A curriculum framework for the professional development of corporate social responsibility practitioners in South Africa

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Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
Thesis (PhD)--Stellenbosch University, 2016
ENGLISH ABSTRACT : This study explored the possibilities of developing a curriculum framework for the professional development of corporate social responsibility practitioners in South Africa. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) encourages a vision of business responsibility and accountability that extends beyond shareholders and investors to include other key stakeholders. Corporations in South Africa find themselves in a unique position to contribute to social innovation and transformation through strategic corporate social responsibility strategies. For this to happen, corporate social responsibility needs to become more mainstream as forward-thinking companies entrench corporate social responsibility into the core of their strategic business operations to create value for business as well as society. The South African government’s role as the exclusive social change agent and macro socio-economic problem solver is rapidly weakening and becoming less substantial as businesses are taking on increased sustainability and social transformation responsibilities. Businesses are seen as catalysts for social transformation, and corporate social practitioners in South Africa are viewed as the change agents responsible for managing the social projects that help advance the communities in which they operate. This is a responsibility that is taken seriously. However, relevant literature on corporate social responsibility indicates that industry thought leaders are aware of and do acknowledge that there is a critical skills deficit in the corporate social responsibility sector. The corporate social responsibility sector is often criticised as a disordered poverty photography project environment with dismal reporting standards and even lower standards for measuring the longitudinal impact of projects aimed at social change and upliftment. This mixed-method study was undertaken in three distinct phases aimed at the development of a curriculum framework for the professional development of entry-level to mid-career corporate social responsibility practitioners in the South African context. The research involved a multi-phased, sequential explanatory mixed-method study within a pragmatic knowledge paradigm. The first phase of the research project comprised quantitative and qualitative data to explore the roles and functions assigned to corporate social responsibility practitioners, and the most effectual and proficient competencies required by corporate social responsibility practitioners. This was achieved by using a questionnaire to collect primary data provided by the collective insight of corporate social responsibility experts and then using focus group interviews to review the proposed first draft of the corporate social responsibility competency framework to gain a deeper understanding of the proposed competencies. Qualitative data were thus obtained from a group of experts by subjecting them to a series of questionnaires, focus-group interviews and controlled opinion feedback. The second phase of this research involved ranking and further exploring the competencies identified in the first phase of the study in order to gain a better understanding of these competencies and to inform competency definitions. In this investigative follow-up phase, the competencies were explored with practitioners through an iterative e-mail questionnaire typically associated with the classic Delphi method. The Delphi consensus process was followed which involved the formulation and classification of a hierarchical competency framework using the competencies identified in Phases 1 and 2 of the data collection process. The competency framework identified and classified competencies into a hierarchical framework with eight high-level factors, 22 dimensions at the competency level and 100 components at the behavioural level. A panel of three academics and 15 experts validated the conceptual competency framework. The third and final phase of the research aimed at validating the proposed conceptual competency framework through a self-administered online questionnaire. The quantitative strand of the questionnaire aimed to validate the conceptual framework. This was followed up with telephonic interviews. The aim of the final empirical phase of the study was not only to generate expert agreement, but also to fill in the gaps and to identify expert opinion on the most critical competencies required to be a successful corporate social practitioner. The study culminated in the development of a validated curriculum framework for the professional development of corporate social responsibility practitioners in South Africa, which is compatible with the requirements of the Higher Education Qualifications Sub-framework, the Occupational Qualifications Sub-framework and the South African Qualifications Authority. This research presents findings reported in the form of a curriculum framework which may serve as a guideline for curriculum designers and policy makers when considering the design, development and implementation of an entry-level to mid-career corporate social responsibility practitioner programme or qualification in this country.
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Corporate social responsibility practitioners -- South Africa, Curriculum framework, Corporate social responsibility (CSR), Corporate social investment (CSI), UCTD