Addressing Systemic Disadvantage

Areas of the community that experience chronic disadvantage can benefit enormously from the time, resources and support a company can offer.

People with low socio-economic status such as homeless youth, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, new arrivals/refugees and people with disabilities can experience an ongoing cycle of disadvantage. Low socio-economic status leads to poor health which in turn perpetuates low socio-economic status.

Carefully-directed CR can help break that cycle, resulting in more harmonious communities and better health for all.

Dead-Set Winners (low cost/effort - every company should do these)

  • Establish a partnership with a community group that engages in advocacy or that provides money to individuals - both types of group struggle to attract support
  • Donate money to an organisation that addresses systemic disadvantage - it is the most basic and arguably most effective way to help.
  • Don't place tough conditions on money contributed to a community group - it restricts the group's ability to direct the funds where they believe they're most needed.
  • Even if you don't feel able to advertise a partnership with a community group, discuss it within your private networks - you maximise your support for the community if you convince others to follow suit
  • Learn about the causes of homelessness, and become an advocate - encourage staff to understand issues related to homelessness. The Homelessness Australia web site provides some useful information.

Good Practice (require moderate investment and will provide moderate return)

  • Purchase goods from companies owned by disadvantaged groups (women, Aboriginal people, older people, etc)
  • Base your operations in under-served communities
  • Recruit local people
  • Use local resources
  • Find a staff member with appropriate skills who is willing to serve on the board of a community group working with disadvantaged people - business knowledge you take for granted may be invaluable to the community sector.
  • If your local community is experiencing unemployment, particularly long-term or cross-generational unemployment, communicate your skills needs to them
  • Work with the community to develop training programs as pathways into your business
  • Recognise that traditional human resources techniques - such as advertising jobs on mainstream websites - may not be appropriate for attracting disadvantaged people
  • Advertise jobs with agencies that work with disadvantaged people
  • Try to focus on outcomes rather than processes when hiring people - give people a chance to demonstrate their value to you, rather than ruling them out because they can't jump through the hoops you set in the recruitment process which may not demonstrate their ability to do the job anyway

Cutting Edge (high cost/effort with high returns)

  • Donate a percentage of your profit to groups that work on alleviating chronic disadvantage
  • Encourage and support the development of local businesses
  • Offer scholarships for the education and/or training of people from disadvantaged groups
  • Make a long-term volunteering commitment - offer the services of one staff member full-time or part-time for six months or a year. Of course in this instance you must work closely with the community group to ensure you are providing a resource from which they will obtain substantial benefit.
  • Actively employ someone who is or has been homeless. If you do so, though, you must be aware that this will likely require considerable flexibility and understanding, and additional investment to provide the necessary expert support.

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