Yes Foundation, the CSR arm of Yes Bank, is banking on the youth to produce innovative short films to create awareness about social issues impacting our society
Yes Foundation, the CSR arm of Yes Bank, wants to encourage each and every one of us to be impactful human beings. As I begin the conversation with Prerna Langa, the Foundation’s CEO, she spends the first few minutes explaining how building a sustainable and responsible business is at the company’s core. As we delve deeper, she takes us through the CSR arm’s journey; it relies on the youth of the country, as enablers and followers, to create a generation of responsible citizens. “Today, if you notice, it is the youth who are coming out and fighting or protesting for causes beneficial to the society. If you want to engage the youth and grow this initiative further, lecturing or advising them is not going to create a great impact. That is why we chose to do something different,” says Langa.
In youth, we trust
When Yes Foundation was put in place in December 2012, it kicked off its flagship program named’ Yes I am the Change!’ The idea was quite simple; to drive positive change and transformation in youth across the country through the medium of films. Termed as the YIAC 101-Hour Social Filmmaking Challenge, it encouraged youth to create short films spanning a three-minute duration, within four days, based on a topic (a social cause) which would be assigned to them at six in the morning (on the day of the challenge). The initiative’s objective was to create awareness around social issues by making the youth producers as well as consumers of the short film. “One of the challenges we posed to them was senior citizens and we got an interesting short film from a 19-year old boy from Pune,” recalls Langa. The boy, Suraj, was quite clueless about what to shoot, when he came across a physically challenged senior citizen who moved on his wheelchair and sold incense sticks. “He not only earns a living for himself but also contributes to social causes. This was a lesson for many of us,” notes Langa. Yes Foundation generated momentum around its initiative by securing almost 2,100 participants from 64 cities across the country during the first year. Last year, the numbers touched five lakh youth. “We wanted to show them the right way to consume media. They shouldn’t be polarising someone or become impressionable. How can we make them contribute to the good of the country? How do we educate them about voting, cleanliness, environmental care and the like?” reflects Langa.
Today, if you notice, it is the youth who are coming out and fighting or protesting for causes beneficial to the society. If you want to engage the youth and grow this initiative further, lecturing or advising them is not going to create a great impact. But short films for and by the youth can make a difference.
While step one was to create awareness around social causes and bring social responsibility to the mainstream, step two for Langa, was to create sustained engagement around the initiative. To fulfil this, she and her team launched the Yes Foundation Media for Social Change Fellowship, a high-impact two month programme in partnership with ISDI-WPP School of Communication and supported by the International Advertising Association-India Chapter. “The goal is to immerse them in training in the areas of branding, filmmaking and social media on one hand and develop social leadership and create an understanding of the ground realities by working closely with non-profits, on the other,” explains Langa.
In fact, soon after the launch of the fellowship, the Foundation also setup a social film grant in association with UNDP India to fund emerging filmmakers to make one-minute public service films on sustainable development of the planet. “The grant would vary from Rs. 2 lakh to Rs. 10 lakh and be preceded by a two-day workshop in the mentorship lab,” she adds.
Taking on a challenge
The primary hurdle for Langa at the Foundation was that not many people understood the impact that films could create. As she says, people would often remark that making films was not ‘real work’. What kept them on their feet was the mentorship and guidance the team received from Rana Kapoor, the founder of Yes Bank. “He would set outrageous targets for us each year and we would wonder how we can achieve it,” she shares.
Despite the remarks, Langa and her team remain clear about the potential impact films could create on the youth of the country. “In five years, we want to build an ecosystem; a platform of non-profits, youth and private and public sector entities connecting one another to communicate and create an empowered and equitable country,” she envisions.
This, her team calls, social innovation.
The checklist to set up a CSR arm
- Running a Foundation is similar to founding a new company. Hence, ensure your legal, financial and departmental compliances are in place.
- Have a clear approach to how you want to position the Foundation, what cause you want to work towards.
- Align your Foundation’s positioning to the larger goal of the parent company. Leverage on your existing skill sets.
- Be careful not to promote the business interests through your CSR arm.
- Communicate clearly and communicate often with your internal and external stakeholders.