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Community Engagement

Companies operate within geographic communities, and are potentially associated with many other communities via employees, suppliers, board members, and others who come into contact with the business.

Negative consequences of corporate activity can damage both community and company. With global online networks, bad news spreads fast and activists can recruit support quickly.

By acknowledging and engaging with all stakeholders, and by being actively involved in and supporting communities, companies can enhance their working environment and mitigate and/or prevent customer/consumer backlash against their brand.


Dead-Set Winners (low cost/effort - every company should do these)

Business

  • Keep the local community informed about your operations
  • Employ local people
  • Respect Aboriginal people's association with the land when considering developments
  • Consider the impact of your operations or developments on indigenous people, in Australia and overseas
  • Consider how local people might be affected by a development, and strive not to have a negative impact on them
  • If it is not possible to reduce rates, be willing to negotiate on payment plans
  • Consider potential negative impacts or misuses of your product and take steps to address them (and consider the potential for different impacts on different communities)
  • Make your products accessible to all, including people with disabilities, those who are illiterate or financially illiterate and the elderly
  • Establish basic partnerships with community groups: offer your premises as a collection point for donations of money, food or Christmas gifts; sponsor a community group's events; donate money to a community group; encourage your employees to volunteer for community groups in their own time, particularly by joining a board
  • Support disadvantaged customers; consider initiatives like offering special rates and being willing to negotiate payment plans
  • Offer any office equipment you are disposing of/replacing to a community group that might need it (items such as computers, boardroom tables, chairs or filing cabinets)
  • Communicate your CR strategy to the wider community
  • Donate unsold goods to community groups
Staff
  • Enable staff to donate money to community groups through payroll deductions
  • Give employees time off to volunteer for community organisations
  • Many community groups are run by people who have full time jobs themselves. Give staff time off in lieu of time they have volunteered after hours or at weekends, so those groups don't miss out.
  • Allow staff time off for tasks like volunteering at their child's school, coaching their child's sports team or supporting the local neighbourhood house
  • Encourage and facilitate employee trips for donations to the blood bank
  • Provide a suggestion box where staff can offer ideas about how your company could better engage with communities


Good Practice (require moderate investment and will provide moderate return)

Business

  • Offer products, services and expertise at reduced rates to community groups and disadvantaged customers
  • Offer training and/or work experience to people from disadvantaged groups, especially those who live locally
  • Where possible, use locally-produced resources and/or resources produced by disadvantaged groups. Click here to see an example of a Social Purchasing Policy.
  • Invest in the community in ways that counter any negative impacts of your business
  • Ensure people with disabilities can access your business
  • Ensure your products are accessible to people with disabilities
  • Involve customers in your CR initiatives - your example can encourage them to be socially responsible, and interacting with customers on this different level can strengthen your relationship
  • Establish medium-level partnerships with community groups: have a regular whole-of-business volunteering program; make in-kind donations to community groups; offer your services pro bono or at discounted rates; offer work experience to people from local community groups
  • Support community group boards with your whole-of-business volunteering program - encourage employees to volunteer their time on the board of a community group, and ensure your human resources representative or department recognises the developing expertise of those who do
  • Monitor your community investment initiatives to ensure they are producing the desired outcomes for community groups. For a structured benchmarking program see the London Benchmarking Group Australia and New Zealand.
  • Loan your facilities or equipment to a community group/s
  • Make your advertising as authentic as possible - do not mislead
  • Ensure any promotion of motor vehicles does not encourage speeding or other irresponsible driving
  • Engage in dialogue with those stakeholders you consider most important
  • Encourage and support the development of local businesses

Staff

  • Involve employees in running your community partnerships - it will give them a break from regular tasks and a chance to exercise their creativity
  • Offer to match staff donations
  • Match staff volunteering - if they are prepared to contribute a day in their own time, offer them a day (or more) on your time as well


Cutting Edge (high cost/effort with high returns)

  • Create and/or market an affordable product that people living in poverty are in need of. Pitching a product at the large "bottom of the pyramid" market can help alleviate poverty and also puts community engagement at the heart of your operations.
  • Establish a grants program for community groups that do not have deductible gift recipient status - they find it difficult to obtain grants elsewhere
  • Donate a percentage of your profit to groups that work on alleviating chronic disadvantage (see the Addressing Systemic Disadvantage Pyramid)
  • Establish high-end partnerships with community groups: send some of your staff on a knowledge-sharing secondment to a community group (the local neighbourhood house might benefit from advice from someone who works in accounts, or the local scout group might benefit from some human resources expertise); provide staff on a long-term secondment to a community group or provide enough funding to pay for a staff member; encourage some of your staff to act as mentors to members of a community group; share or donate your premises for use of a community group; commit to a training and hiring program with a community group that supports disadvantaged people
  • Engage in dialogue with all stakeholders
  • Consider the short, medium and long-term effects on the community of downsizing or withdrawing from an area, alongside economic and logistical considerations. Do what you can to reduce negative impacts.


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Our Community Pty Ltd   www.ourcommunity.com.au   ABN 24 094 608 705
National Headquarters: 51 Stanley St, West Melbourne Victoria 3003 Australia
(PO Box 354 North Melbourne 3051 Victoria)
Telephone (03) 9320 6800   Fax (03) 9326 6859   Email service@ourcommunity.com.au