Read about how we can manage a large-scale public crises in the CII blog, based on a Stanford Social Innovation Review article by Haritha Saranga and Prateek Raj.

In a world fraught with uncertainty, unforeseen crises have the power to bring entire economies to a standstill. During such times, public attention focuses on the NGOs that typically lead relief and recovery efforts. Governments coordinate, while NGOs, thanks to their work in local communities, ensure that relief reaches every last person. But governments and NGOs cannot meet the needs of the hour, unless the products and services necessary to address the crisis are readily available or can be mobilized quickly. More often than not, this contingency depends on the procurement, production, and distribution capabilities of for-profit firms and the ability of managers to mobilize them—though their role often goes unnoticed.

Recent management research argues that for-profit firms are more effective than other types of organizations to solve certain social problems, since they are better at undertaking innovation and producing and distributing goods and services. Haritha Saranga[1] and Prateek Raj[2] of Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIMB) in their article propose that handling a large-scale crisis requires a new ecosystem of networking and collaboration among multiple organizational forms—for-profit firms, government agencies, and NGOs—that combines their strengths and exploits their synergies.

Immediately after the government announced the lockdown, CII Foundation (CIIF) and Young Indians (Yi) got to work. In collaboration with CII regional and state offices, CII Indian Women Network, India Business and Disability Network, and other CII-affiliated associations, partnered with government officials in each district and township (taluka), to create awareness about the best hygiene practices, including the importance of handwashing and social distancing. They also distributed hygiene kits, rations, and other daily essentials. Through this coordinated effort, Indian corporations managed to provide dry rations and cooked meals across 28 states and food for more than seven million people. They also distributed relief through community kitchens across 23 different cities and supplied more than 1,700 metric tons of food grains to those in need. In addition, they donated soap, hand sanitizer, face masks, face shields, and PPE to vulnerable populations and frontline workers in police, district administration, and health-care departments. With the support of industry, CIIF also set up tele-ICU centers across nine government hospitals in Maharashtra and Haryana to offer 24-hour remote ICU patient monitoring, as a stopgap for the growing physician and nurse shortage. All these relief activities helped some of India’s most vulnerable communities, such as the disabled, nomadic tribes, lepers, farm laborers, widows, and migrant workers.

As the world struggles to recover in COVID-19’s wake, economic revitalization will require governments, NGOs, and for-profit firms to work together. 

In addition to fulfilling CSR responsibilities and generating goodwill, firms can spark new business opportunities through participation.

NGOs will likely open new avenues to increase their reach and sources of funding through collaborations with for-profit firms and their foundations and associations. This opportunity especially holds in countries like India, where for-profit firms are required to spend 2 percent of their profits on CSR activities.

Finally, the government gains greater capacity from these collaborations. Government agencies can more easily access and draw upon NGOs and for-profit businesses to address future crises. The intense collaborative efforts between for-profit, government, and NGOs, such as the NCRC, can also provide blueprints for long-term, community-related development work to address local problems.

When countries face disasters, no one organization has the resources and capabilities to deal with it, so resources across different organizations need to be pooled. Therefore, intense collaborations and networking among multiple organizations is necessary to bring together the unique strengths of governments, NGOs, and firms. As India’s 2020 pandemic response showcased, when such collaborative efforts get deployed, even the deadliest of disasters can be managed effectively.

Read the full article here:

[1] Haritha Saranga is a professor of production and operations management at Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB), India. She has been awarded the IIMB Chair of Excellence for her contribution to research and teaching. She also chairs IIMB’s doctoral program.

[2] Prateek Raj is an assistant professor of strategy at the Indian Institute of Management Bangalore (IIMB) and the IIMB young faculty research chair, leading the IIMB Inclusive Markets Project. He is also a junior fellow at the Stigler Center for the Study of the Economy and the State at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

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