By Timothy A. Edward
Every day, we are bombarded with the news that young people and professionals are leaving the country in search of greener pastures. We are all aware that brain drain is happening at an alarming rate which needs to be immediately curtailed. In addition, during these economically challenging times, we also see the disenchantment levels increase among the youth that are left behind.
None of us has been in this situation before. The old remedial measures might not work this time around. We need a model that can motivate and challenge our youth to be civically engaged and contribute to the gross income of the country. We need a bold new economically sustainable model that will bring us out of the woods in which we find ourselves and that model could be a collaborative partnership between public, private, and civic-society actors.
The civic society actors and religious institutions have a good understanding of the ground realities. This is evident from the statements that are being issued out of the plenary sessions held in the recent past. Whereas, the private sector has the resources and expertise to play a big role in the economic recovery endeavours of the government. What we need is integration, teamwork, strategic communications among partners with clear roles and responsibilities and an understanding of the benefits such partnerships could bring. Together, they can formulate strategies to mitigate, respond and recover from the economic catastrophe this country is facing.
Private Sector and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
The general public’s view is that at this juncture the private sector should show greater interest in supporting the government’s welfare programmes. The government is making a lot of commendable social welfare reform initiatives. The government is also setting aside huge budgets to sustain these initiatives, such as streamlining the education and vocational education systems and to support the poor and marginalised segments of society. However, the government cannot do this on their own for a long time. Although the private sector has been supporting the government’s health, education, environment, vocational education, and social welfare efforts through their CSR projects in an ad hoc philanthropic manner, now the time is ripe for private sector support to be crystallised and systemised as a shared-value CSR practice to ensure long term sustainability.
Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and Volunteerism
From time immemorial, civic societies and volunteerism have played a significant role within Sri Lanka. For example, in the past decades, the mothers’ unions and various women’s organizations, have held the ropes for Sri Lanka, as we waded through turbulence and civil unrest.
Once again, the time has risen for civic society partners to play a big role in bailing out our communities from the challenging complexities of economic downtimes.
However, we need a framework where CSOs and likeminded organisations like Lions and Jaycees need to be recognised and rewarded for the work that they do, which is most of the time on a voluntary basis. For example, community kitchens, thrifty stores, medical camps are on an ever-increasing popularity tidal wave these days. Yet, the polarisation and disconnect between the CSO partners and other key actors should be bridged to achieve an inclusive social coalition and cohesion. On the other hand, a conflict-ridden process filled with misunderstanding and mistrust will only result in the demise of the efficacy of Public Private Partnerships (PPPs) models with their promising visions and missions. Therefore, all the stakeholders involved in PPPs need to calibrate their policies and contracting behaviours to ensure the success of PPP initiatives.
Retirees and Nation Re-building
It is a good move by the government to engage retirees to support the medical and educational systems in Sri Lanka. Encouraging retirees to volunteer for the national steering committees to rebuild the Sri Lankan economy could be another winning strategy.
Innovative Policy Changes
However, levying heavy taxes on the private sector might not be the best of strategies, since the private sector is the prime engine of economic growth in any country. So, rather than increasing the taxation portion for the private sector, steps can be taken to encourage the private sector to contribute to nation-rebuilding interventions through their CSR initiatives and fulfill a social purpose. One option could be to propose a legal framework to systemise CSR components and social impact bonds, like what India and other nations have done successfully.
Industrial councils function as a best practice example of a collaborative business model where community colleges backed by public and private partnerships in the vocational education stream strive to uplift the learning experience to the next level. Like the Cyert and Goodman (1997) model expounds, such partnerships neutralise cultural goal differences and foster collaborative organisational learning. It has brought in resiliency in training young people and up-skilling skilled workers during economically challenging times, making them ready for future jobs.
Localising the PPP model with the involvement of community- based civic society partners is the door to the future. This future is already here. How we embrace this future, will determine how youth and retirees alike will reintegrate voluntarily to come onboard to support the nation-rebuilding interventions via Community Public Private Partnership (CPPP) models resulting in how we will look as a country in a decade’s time and beyond.
(The writer is a Sustainable Development Practitioner, with specialisation in Business Psychology, Law and human rights development)