 West African countries. Today, many said the same: This workshop was transformative, the best they ever experienced and so rich on a human and connecting level. Simply invaluable they said. Still we charged for our facilitation services some amount that we think is reasonable. Do we create a loss of value through this as well? I mean, doesn't what you say refer to all the work that we (attempt to) do?
- In terms of the alternative, I understand well you would propose to let participants cover their costs and beyond that propose open pricing? We would ask participants to contribute whatever they can after the visits directly to the community/ local response and/ or the Constellation? I do like this idea and we would need to test it for viability especially with companies.
I'll meet the HR Director and Director Sustainability of Standard Chartered Bank in Ghana tomorrow. I'll keep this discussion in the back of my head and let you know the feedback.
Jean-Louis Lamboray - 16 November 2011
Many thanks for the efforts you and Lau put into the two pager, to all who have contributed to the reflections on International SALT visits and to all who will in the future.
I would like to propose following principles emerging from the discussions.
- International SALT visits are destined for anyone who is interested in learning and sharing community strengths.
Business men are people and should not received "special treatment". The two pager is therefore destined to every person interested in learning and sharing.
We should not "charge" participants, but make sure that costs are being met. This may include facilitation costs.
- International SALT visits are SALT visits. They are not destined for fundraising.
This may lead to new opportunities in the business world. At that point, negotiation of deliverables and related fees may start.
- All participants will be encouraged to think about the transfer of SALT and CLC in their respective contexts.
Businesmen and women will be no exception
- All participants will be invited to donate time and money in support of the Constellation
- All participants will be invited to join the Constellation as members
Businesses will be invited on condition that their leadership consciously will aim at mainstreaming CLC in their business, and not if they limit CLC for external activities, such as SALT visits once a month without any intent at changing their own way of working.
What do you all think? Are these principles for action representing a way to go?
Gaston and Marlou, given the wonderful interaction we are having, let us make sure everyone who is interested can participate. Please move this conversation to the appropriate platform and invite everyone interested. I am also thinking about the people who will host an International SALTvisit
Geoff Parcell - 17 November 2011
Hi Gaston et al
Phil's e-mail voiced concerns I have in my head. I'm also aware that Gaston wants some help and support to get it right not just our expressions of concern. My interim solution was to procrastinate and say nothing so thanks Phil for jogging me out of it.
In my time working for an oil company I was familiar with the cynical description 'industrial tourism' for visits to the projects and installations of others. I was surprised when seconded to UNAIDS to hear the similar concept 'development tourism' that is visiting countries and communities for development purposes. If we are not to become travel agents in this form of tourism we must consider what is in it for the communities we visit, as well as the companies,as well as the Constellation. Certainly I do not believe in direct payment for knowledge but perhaps we can find some reciprocal benefit to offer. Something such as the means to attend an international knowledge fair perhaps?
One of the key practices is to mobilise resources, our own first, then we can demonstrate we are ready to use wisely the resources of others. Some of the communities we visit have demonstrated the use of their own resources. Clearly expressed requests to help them to the next level may be legitimate requests to private businesses.
Back to my oil company experience, private businesses are not philanthropists, they look for some reciprocity. Working on a gas project at In Salah in the middle of the Sahara desert BP built an eye hospital to copy with a prevalent problem in such a hostile climate. They also provided English lessons and driving courses to gain a pool of employable people. The focus was on being a good citizen in the locality of where they operate. Learning a different way of working and thinking is probably the best thing businesses will gain; an ability to listen to, understand and learn from their customers. So in our offer we should consider what is in it for each of the parties. The communities can articulate this once they have demonstrated their capability to mobilise their own resources to respond to their issues.
Joke, for me it is about being equitable rather than becoming 'impure'. Why should the Constellation get all the money for connecting a business to a community when the community gets nothing? But I'm right with you on being part of the change not an observer.
JL, I like the reframing to the overarching common principles. However the challenge will be in the implementation. Donations could be feeble and lead to uncertainty of funding. And if we were to give guidelines for donations then that is payment by other words. I think the issue is not with funding visits or facilitation of them but getting funds to enable the support functions to run smoothly.
So how can all this help Gaston produce an offer to businesses such as SCB in a language that business understands? We may need to shift what our unique selling point is. Rather than connecting businesses to local communities how about: "The Constellation helps individuals, teams, communities and organisations change their way of thinking and working in order to improve their performance. They do this by identifying their existing strengths and being willing to listen and learn from others experience"?
Gaston Schmitz, 20 November 2011
Thank you for these reflections. Two things I'd really like to better understand:
1. Why do we need to distinguish between 'International SALT visits' and any other service we offer?
Inspired by RDCCompetence, our ideal learning event is 10 days with roughly 70-80% of the event containing field practice doing SALT visits. Yes, the same WOT, WOW and the same learning from local responses. If it's called a learning event and we do exactly the same SALT visits than our 'International SALT visits', we are fine with charging 600 USD/ day even though most of it is the same as what we do during International SALT visits?
For example, the visit of the team in Singapore in Chiang Mai was for me not much different than a 3-day learning event with good field practice. The same for the group from Madagascar earlier this year. Therefore, why do we make that distinction in our offer of services? Why would we propose to charge and find a mutual deal only after 'International SALT visits'.
If we follow this thinking, it would mean that any principles that we propose should apply to ALL the services that we offer. Whether it's an 2-year capacity building program or a 1 day intensive SALT visit. And for me charging money for our services -whatever they may entail- is not fundraising, it's simply trying to have some exchange of value that all stakeholders involved feel comfortable with. And we can also be honest, our facilitation and framing does increase significantly the value of a community visits. And we put an enormous amount of time, energy and thinking behind it. Why can't we put a value on that if we stay integer and transparent?
2. Segmenting in our communication doesn't have to be against our values.
I understand that we don't distinguish between 'businessmen/ women' and other people. I agree that we should aim to offer the same for all groups. We all share a common humanity. Now, that doesn't mean that the value added of our International SALT visits can be different for various groups. For me, the brochure is to trigger interest within a specific group. All our communications should be coherent and I think they are. We can just emphasize certain aspects when we 'talk' to certain groups. It's why I adapt when I talk to a UNAIDS Country Coordinator, a sex worker in India or Simon from Standard Chartered. That's why presentations differ to different groups. There is no difference in essence. It's all coherent and in line with our core values. However, there is a different focus and for valuable reasons such as Geoff's reciprocity.
, I like your value proposition. Though I do think that it's not unique after a little research in that sector. There are quite some groups offering learning journey's to other companies for example (www.leadersquest.org
). I think the fact that our learning process takes place within communities is something unique to add. The fact that the learning process has beneficial spin-off effects for communities involved is the next generation integrated CSR.
Looking forward to hear your thoughts,
Gaston Schmitz, 21 November 2011
After a brief discussion with JL, we realized that we must be clear about a distinction:
- I developed the two-pager mainly as a pitch for tailor-made SALT visits for businesses;
- The quarterly International SALT visits that we would organize as 'open-enrollment' for individuals would not make any distinction between fee and marketing.
Perhaps this shows that our views are not incompatible, but complementary.
Your thoughts are welcome.