Bench Marks Centre for Corporate Social Responsibility
The newly established centre currently comprises of the director, prof. Cronjé, an administrative assistant, two full-time researchers, a research fellow, one post-doctoral fellow, and a couple of contract researchers. The Bench Marks Foundation (previously mentioned) is a partner in the centre. In an organizational sense, the centre is hosted within the Faculty of Arts.
- Stimulate and conduct high-quality innovative research and training on corporate social responsibility
- Provide the space for dialogue amongst various stakeholders, in particular government, civil society and the private sector
- Create synergy between basic and applied research (“theory/policy and practice”)
- Create a specific research focus in CSR at the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University in South Africa
- Learn from the studied experiences of communities that are living through and experiencing actually existing CSR-CSI programmes and initiatives, with a view of changing it to benefiting people and the planet, contrary to only enhance profits
Derived from the vision and the mission, the centre will be uniquely informed by the following guiding principles and approaches:
- Seek to study the rights of citizens and corporations with the understanding that if corporations are to be beneficial and accountable to communities at large, they cannot enjoy more rights than citizens
- To study the role of corporations in society and its impacts on democracy, power of citizens, organized civil society, the environment, the economy and the role of governments
- To study the operations as well as the differential impacts of CSR on communities and owners of the corporations in an inclusive and participatory manner with all stakeholders and across disciplines and different economic development models
- Conducting collaborative research with communities by centre staff, research fellows and students; this will be done in collaboration with external practitioner experts from within the structures of corporations, civil society, trade unions and communities
- Policy and “Praxis Dialogues”: conferences, dialogues and workshops will be convened that will bring together leading practitioners, academics, communities, corporations, government, civil society organizations, trades unions and the media; the aim will be to study and deliberate on the actually existing experience of CSR, within the perspectives of ensuring that the values and principles of justice, democracy and informed participation becomes a practice and culture within corporations
- Promoting a culture of a “learning organization” which will facilitate the creation of a participatory management for future generations, as well as those of today
The centre is proud to focus in a specialized way on the core business of any university, namely research, teaching and community engagement.
Research wise, the flag ship project of the centre is the SADC (Southern Africa Development Community) Mining Project where different developmental and sustainability issues in the mining sector in SADC are being studied and analyzed, for example migration, generational collaboration and acculturation, corporate social responsibility (CSR), corporate social investment (CSI), social entrepreneurship, governance issues, stakeholder dialogue, and power relations and dynamics within the SADC mining sector.
The Bench Marks Centre for CSR is currently in the process of finalizing a substantial project through SIDA (Swedish International Development Agency) on specific CSR issues (supply chain and social entrepreneurship) in South Africa, Botswana and Namibia. The centre is also investigating collaboration opportunities within the global south; in this regard an Africa/India project is in the planning process.
On teaching, the centre offers a course work Masters in Development with a CSR curriculum, as well as a PhD in Development with a CSR curriculum. The centre also has three accredited short courses on CSR; two more advanced ones and a basic course, for among others, community leaders.
Most of the centre’s research projects also have a community engagement dimension. In this regard the focus is on community development, social entrepreneurship and ownership, community participation, the development of self-reliance and the importance of a human-centred approach towards development.
To further and strengthen the work of the centre, solid networks and partnerships in South Africa, Africa and in the international arena were being established over the last few years.