Research shows companies can engage community groups in three main ways. This guide is based on more than 200 studies and is designed to help small businesses pick the strategy that is best for them and their communities.
What Is a Community?
Communities are groups of individuals linked by issues, interactions, geography or a sense of identity. They include, but are not limited to:
- Community associations
- Sports leagues
- Online networks
- Parent-Teacher Associations
- Cancer survivors
- Environmental activists
- Religious groups
Typical Concerns of Community Groups
The following are examples of common concerns community groups have about companies operating in their area:
- Hiring Practices: Is the company hiring (or laying off) local people?
- Environmental Impact: Does the company generate air or water pollution? Do its products contain excess packaging?
- Personal Inconvenience: Does the company create traffic or parking problems? Does it give off noise or odours?
- Major Changes: Is the company opening a new building or factory?
Why Work with Community Groups?
Good relations with community groups help companies in three ways. They improve companies’:
- Decision-making: Business leaders can take community concerns into account when making business decisions. Community groups also often have valuable local knowledge, which can lead to better, even innovative, projects.
- Legitimacy: When community groups feel they have been heard, they trust a company more.
- Competitiveness: Good community relations make it easier to attract workers, as employees want to work for companies that are respected. Good community relations also reduce lawsuits and other obstacles that cause costly project delays.
Three Strategies for Working with Communities
Companies can work with community groups in three ways:
Which Is Right for You?
Step 1: Identify Your Community Groups
Identify the community groups connected to your company. Have neighbours complained about noise or environmental impacts? Have groups complained in newspapers or online? Also try to identify less visible community stakeholders. Low-income or less-educated members of the local community are less likely to complain publicly, yet responsible companies will consider their interests. Plus, an organized group could take up their cause – with more impact.
Step 2: Prioritize Your Community Groups
For each group ask yourself:
The more times you answered “yes” to the questions, the more important it is you engage this community.
Step 3: Pick the Best Engagement Strategy
For your highest priority community groups, answer the following statements: