Collaborative Community Development: A Guide for Managers

Collaborative Community Development: A Guide for Managers

Apply collaborative community development to boost the social legitimacy of your firm and drive regional sustainability in communities where you operate. 
Verónica Devenin January 9, 2017

How Companies Can Support Their Regions and Increase Social Legitimacy

Guide for Managers
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For companies with high social and environmental impacts, success is tightly linked to the sustainability of the regions in which they operate. As they pursue regional sustainability, companies are learning that short-term, transactional relations benefit neither their business nor the communities over the long term.

A New Model for Community Relations

Collaborative community development is a model for companies to create shared value and develop healthy, long-term relationships with their stakeholders. This approach has three main characteristics: 
Collaborative community development provides companies with a clear and effective structure for involvement in sustainable development. The results benefit business and community.

Collaborating for Sustainable Growth in Chile

This guide is based on extensive research on two case studies in Chile. One case examines the Chilean city of Antofagasta, which experienced explosive economic growth as a result of a mining boom. But, this success led to pressure on services that the city was unprepared for. Compromised transport, services, and quality of life not only burdened the local community, but challenged companies in their efforts to draw on and retain talented workers, who saw the city as unattractive.

After conventional CSR attempts failed, a large mining company in the area initiated a collaborative community development effort that would systemically address the socio-economic impacts of the mining boom and the living experience for workers. The company built an alliance with local government and 12 other companies from various sectors. The alliance invested in high-quality participatory forums to engage the entire community of Antofagasta.

This initiative, Creo Antofgasta, developed a portfolio of long-term projects to promote the city’s sustainable urban development, focusing on seven areas of action including land use & growth, public space & green space, and economic diversification.

Collaborative Community Development vs. Conventional Approach

The chart below details how collaborative community development differs from traditional corporate community relations efforts.


Traditional Community Relations

Collaborative Community Development

Coordination Each company operates its own community relations plan. Collaborative governance engages diverse stakeholders in project definition, development, and management.
Interaction/Bond with Community  Companies have transactional interactions, resulting in an instrumental, fleeting bond with communities. E.g. "I give you something; you accept me." Companies establish constructive, massive, and repeated collaborative interaction, creating a lasting bond.
Time Horizon Projects are short term, usually one year long, consistent with each company's annual planning cycle. Companies commit to a constructive, massive, and repeated collaborative interaction with a long-term focus.
Relationship Focus Companies have relationships with individual stakeholders, based on a business risk analysis. The core relationship is between multiple companies and the territory, which is analyzed as a whole system.

A New Governance Structure

Collaborative governance is implemented with a high-level governing body that functions as a “board” and usually includes representatives from government, the private sector, and the community. A collaborative intermediary organization (CIO) manages the day-to-day activities of the collaborative initiative and project portfolio.

Figure 1. The Collaborative Intermediary Organization's Coordination Role

What's Included in this Guide

This guide draws on extensive research to help you chart your journey with collaborative community development. The guide explains when collaborative community development is appropriate, and provides detailed guidance on how to implement it. Case studies of other companies' experience illustrate the concepts.

Who Should Read this Guide

This approach is particularly relevant for companies that Managers seeking to strengthen their communities and increase their firm's social legitimacy will find this guide valuable. Community stakeholders who wish to work with businesses on sustainable development will also find useful tips on how to make their initiatives successful.

About this Research

This research was inspired by the Leadership Council of the Network for Business Sustainability Chile (CBS). NBS Chile is Network for Business Sustainability (NBS) hub for Latin America. The report is an extension of larger empirical research authored by Dr. Verónica Devenin, at the University Adolfo Ibañez (Chile), with guidance from members of the CBS Leadership Council. 


Guide for Managers
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Related Resources


A new model for community relations puts a new emphasis on territory. Use this primer to drive sustainability in communities where your firm operates.

Verónica Devenin
Case Study

The Chilean city of Antofagasta is using participatory design to work with companies and government to create a community people want to live in.

Verónica Devenin
Case Study

Mining firms, government, and the Chilean community of Calama collaborate to develop a sustainable urban development plan.

Verónica Devenin
Executive Report

A systematic approach to stakeholder engagement, like the one outlined in this guide, can bring genuine business benefits.