Social Marketing, Development Education, and Corporate Social Responsibility: The Common Grounds Sustainability
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Development education (DE), social marketing (SM), and corporate social responsibility (CSR)
Although the concepts covered in this section are relatively new with clear meaning, development education (DE), social marketing (SM), and corporate social responsibility (CSR) have been at times confused with other terms. Hence, it is perhaps important to remind the reader that development education is not about educational development, and social marketing is not about social media marketing, causal marketing, or even social entrepreneurship marketing. Given that the title refers to three concepts, we will proceed to defining them in turn. First, we will focus on SM.
Social Marketing seeks to develop and integrate marketing concepts with other approaches to influence behaviours that benefit individuals and communities for the greater social good.
Social Marketing practice is guided by ethical principles. It seeks to integrate research, best practice, theory, audience and partnership insight, to inform the delivery of competition sensitive and segmented social change programmes that are effective, efficient, equitable and sustainable. (French and Russell-Bennett 2015, p. 140)
According to the above definitions, SM is to be differentiated not only from commercial marketing but also from social responsibility initiatives. The reason for the latter is that while some CSR initiatives may be undertaken to enhance a company’s brand, SM’s primary purpose is social and does not seek potential commercial gains from its projects.
Regarding DE, it is seen as education for social action and improvement. It aims to address inequalities (local and global) through critical analysis of social issues and the promotion of social change through education. It particularly targets neoliberal views of competitive individualism and promotes a more inclusive humanitarian perspective.
the continuing commitment by business to behave ethically and contribute to economic development while improving the quality of life of the workforce and their families as well as of the local community and society at large. (Watts and Holme 1998, p. 3)
CSR position appears to encourage businesses to assume their responsibilities towards social and environmental issues since these businesses depend on the support from these two dimensions, according to the noblesse oblige principle.
The above three areas (SM, DE and CSR) are very similar in their thrust for addressing social issues and should be contrasted to identify opportunities for mutual learning.
There are several disciplines that have been designed to help address social disadvantages and environmental irresponsibilities. CSR, DE, and SM are three of them. These three disciplines should be contrasted in turn to identify opportunities for mutual learning. Although the above three definitions appear to show broad similarities in purpose, it would be still useful to look at them more closely and decide how much similarities and differences can be observed at: philosophical, procedural, and effectiveness of each approach. In turn, the observed similarities and differences may highlight certain strengths and weaknesses that may represent opportunities for improvements for each of the three areas (Fourali 2018).
Philosophically, a number of CSR practitioners announced that there does not seem to be a clear philosophical tradition that underpins the discipline. One might argue that this may not apply to DE or SM although a more worked out system of ethics could be developed that clarify to all the inderpining principles and addressing objections from various perspectives. SM programs routinely argue that their aims are both individual and social good (which, presumably, are also the aims of DE and CSR) and advise practitioners to refer to both deontological (rights and duties) and utilitarian principles (size of beneficiaries) which are not necessarily at odds with each other. Accordingly, one might consider the golden rule (treat others as you would wish to be treated in the same situation) a basic reference for all three disciplines, given its worldwide acceptability in most cultures. Obviously, there are always critics of any rule, but once we have a broadly acceptable ethical basis, we could always develop its interpretation and application in various contexts to maximize benefits. For example, a commonly shared perspective by the three disciplines appears to be their caution against excesses of ideologies, especially neoliberalism. Such warning was already there in education (the eldest of the three disciplines) in the eighteenth century when an enlightened approach to education was strongly advocated. Having said that, it is clear that the current approach of CSR addresses any excesses by encouraging businesses to take into considerations all stakeholders and not just traditional ones such as shareholders or clients. They would advocate for the inclusion of employees, suppliers, customers, local communities, etc.
Procedurally, one might consider both strategic and methodological dimensions. If we consider critical methodologies, one might argue that DE has a tradition of critical discursive approaches which seem to be far ahead of SM and CSR. This may simply reflect the longer history and, therefore, maturity of education in general and DE in particular, compared to the relatively new fields of CSR and SM. DE’s qualitative research methodology is supported by several approaches including postpositivists, constructivists, critical theory, humanists, postmodernists, etc. However, DE does not seem to have yet developed (or at least adopted) consistent strategic approaches of implementing programs. Despite the occurrence of some models, they seem to appear to be too broad in perspective to accurately and systematically implement. This is no surprise as some DE practitioners have already pointed at this weakness.
Critically, although SM and CSR appear to have a less mature critical research tradition, they seem to compensate for this weakness by the practical procedures they adopt in analyzing situations and implementing strategic changes. This is due to the fact that both these disciplines have historically been derived (at least partly) from the world of business. For instance, if we consider CSR, we may refer to Carroll’s CSR model that systematically identifies various forms of responsibilities (Economic, Legal, Ethical, and Philanthropic), their justification, and interpretation for the company. On the other hand, SM is developing powerful techniques for planning and implementing social marketing programs that may be selected and adjusted to different scenarios (e.g., Fourali’s or Kotler’s). As an example of a systematic approach to SM, consider Fourali’s 11 step model including problem identification, planning/scoping, developing a purpose, situation analysis, targeting beneficiaries, specifying objectives, clarifying the offer to target group, selecting an effective marketing mix, gathering resources, implementation of campaign/program, and monitoring situation. These steps benefit from an armamentarium of tools derived from various disciplines to maximize the effect of the campaign.
Regarding the evaluating the effectiveness of each discipline, both SM and CSR would claim that there is plenty of evidence to demonstrate the effectiveness of their projects. In contrast, DE’s evidence appears to be patchy and the jury is still out there about what would constitute an effective way of measuring its effectiveness. Again, a number of DE practitioners argued for the development of measurement strategy tools to gage the impact of the projects. Some argued for the adoption of business models such as Kaplan and Norton’s balanced score card.
In the light of the above one might ask “what lessons one may derive from the above analysis?”
Regarding the complaint aired by some educationists about the lack of clear evidence for assessing the impact of projects by DE workers, a number of suggestions have been put forward as to the cause of this weakness. These include: lack of experience with business management tools that are focused on evidence-based decisions; distrust of ‘business-related tools’ perceived by some educationists as reminiscent of neoliberal ideology; more focus by DE workers in critical, liberatory dimensions of education, and the inderpining structure of disadvantage; branding of educational initiatives as reflecting unique situations and, by definition, are not amenable for generalizability to other situations. However, one might argue that while these arguments may explain some of the reasons behind the lack of work on assessing the impact of DE, they do not justify the situation. Indeed, since DE’s purpose is to help alleviate the human condition through education, it would be very hard to achieve this without systematically evaluating the outcomes of its various projects.
In terms of philosophical development, both CSR and SM can learn from DE since it has a more developed philosophical tradition linked to generations of studies on educational goals and principles that can help create a more equal society.
Methodologically, DE also has a longer tradition of educational research, particularly the use of in-depth qualitative analyses. Again, such advance could benefit both CSR and SM.
Perhaps a third area from which CSR and SM can benefit, and linked to both philosophy and methodology, is the critical traditions that DE has been associated with. Such critical traditions help understand the context or history of certain state of play that should present richer information to help social change projects. In particular DE has a strong tradition of awareness of the effects of education, history, or power on our societies. Current examples of power, such as the triple domination bottom line of media, finance, and political hegemony, are routinely reviewed by educationists.
On the other hand, DE can also learn a lot from CSR and SM work. In particular, both CSR and SM, and especially SM, have demonstrated a rich and integrated eclecticism (i.e., their ability to borrow tools and technics from various disciplines to benefit their programs). Such disciplines included psychology, sociology, marketing, management, etc. This should come as no surprise since both CSR and SM are traditionally linked to business environments where effectiveness and efficiency are key performance indicators for the success of a program. It is worth noting that adopting business models in CSR or SM is not a blind adoption of neoliberal philosophy. Rather it is an attempt to ensure that practitioners demonstrate the effectiveness of their programs which, in turn, justifies more support and investment in their social initiatives.
There are several initiatives purporting to help with social problems or justice. So far, such issues appear to have worked separately despite the similarity of the ethical aims. Their separation may be due to disciplinary walls rather than similarity of purpose. It is arguable that the realizations of the shared aims (social, environmental, and governance) can be much more helped if these three fields of studies start looking beyond the historical walls (such as education, versus governance versus business issues) and look for common aims and how best to achieve them using similar or combined methodologies.
It is envisaged that the three disciplines of development education, CSR, and SM could start systematically learning from their strength and weaknesses and develop ways of mutual sharing of expertise to help make them more effective. Such learning can be done through improved communications but also through seeking learning from beyond the usual “boundaries” of the disciplines. Accordingly, researchers in the three disciplines should look for breakthroughs as well as effective practices and arguments with a view to adapt them to their respective circumstances. This should not be difficult to undertake because of the natural similarities of their purpose.
It is important through that the rapprochments should avoid nonthought through adoptions that may lead to confusions and inefficiencies. It is of crucial importance that the theoretical underpinning is thoughtfully considered before determining their relevance to each situation. Hence, we advocate a theoretically consistent eclecticism.
There may be several ways practitioners/researchers in these respective fields can start learning and consulting with each other. In this respect, developing multidisciplinary communications and forums are encouraged in as sober a manner as possible without disciplinary partisanship that may prevent the free flow of ideas. Rather the approach should be how can we support our respective audiences and what can we “borrow” from each other’s successful experiences. To do this, it is important to develop transparent tools for assessing effectiveness and efficiencies that can help identify areas of strength and weaknesses rather than spend time in empty debate or presumptions that do not help advance the fields. Ultimately, any advance in such debate would help improve the human condition, which should be a guiding principle.
- Fourali, C. (2018). Development education and social marketing: Two disciplines with one purpose, Issue 26 of Policy and Practice.Google Scholar
- Watts, P., & Holme, L. (1998). World Business Council for Sustainable Development. https://growthorientedsustainableentrepreneurship.files.wordpress.com/2016/07/csr-wbcsd-csr-primer.pdf. Accessed 19 Nov 2019.