‘Go Far, Go Together’: Credit Suisse on Collaboration

5 min read

Liza Green believes in collaboration.

“Collaboration has always seemed to me the best way to amplify impact”, states Credit Suisse’s Head of Corporate Citizenship and Foundations APAC, who over-sees the regional grant making and impact for the company’s philanthropy portfolio.

Whether the word is collaboration, partnership, team, working together, joining forces or cooperation, I cannot agree more with Green’s statement.  I also believe that collaboration is key to lasting impact. As the well-known proverb says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

Green’s commitment to ‘going together’ is clear as she describes the work of Credit Suisse at the recent AVPN 2020 conference. A virtual conference this year due to the upside-down world of COVID -19, this pan-Asian social impact organization overcame pandemic challenges by pulling together over 7,000 participants from 103 countries to  focus on the theme The Power of Networks.

“By its very nature as a membership organization, it encourages funders, policymakers and social purpose organisations to collaborate”, Green says.  She continues, “AVPN is a go-to partner for Credit Suisse when we are looking for introductions to like-minded funders, ideas for new philanthropic partnerships or a platform to communicate new ideas”.

Bridging Gaps

One the topics discussed at the annual event is the continual theme on how to bridge the common mismatch between investors’ and entrepreneurs’ expectations. Credit Suisse has teamed up with Village Capital with AVPN providing the platform and pulled together the Social Enterprise Development Toolkit.

Established in 2019 to help build the capacity of social enterprises, the toolkit is a resource to identify what investors look for in their partners and to find resources to help social enterprises be ready for investments.

“Partnerships give us the opportunity not only to pool resources and share networks but also to learn from each other and avoid duplication”, says Green.

Engaging with Tomorrow Today

In addition to Credit Suisse’s philanthropic work in the region, Credit Suisse has sought for many years both to initiate and to take part in collaborations that contribute to collective impact, shared learning and capacity building.

One of their many engagements is partnering with organisations on providing skills for youth in Asia and funding this ‘future’. Why is this important?

The data speaks for itself: over 60% of the world’s youth lives in Asia Pacific but the youth unemployment rate is 10.5% – more than double the unemployment rate of the total working age population. This does not bode well for the adults of tomorrow nor for the organisations and companies that will be looking for skilled employees in the future.

I listened to Green and her peers as they headlined the seminar on this topic and raised the nuances of skills training. While they all want to scale, they underscore the importance of tailoring skills-building programs to specific needs. They also stress the need to adopt multi-faceted approaches that include psycho-social skills, soft skills and hard skills to create an additional level of employability and thus a stronger impact. I realise that these approaches ensure a ‘rounded’ employee throughout the career “lifecycle” that is interesting for future employers.

Green further discussed how Credit Suisse broadens its scope, “As a corporate partner, beyond the financial support, we can offer the support of our staff to help the youth as role-models and mentors, as well as to support the organizations that we fund across geographies with skill-based volunteering.”

Being a Supportive Partner

However, the COVID-19 pandemic has hit collaborations hard on several fronts. Green describes its severe impacts on the not-for-profit sector; it has reduced fundraising opportunities, stalled programs and increased the challenges of maintaining basic operations.

“As a corporate funder, we need to think carefully about how best we can support our partners and the sector as a whole”, Green says. She confirms that Credit Suisse has signed the AVPN’s Funder’s Pledge.

The Pledge reminds funders to:

  • listen and communicate openly with partner not-for-profits;
  • relax restrictions on strict budget allocations;
  • allow for flexible reporting timelines;
  • maintain renewal payments; and
  • continue to grant even when facing an uncertain future – be a real partner.

Green advocates taking an unusual approach during these times by relinquishing control on decision-making, budgets and processes and be guided by their partners.

“In our environment, we are driven by data, timelines, reports and measurements”, she discloses, “This crisis has made many of these things harder to chase and we have to go back to the essence of our partnerships – we believe in you as an organization and your work is aligned with our strategic philanthropic goals and that is why we support you”.

Bringing Us Together

And support she does, from engaging with fundraising and matching programs with Credit Suisse employees during the pandemic to ensuring that the circle of funders and volunteers she personally co-founded directs funding to women and girls in crisis.

However, Green understands you cannot do it alone. She says again: “This is something that would not have been possible without collaboration”.

That is why a platform such as AVPN is so important.  It can use its many engagements, its annual conference and its deep knowledge of networks to support its members during times of adversity.

I am a fan of the collaboration platform of AVPN and the way it brings us together. While Green and I come from different perspectives – participant vs speaker – we both want to foster impact.

While the virtual “experiment” has been successful, we can all agree that we are all looking forward to working together face-to-face. As Green explains: “This is what I love the most about my job and it is what I have missed the most. I hope to be able to get out into our communities this year”. Like me, Green misses the collaborative nature of face-to-face contact.

In the meantime, let’s keep the collaboration going.  Let’s go far by going together.


About Author
Christina Ameln
Christina Ameln Sustainability Advisor, Purple Ivy / Member of the Board of Advisors LIN Center for Community Development

Christina Ameln believes in the power of connections to maximise sustainable impact.

Ameln is an Advisor at Purple Ivy, a consultancy that helps companies to future-proof their business models. It leverages business strategy, sustainability know-how, management system, communications and impact expertise to integrate sustainability priorities deeper into the business.

Prior to Purple IVY, she ran her own consultancy around CSR and Sustainability working with corporates; and multilateral and non-profit organizations in Asia and Europe. At publicly listed hygiene and forestry company SCA, she drove the company’s CSR engagement internally and externally as CSR Director; and at Hifab International, a consultancy and project management company, Ameln worked as a CSR Specialist.

As Senior Manager, Corporate Strategies & Member Services at the Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GBC), a not-for-profit corporate membership organization, she worked at mobilizing the private sector in the fight against the three pandemics. This was led by the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, former United States Ambassador to the UN and President Obama's former special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Ameln has an MBA from Nottingham University and a BBA from the University of Kent at Canterbury. She sits on the Board of Advisory for LIN Center for Community Development, an AVPN member. She also writes regularly on sustainability on various platforms including www.SustainableVietnam.com and is author of the Aya & Bobby illustrated children's books on travel and discovery.