By Gavin Tolentino

It sounds like a desk-nap dream: You, bonding with coworkers as you make a difference in the world together, while your workplace and reputation in the community get better and better. 

Not only is this possible, says Odyssey Teams, it’s what they’ve been doing for companies for nearly 30 years, by facilitating team-building events with a socially responsible outcome. At the recent Planner Master Class at San Francisco’s Aquarium by the Bay, the question was not whether Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) works, but how to implement a CSR plan that maximizes mutual, lasting benefits to a workplace and its community.

Leading our roundtable was Kim Clary, Odyssey’s Director of Client Success. She and more than 70 event professionals shared these Do’s and Don’ts of a well-planned CSR event, and how to inspire staff participants in a life-changing way to strategically improve a company: 


  1. Speak in depth: with participants to formulate your CSR plan. Understand what is personally meaningful to them, and identify a common, community-supportive purpose.
  2. Plan a multi-layered activity: to enable specific workplace improvements. Can merging departments use this opportunity to gel? Do you want to encourage leadership or teamwork with specific staff members? Or inspire a culture change or new awareness? Be deliberate when assigning tasks, teams, and seating.
  3. Get out of the office: Host the event in a business-neutral environment where office roles don’t apply.
  4. Witness your work: Create a lifelong memory by interacting with the beneficiaries of your efforts. For example, if your team is building toys for children, have the children on-hand to receive the toys and play together with participants.
  5. Designate time to reflect: After the event ask participants to share their experiences and explore deeper meanings.


  1. Simply “check the CSR box”: A company may have a mandatory ‘volunteer service day’ with a pre-selected organization, or allow staff to participate in unrelated causes on their own. Although positive, this strategy misses out on the wealth of benefits a team-building CSR event can provide.
  2. Create a plan contingent on other factors: For example, “If we reach this financial goal, we will use the extra money to support a cause,” or “If we complete this project ahead of schedule we will use the extra time to volunteer.” Have an organized structure yielding guaranteed outcomes.
  3. Have beneficiaries witness the entire process: It’s not always necessary to have community members or beneficiaries looking over the shoulders of staff participants. Their presence may potentially alter the team-building benefits of trial, error, and problem solving.
  4. Confuse corporate branding with community support: The perception between helping a community, and using a community to promote your company takes a delicate balance. Giving time and energy to a cause your participants genuinely care about will show.

Examples of successful CSR initiatives from attendees:

  1. A company had an employee whose child was disabled. The staff chose to help build an inclusive playground in their area, in conjunction with the Magical Bridge Foundation, and it is a source of inspiration and pride they hold dear.
  2. One of many workshops Odyssey Teams offer is called Helping Hands, where teams build prosthetic hands for people without the medical or financial means to acquire one. When participants see their prosthetic hands being used, there is a strong emotional connection they will always remember.
  3. A staff’s mutual passion was music, so they partnered with a youth organization and spent a day creating fun, original songs with children. A contest was held to see which staff-child team was the best, with the winning child awarded their favorite instrument. At the end of the event, every child was surprised with an instrument of their choice, and the kids were overjoyed.

Numerous companies and studies have proven that a successful and righteous business can achieve a mythical reputation, because they have mastered the complicated trifecta of being profitable, having happy, productive employees, and doing something good for the world. Planning a CSR event based on team-building and good-will can help a company achieve these ever-fleeting goals.

Gavin owns an event production firm in San Francisco and has managed events in the Bay Area for 18 years.