Navigating Social Responsibility by Guest Contributor Hilary Binder-Aviles

IIP Speaker Hilary Binder-Aviles

The YLAI Network caught up with community organizing expert Hilary Binder-Aviles, who was able to answer some additional questions from our live webchat (también en español) discussing social responsibility and community action on June 7, 2018.

Hilary Binder-Aviles spoke to those watching across the YLAI Network about her experience in taking action to make communities a better place. She helped viewers navigate step by step the questions they should consider when giving back and helping communities and shifted the perspective to focus on making a difference through stakeholder engagement and listening to what people need in their communities.

After our program, Hilary shared additional insights on how young leaders can engage people in their communities through an organization or as an active member of the community. (Below are Hilary’s answers to some of the additional questions from YLAI Network members from our recent program.)

Are you familiar any training programs for volunteers using technology in remote areas with low internet connectivity?
-David from Facebook

From the Editor: This is a great question! There are many resources that you can access, even if you have limited internet connection. Both the U.S. Embassy and American Spaces will have printed resources and may also have locations where you can access high-speed internet during a visit. We encourage you to contact the U.S. Embassy for more information on how to access these resources.

What can we do if a local business refuses to get involved in community actions after many requests of local community group?
-Moise from Haiti

Great question!  First, try to talk them and see if you can find out what their concerns are – Money?  Time? Reputation? If you can’t any information, I always go with the rule of 3 – try 3 times and if you don’t get a response, then put your time and energy somewhere else.  Maybe, after you have some other local businesses supporting you and getting good visibility from their involvement, you can go back to the business that didn’t want to be involved and show them the positive benefits other businesses are getting.  Lastly, you could consider creating a business advisory council with a few local business leaders willing to be your “champions” and reach out to their peers.

What process can be established to engage with youth that have different responsibilities and activities, for example, family versus academic activities?
-YLAI Network members in Ecuador

Thank you for recognizing that youth often have to “juggle” many different responsibilities! Projects and initiatives that aim to engage youth – whether in  enrichment programs (such as the arts or mentoring) or community service – need to be flexible and allow youth to participate in ways that work for them, while still holding them accountable to the group.  For example, an after-school theater program sets a flexible participation requirement to be “in the group” – youth don’t have to attend every day, but they do need to “check in” with the program coordinator to let them know what they working on or practicing that week.  So… some tips:

  1. First, ask your youth participants what their other responsibilities are and how you can support them to be successful in managing these.  
  2. Second, encourage open communication so youth will inform you and the group when they have a schedule conflict and won’t be able to attend a meeting or activity or when they have a big commitment that might require them to take a longer “break” from the group or project.
  3. Third, hold youth accountable to their commitments and their peers – let them know you expect them to follow through on what they say they can do and it affects the whole group and project when they don’t.   

These are all good life skills for young people to develop!

What are the best alternatives to change the approach when facing an unequal situation, for instance, when indigenous farmers face the issue of organic agriculture?
-YLAI Network members in Ecuador

I commend you for considering the question of who has access and who does not to many of the larger societal practices we promote s good for people and the planet – such as organic food, healthy lifestyles, bicycle use, etc.  

NGOs often have to balance competing societal concerns or negotiate competing interest of different groups. This is why it’s critical for an NGO’s team – founders, Board, staff, volunteers – to spend time discussing, articulating, and even prioritizing the values and principles that will guide your work. If you are clear that you value sustainable organic practices that don’t harm the earth or people and you are committed to the rights and livelihood of indigenous farmers then that may guide you toward advocacy work aimed to reduce the barriers indigenous farmers face. If you do decide to engage in advocacy work, consider how you will do that work in partnership with the farmers, listen to their needs, ideas for solutions, and how they want to be involved in advocacy efforts.

What percentage of a company’s budget should be allocated to community outreach and social responsibility activities? Are there specific indicators to watch for to know whether a company is getting too involved or overstretching its resources for philanthropic activities? How do you establish boundaries for your business’s engagement with community organizations? How can we help our community without overusing our resources?
-Faradjine from Haiti

I had to do some research for these questions. For your first question, it seems to vary quite a bit depending on the size and type of business. You may find these links helpful:

With regard to your question about boundaries, I might reframe that as managing expectations. Absolutely, the more your business becomes known for supporting community organizations and initiatives, the more groups you will have coming to you. From my experience on the NGO side, it’s helpful when a business or company has a very clear and transparent process that lays out how much you give in the year, timelines for making requests, specific priorities you may have, and a simple application process. As with so many things, it’s important to balance structure with some flexibility to meet unforeseen community needs that arise!

Thank you to everyone who was able to join us on June 7. And a special thank you to Hilary Binder-Aviles for sharing her expertise and insights with us!

If you missed our live webchat with Hilary, you can watch the whole program here: https://ylai.state.gov/social-responsibility-means-taking-action/ (también en español).