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Mobile Vaani in CSR

Ever since the Companies Act, 2013, which mandates medium and large companies to contribute 2 percent of their profits towards corporate social responsibility (CSR), the corporations’ engagement of CSR has been evolving. In order to maximise the overall impact on society as well as stakeholders, it is important for any corporate to put in place an effective CSR strategy and a regular monitoring and evaluation structure. According a study in 2015, around 50% of the companies score low on CSR efficiency of which half of the companies spend as much as the ones that scored the best. Direct and effective engagement with the stakeholders and a concurrent feedback channel could increase the efficiency of CSR projects.

This is where Mobile Vaani can play a role. The IVR (interactive voice response) system allows people to call into a number and leave a message about their community, or listen to messages left by others and hence, this works like a social media platform for rural areas. The voice and community media tools we have developed can complement an on-ground developmental intervention in multiple layers. It can enable concurrent monitoring and evaluation like capturing community participation in health or education programs and data collection while at the same time go beyond a data collection solution to a horizontal communication layer and reinforce messages. Taking this platform to the CSR landscape, Mobile Vaani can act in two ways, as a horizontal layer complementing the existing CSR project and as a developmental intervention in itself.

In an on-ground intervention program in health, education, women empowerment, financial inclusion, agriculture, etc., Mobile Vaani can complement in awareness and behavioural change communication, grievances, feedback and measurability. The IVR system enables reinforcement of messages with more frequent engagements and leads to greater contextual relevance through self-expression. Structured and unstructured data collection through voice surveys, user comments, etc. provides insights on program operations. Degree of participation and two-way feedback provides a channel for concurrent monitoring and evaluation of programs.

Consider a typical CSR project in healthcare which focuses on medical outreach to rural villages. Such a project would require to work on awareness, diagnosis and cure. Adding a communication layer of the Mobile Vaani will complement the entire project by creating awareness and reinforcing it, by giving real time feedback and easy management of a large scale project and in monitoring the project.

Mobile Vaani can also be a standalone developmental intervention project. The platform has proved to create impact at individual, community and institutional levels. The impact has been observed and measured in three ways, namely awareness, behaviour change and collective action. The instances of individual impact include people becoming aware of new facts, the awareness leading to behaviour change and individuals initiating discussions among neighbours and friends. Stories of corrupt headmaster publicly apologising, youth initiating door-to-door campaign against early marriage, etc. are examples of community level interventions. Mobile Vaani is also used actively as a grievance reporting system for government schemes. Government departments rectifying implementation process after complaints on Mobile Vaani is a frequent story.