Social business, Part 8: Company teams with nonprofit to solve social problems

By Todd Cohen

As part of a partnership it formed in 2006 with Mercy Corps, a global aid agency based in Portland, Ore., Western Union has worked on a range of projects, including market-driven relief efforts to spur recovery in Haiti in the wake of the January 2010 earthquake there.

Rather than give away water in tent cities, for example, Mercy Corps helped people establish water businesses and also gave people cash or vouchers for work so they could buy water or other services, explained, Talya Bosch, Boston-based vice president for social ventures for Western Union, which is based in Englewood, Colo.

Those new businesses “were designed to be sustainable so people could continue to provide those services,” she said.

The company also uses its global network of agents to engaged migrant communities throughout the world to contribute to development efforts. In Haiti, for example, the company matched consumer donations to Mercy Corps one-for-one and enabled migrants to serve as mentors to fledgling entrepreneurs there, providing expertise on topics such as human resources, marketing and accounting.

“We were able to engage our business partners, agents, employees and customers,” Bosch said. “That makes a difference. People have a choice about which company to do business with and spend money with, and they tend to prefer a company that made a difference in their community.”

Next: Nonprofits work with companies to help find business solutions

The series:

Part 1: Companies team with causes to add value

Part 2: Companies build giving into business strategy

Part 3: Philanthropy adds value for companies

Part 4: Nonprofit builds corporate partnerships from ground up

Part 5: Company works with nonprofits to build markets

Part 6: Companies turn to nonprofits to help develop leaders

Part 7: Nonprofits tap corporate expertise

Part 8: Company teams with nonprofit to solve social problems

Part 9: Nonprofits work with companies to help find business solutions

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