The Institute for CSR – Practical and Applicable for CSR Professionals at All Levels
For more than a decade, I have worked with Kaiser Permanente’s Community Health team in the Mid-Atlantic States to improve the health of our members and the communities we serve. As a nonprofit health care organization, we provide high-quality care for our members. But, we also work to address many societal and economic factors that influence individual health—through partnerships, programs, grantmaking, and investments to impact health. In my role to support our mission, I engage with community organizations and work to deepen the impact of our programs and investments. So, I’m always interested in learning more about the latest and most innovative approaches to corporate social responsibility (CSR).
Over the years, I’ve had my share of experiences with various workshops, webinars, and conferences, but I did not always complete the learning with new tools or knowledge that could be applied to my work. When I learned about the Institute for CSR, I was skeptical as to the practical benefits of the course, but I decided to give it a shot since it was run by three incredible and respected organizations—Washington Regional Association of Grantmakers (WRAG), Johns Hopkins University, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation.
I regularly apply my learnings from this course to my day-to-day responsibilities. I like to describe the benefits of the Institute in three words: cohort, caliber, and content.
The 2017 class—my cohort—brought together a wide variety of professionals, from a number of different industries and with varying levels of experience. I was routinely in awe of the depth of knowledge of my classmates, who readily shared their unique perspectives and experiences. I found our conversations to be enlightening, empowering, and invigorating. The Institute for CSR cohort structure allowed each of us to build connections, both within the cohort and with an extensive local and national alumni network. The Institute for CSR is the most gratifying cohort experience I’ve ever had the privilege to be a part of in my professional career.
Next is caliber—the speakers and faculty are truly impressive. The faculty included thought leaders, authors, and top-ranking CSR executives who shared their knowledge in compelling presentations and spirited Q&A sessions. They also brought in amazing guest speakers from their personal and professional networks. We heard from industry giants such as Tim McClimon, President of the American Express Foundation, and Diane Melley, head of Global Citizenship Initiatives for IBM. Each speaker seemed better than the last and even if the subject matter didn’t seem to be an exact fit with my work, I took away “ah-has” and inspiration from every speaker.
Lastly, the content of the course was exceptional. It spanned a multitude of CSR subjects, from sustainability to philanthropy to volunteerism to measurement and evaluation. The content is routinely applicable to my daily work, such as tying our community health goals to support the UN Sustainability Goals, or using the tools and resources to shape our program measurement and evaluation.
The Institute for CSR was hands-down one of the best professional development decisions I’ve made in my career. It has taken my CSR work to a new level and given me practical tools and access to talent I have and will continue to use. I look forward to participating in and supporting the Institute for CSR as it rolls out additional programming for alumni so we can keep the good times rolling, the dialogue flowing, and the knowledge growing. I would suggest this class for anyone who’s working in CSR to enhance your knowledge and ensure your work supports the goals and strategy of your organization.
[Editor's Note: For more information on the Institute for CSR, such as 2019 course dates, registration deadlines, and more, visit their website at https://instituteforcsr.org/.]