As a Trust, how do you ensure your investments in local communities are sustainable and have a positive impact? We sat down with Trustee of J&J Development Trust, Yashodan Naidoo to learn more about the challenges and hear his advice for both the developing community and similar Trusts.
Sherah Beckley for Thomson Reuters Sustainability: Could you tell us a bit more about the J&J Development Trust, what do you do and key focus areas?
Yashodan Naidoo: The Trust broadly focuses on funding initiatives within South Africa that can positively impact the following areas:
- Social Enterprises (for-profit companies with a social purose at their core)
- Women’s Rights
- Children’s Rights
- The Environment
- The Arts
- Social Justice
The Trust was dormant for a while, but after I stepped into a role as Trustee at the beginning of 2017, we started actively looking to grow our relationships with good partners.
Our goal is to work with partners that can deliver a lot of impact, for as many people as possible.
SB: Why does giving back to local communities make good business sense?
YN: Good businesses don’t exist in siloes and aren’t parasitic to the societies they form a part of. They make a genuine effort in building the communities where they get their labour, suppliers and profit from.
Obviously not all businesses are good businesses, and those that are not, should be reformed and challenged to be better.
SB: Are you aware of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and do they impact the Trust’s work?
YN: Yes, I’m fully aware of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, but no, they don’t inform the Trust’s work at all. Common sense and empathy informs the Trust’s work, and where that overlaps with the Sustainable Development Goals, we find ourselves aligned.
All of us exist as part of a much larger ecosystem, and it shouldn’t be radical to state that we should all be working to end injustice and oppression however we can.
SB: Which project are you most proud of to date?
We recently funded the development of a new science laboratory in a great school that is servicing a deeply underprivileged community.
It wasn’t a big initiative, but working together we were able to translate their needs into clear and tangible objectives that they would achieve.
This set the template for how we cooperate with partners who see a problem and want to solve it, but lack experience in defining the steps required to achieve their end goal.
SB: What are some of the main challenges the Trust faces and what advice would you give other Trusts?
YN: Honestly, our biggest challenge has simply been getting proposals which are ready to fund without a lot of input and development from our side. Most people and organisations that request funding can identify the problem that needs to be fixed, but struggle to map out exactly how they will use funding to solve it.
To address this, we are building a standalone website for the Trust where we are gamifying the process of submitting a proposal. This will make it very simple for people to submit high quality applications, which will create a higher chance of being funded. Once we do that, my advice to other trusts is to look at what we’ve done, and then copy and improve upon what we’ve built.
SB: What’s your call to action for the development community?
YN: Stop putting people with no organisational influence or power into roles within Trusts and your Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) departments. That’s just window dressing. Board members and senior executives should be putting their time and energy into ensuring that their Trusts or CSR departments work well, and are empowered to do things that end up being highly impactful.
This idea of spending a few percent of your net profit after tax on CSR is not enough, and is incredibly insincere. Do more.
For those looking for funding for their initiatives, you can go to the current website and apply there (http://www.jandjgroup.com/the-jj-development-trust/) or email me directly on email@example.com and I can help provide some guidance on how best to structure your proposal so that it becomes fundable.