What is the value of a CSR conference when the audience is too specific?

If you are in Berlin, Germany today and tomorrow you might be interested in the annual international CSR conference called »CSR – Social Responsibility in International Dialogue« organised by the German government. This is the Twitter hashtag if you want to follow some tweets about the conference: #CSRGermany.

A few weeks ago I discussed the value of this conference with a CSR friend of mine and to my astonishment we agreed that it would be necessary to attend, but only really if you are looking to do business in the CSR sector. The continuing conversation made it very clear that it would be incredibly boring and useless to go for anyone not part of the CSR business community.

What is the purpose of a CSR conference?

Hang on I thought. But is that really useful? Shouldn’t it be the other way around? Surely every normal citizen should be the target audience for this kind of CSR conference. And certainly the conference should not be a gala for companies working in the field and the so-called CSR specialists looking to network and to acquire new business. CSR in my view is for everyone not just the people that work in the field.

But the sad reality still is that CSR continues to be a topic for specialists and not the main stream stakeholders.

This also shows that CSR in Germany is still a topic for the specialists and these specialists seem to want to stay amongst themselves as well……. Normal stakeholders still do not seem to show an interest in the CSR topic. Maybe this is an indication that the way we communicate CSR is still wrong? But this is a topic for another post so lets get back to the topic today.

What value do you see in visiting conferences in the CSR sector? Would you go even if you where not working in the sector or would this put you of?

My wish for CSR conferences in the future, is that they should be open and more importantly interesting to anyone working AND wanting to know more about  CSR and the role of business in making the world a better place. Is this just wishful thinking and am I being just too idealistic?

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  1. Fabian,

     

    I think there will always be room for the specialist-focussed
    CSR conference as a vehicle to share insights, sharpen focus and reinforce the
    efforts being undertaken.  But I do agree
    with you on the importance of diversifying, through some means, greater
    exposure to the principles of CSR.  Perhaps
    the idea might be embedded in the notion of a ‘CSR Fair’.  This would suggest some fun elements, yet be
    educational and even challenging.  The Fair
    idea would help popularize and increase demand for improved corporate
    practices.

     I have often
    maintained that we should be introducing CSR principles into the secondary
    school curriculum by integrating them into routine research and problem solving
    as a way to demonstrate the better, more effective means of reaching a desired
    outcome.  By integrating them throughout
    all subjects, we wouldn’t limit their access to the business-focussed
    curriculum.  By the time students reach
    the post secondary school environment, CSR principles should be mainstreamed in
    all faculties.

     

    You arrange the Fair and I will join for the sheer Fun of
    it!

     

    Cathie

    1. Thanks for the comment Cathie. Wouldn't this integration into the curriculum be a great way to get the CSR principles into the overall education system? Totally agree. 
      On the arranging of the fair: I would love to do something like that. I am sure it will be a nightmare to organize but I can see the value in a stakeholder focused conference for sure.

  2. Dear Fabian, being here, it turns out that there are also a lot of students, professors, unionists and activists around – all passionately interested in the topic. Refreshing this morning: Amongst presentations from 'the usual' big players (Daimler, BASF, Bosch) also one speaker from an SME that fully implements CR/Sustainability.

    1. Excellent. This is so good to hear Veronica. Have you talked to some of these students what they think about the conference, etc? I would really like to know some of their views.  

  3. Dear Fabian, 

    I agree with the notion of why preach to the preachers.  However, recently I was doing a case study on embedding CSR/Sustainability into a company's DNA and came across the gaps in understanding and implementation of the basic tenets of CSR principles.  I learned that even the specialists have vastly different take on what CSR/Sustainability and transparency, means to their company.  

    Maybe, to some level, in this economic climate, it is important for the specialists to come together and agree on internationally applicable standards, prior to converting the naysayers. 

    Thanks.  

    1. Hi Remya. Good points. But I feel that there are sufficiently enough conferences and meetings for these people around. Somehow I am missing the real stakeholder conference. What do you think?

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