Guest Blog by Christina Chale
Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd., CSR Lead, Christina Chale, on how the company’s support of the work being carried out by the Fistula Foundation in Kenya engages employees
Employee engagement is arguably more important than ever – with workers increasingly wanting deeper fulfilment from their jobs. For many, this would mean working for an organisation that realises the importance of having a positive impact on our world. Astellas is committed to the long-term sustainability of society by improving access to health and medical solutions, fostering scientific advancement and enhancing the health of our communities.
At Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd, we have seen first-hand that charity partnerships can engage, foster loyalty and create pride in a company, and in turn individuals’ own work. We’ve seen this through our support of the work being carried out by the Fistula Foundation in Kenya to help end fistula, an injury caused by prolonged obstructed labour, leading to faecal or urinary incontinence or both. We’re celebrating this work today as it is ‘International Day to End Obstetric Fistula’ (Wednesday, 23rd May). Reflecting on the success of the programme, we are proud of the continued support of our workforce, who championing the cause, fundraised over €35,000 for it and voted for it to receive more funding.
Having your workforce engaged in your social investment programmes therefore is beneficial for both the business and society. It can be difficult to bring your employees into work that’s not directly central to your day-to-day business, despite the benefits. But, there are a number of things I’ve learnt from Action on Fistula, including:
Choose a cause where you can have a measurable impact
When you’re aligned with your partner from the beginning on measurable objectives and targets, you can quantify success, and report this back to colleagues to illustrate that your partnership is indeed achieving real, life-changing results.
With Action on Fistula, we knew obstetric fistula was a clear unmet health need where Astellas could make a huge difference to women’s lives. But, achieving the best results, meant making some key decisions. For example, we chose Kenya as the location for the programme, because our research showed there was a great need, but there was also an infrastructure in place that would help us to achieve through the programme. What we didn’t know how to do was develop a programme that could effectively treat fistula. That’s where Fistula Foundation came in, bringing expertise and on-the-ground knowledge and the ability to develop and implement a measurable treatment programme.
By working with our partner to measure outcomes from the beginning, we have been able to regularly report back on the number of women whose lives have been changed by the programme. Metrics helped take our colleagues on the journey. This was vital given the condition is little known in the West. Using an internal communications plan, we kept colleagues and other stakeholders up-to-date on the programme’s progress, thanks to Fistula Foundation’s regular reporting on numbers of women treated, figures on outreach activities and the number of community members reached with fistula awareness messaging by their team on the ground. This regular reporting of the lives we were helping to transform made it tangible and real for our colleagues.
Engage a trusted charity partner – and don’t be afraid to think small (charities)
It’s often easier and ‘safer’ to choose a very big charity with a well-known name – but a smaller, lesser known charity can help engage people by making them feel more ownership over the cause. Employees can feel like it’s their project and they are having a real impact by supporting it.
In our case, by partnering with Fistula Foundation, they were able to move quickly to design and set up the programme. Largely because they had so much experience in treating fistula, but also because by being small, they were more nimble.
Be creative when shouting about your work
Emails have their place when communicating with a large workforce, but there are many more creative ways of reaching people that can be more impactful.
To keep colleagues up-to-date on the progress of Action on Fistula we set up a new campaign web page on our website that showed how many women had received surgery thanks to the programme. We also engaged our colleagues in other offices to keep them up-to-speed with monthly phone calls, and created tailored toolkits to support them in their efforts to spread the word about our work and encourage fundraising.
To keep momentum going on fundraising, we ran a competition amongst employees to win a ‘Seeing is Believing’ trip to visit the programme in Kenya. The competition was open for anyone who had helped fundraise throughout the year. The trip helped people understand their personal impact and for the winners, it engaged them further in the programme and instilled a sense of pride in Astellas and its role in helping support Fistula Foundation on the ground.
Let colleagues make their mark on the partnership
Involve colleagues where you can and where possible let them help you shape the partnership with you.
At Astellas, we found colleagues were keen to get involved. They took it upon themselves to fundraise in many different creative and interesting ways. We then built this into our internal communications, by telling the stories of fundraising initiatives carried out by colleagues across our European office to celebrate their success and inspire more colleagues to get involved.
With more and more people wanting to work for a company that embodies their values, there is an opportunity for companies engaging in great charity and CSR work to have the edge when recruiting and keeping the best people – while simultaneously making the world a better place.
About Action on Fistula
Action on Fistula is a pioneering programme which has transformed the lives of over 3,417 women in Kenya who are suffering with obstetric fistula. It is based on an innovative, integrated programme that allows surgeons, outreach workers and hospitals to share resources and information to treat women more effectively and with the highest levels of care.
Action on Fistula was started in 2014 by an award winning collaboration between Fistula Foundation and Astellas Pharma Europe Ltd.
- The first phase of Action on Fistula ran from 2014 to 2017, with Fistula Foundation and Astellas each providing funding of €1.5 million to set up and run the programme
· Action on Fistula was highly commended at the PMLiVE Awards 2015 and won ‘Excellence in CSR’ at the Communiqué Awards, 2017
· The second phase of Action on Fistula is a €3 million programme from 2017 to 2020, largely funded and implemented by Fistula Foundation. Astellas is proud to help support the continuation of the program with a €750,000 grant and additional in-kind support and through employee fundraising.
By 2020, Action on Fistula wants to help more than 4,500 women to access fistula treatment. Action on Fistula is a proven programme that has demonstrated its ability to provide life-changing support for women and there is currently an on-going need now, and in the future, for help.
In order for Action on Fistula to continue this proven, life-changing work beyond 2020, additional financial support is critical, and we are actively seeking partners to help continue this work. Action on Fistula helped Astellas engender community and foster a common cause amongst our employees, and joining in this program can do the same for your organisation. Anyone interested should contact Fistula Foundation via www.fistulafoundation.org.