Multiplier Event Poland- How to initiate a NGO-business cooperation?

In order to promote and discuss the CoOp Research report which provided an overview on how the SME-NGO cooperation functions in Poland as well as in four other European countries, a half-day event was organized by the Robinson Crusoe Foundation on the 12th of October 2018 in Warsaw, Poland. The event allowed to bring together 14 participants from both the NGO and the business sector.

The initial presentation of the project and the findings on the needs and expectations for initiating a CSR project from both the NGO and SME perspective led to a lively discussion between all participants. Best practices for a successful partnership with NGOs were shared by business representatives stressing very often the point that it is most important to have a NGO partner which also wants to build a long term cooperation based on professionalism and understanding for the company’s needs. The NGO representatives, moreover mentioned that good and constant communication is key and that having a dedicated contact person in the company helps in the realization of projects.

However how to initiate a cooperation?

This seems to be more difficult to establish as there is not one platform where both NGO and SME or general business representatives can meet and get to know each other. SME representatives do not have the visibility as multinational companies and are therefore not the usual first point of contact for NGOs to build a CSR cooperation. Moreover, for SMEs establishing a personal relationship with the possible NGO partner is key and often demands from the partner patience and persistence in moving from a first meeting to developing a partnership. What also seems to further hinder the development of SME-NGO CSR focused cooperation is the NGO’s representatives awareness of seeing SMEs as good partners for social impact projects. Many of the NGOs representatives who came to the event decided to do more try to involve SMEs into their projects but also mentioned that they fear to contact SMEs as they are not sure on how to “sell” them a possible project given that SMEs do not have the CSR structure as large companies.

Overall the meeting showed a clear need for NGOs to learn more on how to approach SMEs and build the necessary professional resources and skills to engage in CSR projects with SMEs but also the larger business sector.