SFR is the #2 telecom operator in France (subsidiary of Vodafone and Vivendi Universal). They announced yesterday that they would allow 50 additional employees every year to spend from 6 to 11 paid days per year working for a non-profit organization. These days are paid and managed as usual working days. SFR limited the authorized non-profits to those working in the fields of childhood protection and people with disabilities. SFR employees have a strong demand for such a program and a jury will have to select the yearly 50 “citizen-employees” based on the quality of their project.
For sure, this must be great news for altruistic SFR employees. But I’d like to make a suggestion to SFR to make this operation even more effective: why aren’t you focusing on your core business and competencies instead of diverting your efforts toward childhood and disabilities topics? I’m quite sure SFR employees could come with substantial socially-savvy innovations in the field of telecommunications if they were challenged to do so. Social entrepreneurship (entrepreneuriat social in French) combines altruistic aspirations with senseful business innovations. In the field of telecommunications, the best example for such activities is probably the Grameen Village Phone (see also here) or, to a lesser extent Alcatel’s Digital Bridge. Many other examples exist in social hightech. Social entrepreneurship projects may be riskier than usual innovation projects corporations sometimes carry. But this citizen-employee kind of operation would be ideal for managing the risks of social entrepreneurship project while contributing to the corporate social responsability of SFR, giving it a nice media coverage and still giving birth to economically viable businesses.
The so-French tradition of tightly containing “charities” away from business sometimes drives me nuts. Take the best of both worlds, please!
Anyway, hurrah for this nice SFR marketing and HR operation! If only my employer did the same thing, I would probably be on the field trying to connect some unconnected families, researching some disruptive knowledge technologies applied to local development (such as social networking software for residential areas), developping semantic web technologies applied to corporate social responsability reports or so.