by Scott Cameron, President/CEO
The space where corporate ideals and motivations match up with community priorities doesn’t have to be a mystical and imaginary concept. Companies that are clear on their vision for community investments need to invest in engagement strategies within their organization and with the local community to identify opportunities that are a fit for both. Just as the corporate sector needs clarity on the scope and direction of their primary business, so too do they need clarity on their role in supporting community – there is a diminishing return on investment in trying to be all things to all people. This post will explore the need for companies to build a community investment strategy that brings together priorities through both corporate and community engagement processes, leading to a sweet spot where meaningful partnerships and initiatives can be beneficial to both.
A sustainable community engagement strategy starts inside the organization; knowing what success looks like for the corporation is key. Sometimes motivated by personal experiences within the leadership team, or drawn from data and observations from the world around them, corporations need to agree on what’s important when it comes to community priorities.
An effective engagement strategy within your organization can be transformational for your corporate culture, and create an environment of caring individuals at all levels. A poorly facilitated engagement strategy can have the opposite effect.
An effective corporate engagement strategy gathers insights and perspectives from across the organization and provides leadership the opportunity to build a community engagement strategy that reflects the organization at all levels. Once completed, the corporate priorities for community engagement will be something that binds the organization toward common objectives.
Welcome to the world of complex relationships, history and competing values! An effective community engagement strategy needs to take into consideration all that has happened prior to corporate involvement – including the acknowledgement that community organizations continue to struggle and compete for limited resources. A new player in this community can often be viewed like a fat zebra at the watering hole – everyone will want a piece of the action.
While the corporate engagement strategy will help to focus the corporation’s community engagement priorities, there tends to be ample competition for resources within specific priority areas – whether that be sports, the arts, human services or the environment. A well designed community engagement strategy will bring focus, transparency and accountability to any future relationships with the community.
The Sweet Spot
The processes of corporate and community engagement will ultimately lead to a list of priorities for both – where they match is known as the sweet spot. This is the logical place for corporations to make community investments; where relationships and partnerships can emerge and both parties find satisfaction in the results and outcomes.
The sweet spot isn’t limited to financial resource allocation – it’s a place where a multitude of opportunities exist for staff engagement, business opportunities and sustainable community change.
As a corporate entity, the business priority needs to be the business operations themselves – the community investment strategy represents a voluntary space designed to influence positive local change, create goodwill within the community, and position the company for sustained development.
Represented by the small black triangle, the first image (Figure 2) represents a leadership role for the corporation – a space where the company itself is assuming responsibility for the outcomes. This first figure might be representative of an initiative that employs community resources for mutual benefit, or an employee-driven initiative designed to improve quality of life in the community.
The second image represents a partnership or collaboration that positions the corporation at the table with community. In this case, the company has a shared leadership role wherein their voice is one of many and the company participates by offering insights or resources toward a set of shared outcomes.
Finally, the third image acknowledges that the community may have initiatives that the company isn’t necessarily involved with, but may structure its operations in support of a broader community vision.
Each of these role options may emerge through the identification of the sweet spot – the intersection of corporate and community priorities.
How we can help
bassa Social Innovations are a full service consulting firm with over 30 years’ experience in strategic planning, research, evaluation and reporting in human services. We can add value to your current CSR program and help to position your company or government department to achieve the results and outcomes you desire.
By investing in engagement processes, greater certainty, clarity and purpose emerge. Skilled in a variety of engagement methods, bassa Social Innovations can plan and execute your internal and external engagement strategies to ensure you’re company achieves the outcomes it intends through its community investment strategy.