DNS Belgium takes many initiatives in Corporate Social Responsibility. Digital for Youth is our biggest investment by a long shot. It therefore seemed sensible to us to measure and map its impact. We had an impact study carried out, the results of which we are happy to share. In this first article on the impact study, we outline the context and the theoretical framework.
'The objectives of Digital for Youth are aimed specifically at making future generations digitally resilient.'
DNS Belgium set up Digital for Youth in 2019 together with the non-profit association Close the Gap vzw in an effort to promote digital inclusion in our country. Digital for Youth collects depreciated laptops from companies and has them refurbished to like-new condition. It then distributes them to organisations that teach young people digital skills and have submitted a dossier to the King Baldwin Foundation.
CRS with a view to the future
DNS Belgium invests a great deal - about 80% of all resources (manpower and hours) in Digital for Youth for CSR activities. 'We invest about a third of our EBITDA in Digital for Youth, and it makes sense that we want to know how such an important investment pays off,' says Arnaud Recko, sustainability coordinator at DNS Belgium and board member at Digital for Youth. The payoff here is not in terms of pennies, but of social impact. 'That is why, in cooperation with Eva Wuyts of the UCLL (University of Applied Sciences), we have developed an instrument that can measure our social impact.'
'The objectives of Digital for Youth are aimed specifically at making future generations digitally resilient. We are deliberately not doing charity, but are engaging in future-oriented corporate social responsibility. And we want to maintain our neutrality in the process. That is why we work together with the King Baldwin Foundation and an independent panel composed of people from the field to award the laptops.'
Transparency and purpose
It is important for DNS Belgium to report on our impact. We do so to be transparent to all our stakeholders (staff members, registrars , board of directors...) but also to keep the employees involved. They need to be able to see that what the non-profit association does has an impact. They get a sense of purpose for their job as a result. It justifies their efforts,' says Arnaud.
That justification is largely provided through stories and testimonials. 'But companies that donate naturally also want to know what happens to their laptops and pennies. They want to see that the laptops end up well and the changes they entail for the organisations and the children who get and use them. They want to know what the social impact is and how much carbon we save in the process.'
Four spheres of influence
To measure the impact of Digital for Youth correctly, Eva and Arnaud developed a model in which they define four spheres of influence:
- Sphere of control
- Sphere of direct influence
- Sphere of indirect influence
- Sphere of interest
Digital For Youth collects laptops from companies and organisations and refurbishes them to like-new condition. The impact and influence exerted by the organisation naturally starts there.
'Vulnerable young people are gaining more (digital) self-confidence and have a sense of belonging, often for the first time.'
Young people develop digital skills, they learn to search for and process digital information, and they are better protected against the dangers of the digital world. With such skills, they can take an active part in digital society. They participate fully in education and the labour market. This is what the model calls the sphere of direct influence.
Digital for Youth laptops help organisations indirectly to grow in supply and reach. They can professionalise their operation and image and thus appeal to more young people. They become more credible and can thereby establish local partnerships more easily. Because they reach a larger audience, they also have a better understanding of digital needs of their target group.
Finally, organisations buy fewer laptops themselves, which in turn means significant savings for many.
Sense of belonging
The activities of Digital for Youth and the organisations it supports bring the issue of digital exclusion to the attention of policymakers and industry. The digital divide is narrowing, social inclusion is increasing, and school dropouts are decreasing. It is the sphere of interest in the UCLL's model.
Vulnerable young people are gaining more (digital) self-confidence and have a sense of belonging, often for the first time. They are given every opportunity to participate fully in the information society and become critically participating citizens.