Executive Director at VSO India, Mr. Shaleen Rakesh shares his thoughts on CSR with Managing Editor, CSR Times, Bilal Hussain.
Mr. Shaleen Rakesh is Executive Director at VSO India. He has over twenty years of experience with national and international development organisations. Shaleen has a degree in Mechanical Engineering and completed his MBA from S.P Jain Institute of Management and Research in Mumbai. He has developed corporate engagement programmes with Citibank, Levis Strauss and Steel Authority of India Limited as part of his career. At VSO India, Shaleen is leading the organisation’s country strategy in the areas of secure livelihoods, inclusive education, youth engagement and participation and governance.
BH: Tell us about VSO India Trust and how is it different from rest of developmental organizations?
Shaleen Rakesh: VSO in India is a knowledge partner for civil society, government and the private sector to innovate, incubate and scale development initiatives. We harnesses programmatic impact in-country and across VSO globally in the areas of secure livelihood, inclusive education, youth engagement and participation and governance.
We are different from other development organisations as we engage highly skilled volunteers from India and across the globe as inputs into our programming which creates an additional impetus for achieving our ambitious goals. VSO India also uses technology to cover the last mile in our efforts to reach the marginalised communities we serve.
BH: Wherein India are you working?
Shaleen Rakesh: We currently have programmes in Jharkhand, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka with the head office in Delhi. Our focus states also include Bihar, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh and West Bengal.
BH: Which corporates are supporting VSO India Trust and you have been approaching?
Shaleen Rakesh: We currently have collaboration with IBM, Randstad and Accenture and have engaged Google and Barclays volunteers in the past.
We look forward to work with a range of companies whose vision and values match our mission.
BH: How is your experience working with corporates?
Shaleen Rakesh: Corporates are an integral stakeholder in the development process. Different companies have different business expertise, CSR focus and working models. The companies we work with have strategic CSR programmes and hence sustainable impact in the community.
Together we create lasting change that is mutually beneficial, contributes to sustainable development goals (SDGs) and ensures inclusion and equality for all. Each partnership is strategically developed and we draw upon our combined strengths to deliver shared value.
For instance, IBM staff use their business skills to make tangible contributions in challenging environments. In doing so, these corporate volunteers acquire new skills and find their experience both personally and professionally rewarding.
In India, Accenture has nurtured a programme funding relationship with VSO where we set and achieve development goals together. Through System of Rice Intensification (SRI) project co funded by Accenture India, VSO India trained 10,000 women in rural Jharkhand on SRI techniques that solved their problem of food security.
BH: Over a fiscal has passed since the implementation of mandatory CSR law in India, what do you think about it?
Shaleen Rakesh: CSR law is an encouraging law introduced by the government recognising the important role of companies in the development of the country. However, we feel it is work in progress. Only a few big companies are visible and engaging in development discussions while many falling under the bill are still missing in action. SDG 17 about global partnerships for sustainable development will bring companies together with other development actors to scale up innovative solutions to community problems. VSO will play the role of bringing business expertise to deliver development impact working on the ground with NGO partners in India.