Post Contributed By: Harun Kibirige, Leadership Winnipeg Class of 2020-21
If there is one thing I believe in, it is the power of connectedness – a feeling and realization that my individual experiences and actions are linked to those of others as if to form a single unit. This connectedness also means that nothing quite emerges in the present. The past is in the present – and the future too.
Born in Kampala, Uganda, 16 years ago I made a life-altering trip to Winnipeg to attend University. In Winnipeg, I found a place I now proudly call home. In Winnipeg, I met people with an unmistakable spirit of resiliency and positivity, and that drew me in. That is simultaneously the answer to “how” and “why” I found myself sitting in front of a computer screen attending a Leadership Winnipeg session talking about the importance of funding organizations and corporate social responsibility in the middle of a global pandemic.
The global pandemic has unveiled our “normal lives” and revealed a fragility that still lies at the very core of our city and community. As Connie Walker (President and CEO, United Way of Winnipeg) pointed out mental health, substance abuse, food insecurity, and financial uncertainty are not new, the pandemic has simply brought them closer to home for more Winnipeggers. And therein may lie a silver lining
The past is in the present
Connectedness seems to be inescapable as we continue to see historical social, political and economic processes and decisions in what started as a public health crisis. And while the dominant idea is that the virus does not discriminate, plenty of evidence already suggests that the virus does discriminate. The negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable of groups (indigenous people, people of colour, and women among others) in our society. This has brought to the forefront the continued existence of institutional racism and systematic inequality.
At a time of immense financial strain on many businesses and organizations, many are being forced to rethink their financial contributions and responsibilities to the broader community. Juxtapose this with the reality that never has society sought the corporations to take on a greater share in their responsibility for the quality of life of their employees and the community at large in which they operate.
To start, we (individuals and organizations) must acknowledge that profits, people and the planet are connected and have always been so. As individuals, we must hold our organizations to higher standards of social responsibility and more ethically oriented practices.
As businesses and organizations, corporate social responsibility must be woven into the very fabric of the organizational mission and workplace culture. Brendan Reimer (Strategic Partner, Assiniboine Credit Union) insightfully pointed out this shift as about going from “what we do” to “what we can be”. This is being done by adopting a triple bottom line approach that gives equal weighting to People, the Planet, and Prosperity (or profit). Dave Angus (President & CEO, Johnston Group Inc.) talked about revisiting your why-statement and being “very clear on what your values are and being proud to put those values forward.” Walker was thrilled to talk about the newly launched 211 phone service where one can connect and “talk to a real person” 24/7 at a time of greatest need for mental health support.
Nelson Mandela once said, “May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.” At a time of increased uncertainty, we too are faced with difficult choices daily. Evidently, this session’s speakers are steering their organizations to choose hope. A moment of imposed stop has become our greatest opportunity to reflect as deeply and as intimately as ever before. I challenge individuals and organizations to commit to taking resulting actions that embody a deeper recognition of connectedness and choose hope.
Harun Kibirige, CPA, CA, MIT
Director, Global Investment Reporting & Compliance
Leadership Winnipeg is supported by:
IG Wealth Management
The Winnipeg Foundation
Winnipeg Regional Health Authority
Asper School of Business