We have been busy introducing the Upside Foundation to more founders. But we did want to provide, to those who missed it, a recap of our first event held in Toronto a few weeks ago in honour of the The Upside Foundation of Canada. The event was hosted by Bennett Jones and KPMG and was by invitation only. Our engaging panelists had each spent considerable professional and personal effort in developing or promoting CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) programs.
- Don Morrison as former COO of RIM / Blackberry introduced CSR to RIM and discussed how philanthropy should be not just a distant responsibility but a personal transformation for individuals. He noted that today’s workers are more altruistic and look down on the martini lunches (although some of the more hedonistic in the room disagreed!) and are more a part of a new spiritual age.
- Mark Lang, with Google Canada, formerly head of CSR for Telus, started the Give Where you Live program and spoke about large company philanthropy program. Where he used to have to prove the ROI for a CSR program, he spoke about not having to do that anymore at Google which only tends to hire people who want to “change the world”.
- Salim Teja, the new managing director for the MaRS ICE practice, noted that being part of a start-up is like being part of a family with shared values and should be about something more than the journey. He recounted his days of organizing programs at a nearby school when he was building his company.
- Derek Smyth from OMERS Ventures talked about his wake up call from thinking about CSR as taking off a few dollars from your pay check each week to go to United Way to an absolute responsibility of each individual and organization.
And what did they think about The Upside Foundation as a means to an effective CSR program?
Derek: “People coming into the workforce now want to see an organization, however small, have a very serious CSR program in place. As an investor, seeing that as a big value driver is something that we certainly get behind and encourage all our companies to participate in going forward. ”
Don: “You can probably still be a success and never deal with this question but if you’re about self-actualization and taking the employee to a higher level of consciousness, giving them pride, and getting a whole bunch of intangible benefits, that accrue from something like this then I think you really want to pay attention to a CSR program even in a start-up company.”
Mark: “This is an opportunity for you to give back on a relatively small scale while you are still small and then you also have that as part of your corporate branding which helps you to attract and retain customers in the meantime while not really having had the investment in terms of money or effort As you grow then you can move on to some of the other bigger programs.”
Salim: “As a start-up we’re doing a million things a day and so taking on yet another thing that can add more hours or emails to the day can be a little bit imposing. But I think treating (the Upside Foundation) as a platform where everything is done for you and you can communicate the value of this program, the way it works and why it’s important to a start-up is very important…. So I think programs like these need to be supported by the entire ecosystem. We need to show that all start-ups can participate in this in a meaningful way.”
The evening finished off with some Q and A and recognition of the Upside Foundation’s “founding donors”: Hubba, Integris Pension Management, Domain Agents, UnderstoodIt, ShiftHub, Morpheus Commerce, hovr.it, Urban Hamper and Global Regulation. As the crowd dissipated and some of our founding donors met each other, some for the first time, there was a shared desire to meet more often, get advice from each other and take advantage of their new network of like-minded entrepreneurs.
Let the momentum continue!