We are a European network of managers in "not-for-profit" organizations (NGOs, associations, social service agencies) aware that the societal problems of today's world urge us to question how we understand and are implementing our responsibility.
Until recently, we considered that our responsibility only stretched to our specific objectives, our activities within our specialized field, and our human relationships (with our staff, partners, and beneficiaries). Today, the responsibility is "societal", meaning we must also understand and handle the complex effects (often remote or delayed in time) our actions have on the planet and in the global society (biodiversity, climate, development, and future generations).
Moreover, it is only by adopting a societal conscience that we, the Europeans, can get out of the current crisis, which is socially, ecologically and economically inextricably linked. It is a crisis that drives us to seek cross and integrated solutions. Our various objectives (social, environmental and economic, individual and collective) are now mutually dependent and, therefore, we must unlearn to pursue them separately.
The Societal Code
It is our common reference. It defines the responsibility commitment of all the members of the network. Firstly, the management of Societal Responsibility relies on 4 core values and 7 general principles. The operational level of the code consists of 36 key measures that managers can adapt and effectively integrate into their activity.
Thus, this tool allows each manager, member of the network, to "design" their own Societal Responsibility commitment, taking into account the specificity of his/hers organization and projects. Nevertheless, the common framework of the Code makes it possible to evaluate, compare and transfer the best practices.
An essential principle of the application of Societal Code is continuous improvement. In this perspective, the manager must follow a process of "societal quality", in four phases: Plan-Do-Check-Act. This approach (graphically presented as a wheel) is cyclic and the performance threshold rises at every cycle. Thus, Societal Responsibility is extended and strengthened from one intervention to another, from one project to the next.
The Societal Code is intended as a simple and flexible tool. Its development is inspired by ISO 26000 (the ISO guidelines for the Societal Responsibility of organizations), but it offers a convenient alternative to this standard whose use remains quite complex. The Code offers the various managers of the "not-for-profit" sector a tool that they can use without turning to external consultants.
Our online platform gives us the possibility to compare our different European experiences, experiment innovative tools in common, exchange best practices and act coordinately. But it also offers us the opportunity to train each other!
Our training module is collaborative and interactive. It enables network members to deliver trainings, but also to follow the trainings offered by other members. As a trainer, you can publish courses, contact the participants, evaluate their contributions, schedule "classes" (face to face sessions). As a trainee you can interact with the trainer and other participants, enrich the training and actively contribute to the shared knowledge.
Societal values "collaborative learning"! Because to effectively implement Societal Responsibility we need complex, interdisciplinary competencies, which we can only acquire following a steep learning curve. For most of us (who initially possess fairly specialized skills), the nose of the plane starts to get up but the aircraft cannot yet take off. At this stage, participatory and collaborative knowledge building and shared know-how is crucial.
Societal is a project initiated and firstly implemented in Romania, between 2010-2013 by REPER21 (www.reper21.org) in partnership with the Romanian Agency in charge with the management of the Erasmus+ programme (www.anpcdfp.ro) and CRIES (www.cries.ro). The initiative was funded through the European Social Fund programme.
The purpose of the project was to train and advise the beneficiaries of the national agency on the subject of Societal Responsibility, so that they will be able to understand and integrate it in the European projects funded by the institution.
In this stage we developed:
- A management method for Societal Responsibility based on the main international standards (ISO 26000), but simplified and adapted to the needs and structure of not-for-profit projects;
- 20 pilot projects (financed through the Grundtvig and Youth in Action programmes), which tested out our responsible management method during their implementation;
- 80 « Societal managers » who learned the method during the implementation of the pilot projects, but also within a training;
- More than 700 members, employees and volunteers of nonprofit organizations who took part in the seminars and workshops organized by Societal in all regions of Romania ;
- The Societal Responsibility Methodology for several Romanian cultural festivals which Societal has reunited in a smaller specific network called «Responsible Event» ;
- The Societal Responsibility Methodology in the candidacy form which helped the city of Cluj-Napoca to obtain the title of «European Capital of Youth 2015».
To recognize its contribution in the field, the National Erasmus+ Agency in Romania awarded REPER21 with the Excellency Prize “Pioneers of Societal Responsibility in European projects 2007-2013”.
Starting with 2014 Societal became European!
Crossing the Romanian border was possible thanks to the strategic partnership, developed by IRTESS Burgundy and IRTS Franche-Comté (France), the APEMH Foundation and the Tricentenaire Foundation (Luxembourg) and REPER21 (Romania) within the project "Innovative and responsible practices in the management of social organizations" (funded by the Erasmus + Programme).
Our strategic partnership offered the opportunity for experts, active in the social field in the three countries, to reflect together on their Societal Responsibility, share latent knowledge, select and formalize good practices. During this process, the Societal code was tested, improved and transformed into a common reference.
In October 2016, the partners launched the Societal.eu platform. Its purpose is to help us strengthen our partnership and to expand our network of innovative managers and officials across Europe.