Social Responsibility Means Taking Action

A recap of the #YLAIEmpowersCommunities webchat – ‘Build Your Enterprise Through Community Action’

“Social responsibility” can be added to the growing list of buzzwords that community leaders and entrepreneurs employ to enhance their reputation — but recently a leading American NGO expert challenged YLAI Network members to deploy self-awareness in their approach to bringing forth positive social change.  

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.

Here are four key takeaways from the discussion, which was led by moderator Melissa Dilber of the YLAI Network Team:

Deciding What Social Responsibility Means to You

In considering the meaning of social responsibility, it is crucial to discover what exactly is the difference leaders want made. Whether efforts are focused on clean air in cities or providing youth opportunities to grow, knowing the target outcome is key to keeping everyone focused on the same end goal. Additionally, by engaging stakeholder and community members, you will both connect with the community and discover needs within the community that you may not have previously realized. “This is a really important place to start before you jump in,” says Binder-Aviles. “You need to reflect on what you want to do and why you want to do it.”  

Doing Your Homework

Binder-Aviles encourages leaders, after they gain clarity on the direction to be taken in future efforts, to research who else is already doing work in that space and learn how their work can complement the gifts and strengths of the established efforts. Whether they are formal NGOs or simply a group of residents coming together to solve issues, supporting the efforts currently out there leads to the possibility of doing more. “Partnerships are so critical to this collaborative work of improving communities. And that’s ultimately what this work is about. It’s about the human relationships we build with each other.”

‘Socially Responsible’ Means Dependable

Binder-Aviles also spoke honestly on the effects of well-intentioned individuals essentially doing more harm than good when they do not follow through on a commitment very seriously. She recounted her experiences with community groups where individuals claimed they wanted to be a part of her efforts, but either never came back or stopped coming shortly after. “You as a socially responsible person need to take your commitment very seriously.” In terms of what entrepreneurs can do to incorporate social responsibility into what they are already doing, she said they can consider offering their gifts of time, treasure and talent.

Community Organizing for Action

The YLAI Online Course is another opportunity for young leaders and social entrepreneurs to build their leadership skills. This course, for which Binder-Aviles serves an instructor, is really about how to engage with communities and address issues in partnership with the people who are directly affected. “It’s really about saying ‘How do I do with’ rather than ‘do for.’ And so whatever you are doing, it is about building capacity for communities to take charge of their own future.”

In addition to our online course, we also have Hilary Binder-Aviles’ The NGO Handbook on our website — with concrete steps for organizing an event and recruiting volunteers. You can get your copy in English or Spanish today at https://ylai.state.gov/communities/.

Este artículo también está disponible en español.