Putting knowledge in the bank: A new perspective on Corporate Social Investment.
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AbstractThis thesis looks at the interdependencies between corporate citizenship, social capital and tacit knowledge in the present epoch of global capitalism. External local communities and society at large are a very significant reservoir of social capital for any organisation and, in a global era of constant change, relations between organisations and these wider communities need constant replenishment and repair. The business literature gives insufficient attention to this vital connection between social and the other forms of capital that have traditionally been given regarded as the mainstay of business enterprise. Through a combination of theoretical debate and field research, this thesis asserts that tacit knowledge is embedded in social capital which is itself acknowledged as the principal source of all human and information capital within organisations. Corporate citizenship programs have a pivotal role to ensure and sustain the flow of social capital and knowledge between organisations and the communities in which they are embedded. Drawing on the prior established connection between social capital and tacit knowledge, the thesis establishes that corporate community involvement by employees has the potential to develop or enhance the propensity to trust, leading to greater effectiveness in teams. Multinational Banks are widely viewed as the agents of transnational capital. The Australian banking sector has also been under constant community pressure in Australia because of rising fees and charges and a few prominent scandals. Using secondary data, practices in one Canadian bank are compared to corresponding programs at two major Australian banks to gauge relative investment strategies in social capital generation. This thesis then proceeds to present primary research data on corporate citizenship practices in two Australian banking institutions, one an Australian multinational bank and the other a self-styled 'community' bank. Literature surveyed on corporate citizenship and community involvement has not revealed awareness by corporations of the possibilities of community involvement by employees as being sources of new knowledge, skills, creativity and innovation. This is further confirmed by the field research which showed communication as being a major hurdle internally and externally. This thesis shows that in the knowledge era where learning organizations will have a definite competitive advantage, structured employee involvement in corporate community initiatives can yield long lasting dividends and sustainable competitive advantage in terms of knowledge acquisition. This can be made possible by investment in social capital of local communities and societies through employee involvement. In turn this can aid recruitment, morale and retention of staff. However, a new approach, perhaps a new 'state of mind' needs to be cultivated in business enterprises and in the business education programs of business schools worldwide.