by Christian Gray, Southern California Chapter, Pharmaceutical & Health Technology Division
Thinking about SLA President Cindy Romaine’s core tenets of Future Ready it is easy to see the convergence between pillars of Future Ready–career agility, alignment and community–and Corporate Social Responsibility/Social Responsibility (CSR/SR).
Your participation in CSR/SR can enhance your skill set and give you an opportunity to take on new roles and responsibilities giving you a more agile career. CSR/SR is a very high profile matter for many public companies and other institutions. You will find yourself aligned with senior management’s desire to be a socially responsible organization by providing direct support to that department. And as CSR/SR relates to community, well it doesn’t take much effort to explain. That is what CSR/SR should be about, making a real difference in your community or the community that your organization represents.
I have several working hypotheses regarding CSR and SR which I hope to validate over the next few months:
- Your personal participation in an SR program can increase your quality of life.
- Your active support of your company CSR goals and objectives can have a positive impact on your career.
- Being a leader for CSR/SR programs in your organization can lead to greater satisfaction in that role.
- Professional associations and other business organizations benefit from participation in CSR.
- Being an advocate and champion for CSR/SR programs can provide direct benefit to your clients, company and partners.
Recently I had a very late night of introspection and an honest evaluation of the many gifts I have in my life and had been aware of my growing need to be active in a community organization. I started researching non-profit organizations and even wrote a few checks. I joined the board of a local arts organization, Create:Fixate, and began to more actively participate in a group for which I had previously been a donor, LA’s BEST. Through that participation I reconnected with former associate Jim Howard, the founder of the Room to Read Los Angeles chapter.
Jim put the book, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World, in my hands and told me a little more about Room to Read. I was hooked before I even finished reading the book. I initially helped out informally, then facilitated their chapter strategic planning session. After visiting the global offices in San Francisco, I realized that what had begun as a conversation with an old friend had turned into not only an incredible project, but also a great and very personal passion.
My new-found commitment to caring and helping aligned with the broader community of colleagues I work with in the publishing and information industry, including clients, prospects, partners, publishers and even the Special Library Association. I was happy to discover that my commitment was also shared even closer to home, when I was casually speaking to my CEO at Reprints Desk, Peter Derycz, in December 2009 about life outside of work. While sharing my interest in Room to Read he got a funny smile on his face and began telling me about his own experience trekking in Nepal, how he wanted to start a school or library but was concerned about it being sustainable.
So like many good intentions, time passed and Peter’s plans faded until our conversation rekindled his own interest in creating a sustainable, positive change. Over the following weeks, Peter’s personal interest became a corporate initiative and a new partnership was formed between Reprints Desk and Room to Read. The result: basically every time there is a transaction (we deliver scientific articles to some of the largest research and development organizations in the world) Reprints Desk drops a small percentage in the Room to Read bucket. That commitment has, in one quarter, generated enough to fund more than 12 years of girls’ scholarships, including bikes and uniforms as needed, or more than 50 percent of a library, or more than 3,000 new books in local languages.
By integrating corporate social responsibility into Reprints Desk’s DNA, as we grow the company, the financial support and direct impact on children’s lives will grow with us. And that does not even count the impact of the initiative’s growing fan base. Both inside and around Reprints Desk, employees are making a difference around the world. While writing another line of code or providing customer service, our employees know clients are often thrilled to learn that their choice to use our services how has the added value of making the world a better place. As Peter and other senior managers have visited with the world’s largest publishers and they’ve learned about our partnership with Room to Read, many of these publishers are now asking how they can participate.
Over the past several years I’ve presented a series of talks about Career Agility to SLA Chapters and Divisions, sometimes solo, other times partnered with Cindy Hill or Kim Dority. One of the themes in these talks is emulating some of these positive characteristics of corporate leaders. One key take-away has been that it is not only important to understand our own strengths, but to look at ways to channel our strength into action. I believe we have the means to do just that. To be an effective and valued contributor at your organization, you must consider becoming directly involved in your company’s CSR program. If your organization doesn’t have a CSR program, now is the perfect time to initiate one. Why? You will benefit by increasing your exposure to senior management, you can make a difference outside your enterprise and inside the “cause,” and you’re likely to gain tremendous personal satisfaction from your participation.
I hope this is the beginning of the conversation about CSR/SR and the role of the special librarian/info pro. We had a very engaged group during the SLA CSR Unconference session and we will continue the conversation via the SLA Social Responsibility group just started this week.
With over twenty-years of sales, marketing, business development and public speaking experience, Christian Gray has a unique and diverse perspective of technology, software and information companies. As a Strategic Account Manager for Reprints Desk, Christian has worked directly with many of the world’s largest life science companies including Amgen, Gilead, Genentech, Johnson and Johnson and Allergen, as well as other Fortune 500 Companies including Sony, Disney and Sun Microsystems.
Christian has been an active member of the Special Libraries Association since 2002 and is a past Board member of the Southern California Chapter and recently received an SLA Presidential Citation for his work on Future Ready 365.
Christian has given presentations to numerous SLA Chapters and Divisions and published a series of articles for Searcher Magazine, an Information Today publication on Enterprise Social Software. He has also been published in the Los Angeles Times, and Los Angeles Business Journal.