Social Capital View From Brazil
25 November 2004 at 12:11 pm
Large companies don’t often recognise the social capital within their own work force, according to Dr. Marcos Kisil, President of Brazil’s Institute for the Development of Social Investment, IDIS.
Dr. Kisil is in Australia as a guest of the Asia-Pacific Centre for Philanthropy and Social Investment at Swinburne University.
IDIS was set up in 1999 to promote and provide support for social investors in Brazil wanting to be effective and efficient in their use of their resources, both financial and physical.
Speaking at a meeting with Pro Bono Australia’s Founder Karen Mahlab, Dr. Kisil explained that unlike the Australian Prime Minister’s Community Business Partnership, IDIS not only supported business, but also community organisations as well as private family philanthropy.
Dr. Kisil says when working with any of these groups his organisation never starts with a problem, rather it starts by looking for assets; what each group has and what they want to try to achieve.
He says when working with business and large corporates is often very difficult for them to see beyond their core business and recognise the social capital within their own work forces.
He uses the example of a large law firm in Brazil where like many other similar businesses their perceived engagement with community revolves around pro bono legal work. The aim of IDIS was to help that firm look beyond that to see how it could make a difference in the community.
He says a survey of their business operations found that for three-quarters of every day their lawyer’s computers were not being used because they were either consulting or in a courtroom.
IDIS implemented a program where young disadvantaged students could use a specific work area within the law firm during business hours to be trained in computer skills using the existing office equipment.
Dr. Kisil says this provided tangible results for the law firm and enabled them to see beyond the horizon of just their pro bono legal work.
He says when IDIS walks into a business it begins by making an inventory of assets:
– “Financial” Capital– how much money is available to use in engaging with community
– “Human” Capital- the skills, knowledge, attitude and aptitudes of their employees
– “Social’ Capital – what networks their staff can bring to the project such as a local doctor, their husband and wives, their extended contacts and
– “Resource” Capital – the fixed equipment, tools, and property owned and operated by the business
Dr. Kisil says then IDIS tries to match all of this with the community issues that the company wants to try to address.
He says IDIS is the conduit between all these groups.
Two thirds of IDIS’ funding comes from consultancy fees charged to corporates and the remainder from grants and philanthropic trusts.
Dr. Kisil’s two-week visit involves public speaking engagements as well as meetings with leaders in the Australian philanthropic sector.