Getting hands dirty is part of the plan
From planting trees to erecting school buildings in the baking heat, employees at Plan Group are encouraged to get out of the comforts of the office and help people in remote communities
- Published: 9/09/2013 at 11:42 AM
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Social activities are nothing new to Plan Group, which has developed a deep-rooted organisational philosophy and working culture embracing the spirit of community service.
The group - comprising 16 companies specialising in areas such as architecture, knowledge management and media services - has its aims firmly focused on growth and service to society.
Executives and staff at Plan Group set off on foot to join a reforestation programme. PHOTO COURTESY OF PLAN
“We pay attention to business and society and we do what we are skilled at,” says Sunjai Poolsrub, managing director of Plan Motif Co, a museum-operating subsidiary.
Founders and owners of the group consider themselves staff in putting together projects for good social causes, she added.
The group's social activities have mostly been pioneered by its seven founders, who graduated in architecture and design.
In 1989, it established the Plan Arsa volunteer project to build school buildings for Wat Chan School in Nakhon Sri Thammarat after the school was damaged by floods in 1988.
Plan Arsa continued to help other schools damaged by natural disasters, such as Wat Don Kudi School in Chumphon, which was battered by Typhoon Gay in 1990.
The group's founders are former political activists from the student-led October uprising of 1973. Their quest is for social equality in the country.
They have adopted a “work camp” philosophy since their days at Chulalongkorn University.
As students, they went to remote villages and helped build schools. It was to be their core work when they formed Plan Architect Co, the group's first company.
Boonrit Kordilokrat, managing director of another subsidiary, Plan Associates Co, says the group values the importance of people in addition to providing opportunities to expand individuals' capacities.
“Work camps not only help locals but also ourselves, as it opens us up to the world,” he says.
“We get to see the disparities between city and rural people. City people like us should go out to help rural people.”
The camps, now underway in many provinces, let the staff roll up their sleeves and get their hands dirty while doing something useful for others.
They can put their professional skills to good use, such as by erecting buildings, which is a far cry from their usual air-conditioned offices.
“The kind of social assistance we offer happens naturally,” Mr Boonrit says.
After the financial crisis of 1997, the group's social activities branched out into non-pool projects carried out by subsidiary firms which used their expertise in specific social projects.
Any staff individually joining the work camp needs to take annual leave to do so, but if a group of staff joins in, their time spent at the camp will be counted as a working day.
The pool projects include work camps requiring collective help from staff and which are guided by company policies.
Among Plan's major pool activities were projects to help victims of the 2004 tsunami and the 2011 Central Plains flood.
The longest-running and possibly largest pool activity is Plan Loves Forests Project, a reforestation programme which has held annual activities since 2004.
They plant trees in a denuded area of the 5,000-rai Phoo Long Forest in Chaiyaphum. The project has planted over 43,000 trees on about 118 rai.
For non-pool activities, individual subsidiary firms employ their own specialised skills to create and run specific social projects.
Many of them are carried out by Plan Creations Co, a subsidiary that designs and produces non-toxic toys under the PlanToys brand.
Ms Sunjai, who started working at the group with Plan Creations before moving to Plan Motif, says the subsidiary built and launched PlanToys' Children's Museum in Trang, which is also the location of its toy factory, the Children and Community Club, the Sarnsaeng-Arun Foundation and recently the Mom-made Toys project.
The Mom-made Toys project is a cooperation between PlanToys and advertising agency Lowe (Thailand). Local designers, engineers, child specialists and mothers are brought together to create toys suitable for children with special needs such as those with autism, cerebral palsy and visual impairment.
The project has produced 20,000 toys, 17,000 of which have been donated to children in Thailand and overseas.
This year the company will run the Toy Tiew Thai project in which volunteers invited through Facebook will deliver the remaining 3,000 toys to child centres or schools for children with special needs.
“We call it social activity. This goes beyond the Corporate Social Responsibility concept,” Mr Boonrit says.
The group thinks about social projects in an educational dimension and attempts to craft concrete solutions to inequality, he adds.
“If this idea is adopted as a corporate culture, our staff will be highly valued by society,” he says.
About the author
- Writer: Kanana Katharangsiporn
Position: Business Reporter