AMBER ARSHAD: When and why was ‘I am the Change’ launched?
NAILA KASSIM: I am the Change (IATC) was launched in 2012, although at that point it was called ‘The Unsung Heroes’. As Engro’s flagship CSR initiative, the programme’s objectives are to support and celebrate those small organisations that are working towards the betterment of society in three key areas – health, education and livelihood.
AA: Why were those areas selected?
NK: They are the areas that really need help from Pakistan’s standpoint. If you look at the statistics, 68% of our population is under the age of 30, and according to the numbers that we have, a significant majority do not have the skills to enter the job market. Furthermore, by 2050 the number of young people is expected to hit the 236 million mark, with only 2.5 million of them with the requisite skills to work anywhere. This is why we chose livelihood. We picked education as it is a key aspect in the growth of any country. In Pakistan, more than seven million children of school going age are out of school. Lastly, the health sector is poorly served – 10 children die before reaching the age of five.
AA: How can organisations approach your platform?
NK: They can go to our website, www.iamthechange.com.pk and submit their project details, including the purpose of the project, estimated running costs and the number of beneficiaries targeted. Our jury reviews the entries, draws up a shortlist, and then awards Rs 500,000 to one project from each key area.
AA: What are the criteria to select the winners?
NK: The jury assesses each project on set criteria, such as is the project replicable, the impact of the project and what problem are they trying to solve. In 2012, the winners were the Garage School, The Dream Foundation, Karachi Vocational and Training Institute and the Patients Welfare Association. In April 2014, we awarded grants to Akhuwat which provides interest free loans; KhwendoKor, an NGO which works with women in FATA; and Child Aid Association which provides free cancer treatment to children.
AA: After the grant is awarded is there any support in terms of mentoring or sustainability?
NK: It’s not a one-off thing. After the initial funding, we stay in touch with these organisations, and when they need anything, they approach us. For example, the Child Aid Association was not strong in IT and they did not have proper electronic records of their patients, so our Information Systems department brought them up to speed with technology. With the Garage School, we donated approximately 600 shoe boxes containing six months worth of art and stationery supplies. We are also big on volunteerism within Engro and this year our employees undertook 11,000 hours of volunteerism in the various organisations that come under IATC.
Ours is the first CSR crowdfunding website in Pakistan. Companies that want to give back to society can join this platform; they also get a tax rebate on their donation.
AA: Why was crowdfunding added this time?
NK: We did this to open up these causes to the world so that anyone interested could donate. Ours is the first CSR crowdfunding website in Pakistan. Companies that want to give back to society can join this platform; they also get a tax rebate on their donation. We are going to approach large blue chip companies and make this larger than life. We are also big on social media and this gives donor companies publicity as well. In addition, crowdfunding will help them grow their network – so it’s a win-win situation for all.
AA: Are companies responsive to the idea of crowdfunding?
NK: There is a degree of scepticism among companies here. They hesitate to join and work together, and this is what I am trying to battle against at my end. Although the companies I have approached have not said no, I am still waiting to hear from them.
AA: Are you targeting individuals?
NK: Although individuals donate in a big way I haven’t tapped them because at the moment our focus is on corporations. To be honest we are open to anybody, but in a streamlined way.
AA: How closely is Engro’s name associated with each project?
NK: We have made it clear to the organisations that approach us that we are trying to support them through this portal. We do our best to do whatever we can – but it’s a crowdfunding website and every project is not associated with us – it is their independent initiative. We sell their story and if anyone buys and believes in their story, they can donate.
AA: How do you plan to market IATC?
NK: We are very big on social media in terms of supporting IATC; however we are not doing ATL or BTL, because it’s better that the money goes back to the organisations. Also, the initiative is so technology driven that we want to focus on social media.
AA: What about future?
NK: The big future plan is to connect major companies on this platform; we plan to get the heads of these companies together to think what changes they want to bring about and how to take it forward from there. This could lead to policy initiatives, helping some NGOs in a big way, advocating for them and giving them higher visibility. We are also trying to bring in celebrities. We are hoping to encourage people such as Tapu Javeri, Tina Sani and Strings, to join this platform and get the buzz going.
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