During the COVID-19 Pandemic, cooperation developed between the local community and the companies that operate within that community strongly underlined the importance of synergy between these two sectors. This experience may further encourage companies to invest with the aim of raising the quality of life in the local community. On the other hand, it clearly shows why local communities have a motive to build a company-friendly environment.
One of the ways to read the UN Serbia and UNDP Serbia report “Serbia Covid19 Socio Economic Impact Assessment” is to look for encouraging examples of the ways that associations, networks and businesses have been finding ways to provide support and donations to communities and local institutions. One example was the work of the National Alliance for Local Economic Development (NALED), which worked through its established network of LSGs and businesses to initiate corporate responsibility campaigns and launched a donation platform. This action resulted in more than 45 tons of food being brought to 10,000 poor households across the country and raised around two million euros for the procurement of medical equipment.
Many large companies, acting independently or through their associations, donated either finances for combatting the crisis or a long list of products and services ranging from equipment and furniture to hospitals and social institutions, or free recreational facilities for recuperation of medical staff.
Corporate leaders in Serbia can and have shown that they are not sitting on the side-lines of major societal threats at the local level, rather their cooperation with local communities goes far beyond this and is multifaceted and growth orientated.
One of the most active business associations, the Serbian Chamber of Commerce & Industry, was part of the National Emergency Task Force for the economy. As such, it used its national and regional network to help coordinate businesses’ donations of medical equipment. Another example that stands out is the foundation “Catalyst Balkans”, which pushed for donations through a crowdfunding platform to collect short-term financial relief funds for cultural workers or the most vulnerable sections of the population in some of the hardest hit municipalities. These efforts were met with strong volunteering activity and solidarity between and within communities.
However, strategic partnerships between companies and local communities, the contribution of companies to local development, as well as corporate philanthropy, represent a much larger topic and a long-term activity that both large corporations and small local companies are exercising through their corporate social responsibility programmes. This type of activity is very important for less developed communities, where all three partners – government, businesses, and local administrations – have their own role to play.
The aforementioned associations and networks, as well as others, are working to deepen cooperation between local communities and companies. There are many different ways in which this cooperation can be promoted, such as joint projects, direct investments, philanthropic projects and the like. This publication is aimed at supporting their efforts.