The best way to gain insight into an industry is by talking to people that work in and among it every day.
So we spoke with community engagement strategist Phil Preston – an attendee of Benojo’s first corporate roundtable session who caught our attention with his discerning comments – to talk shop. He shared a little about his work and views on social impact and the corporate sector.
What do you define as effective community engagement?
Effective community engagement is when there is alignment of interest between businesses and the people they touch. It’s about working hand-in-hand rather than going head-to-head.
What do you think are the most important considerations for businesses when it comes to CSR?
The term CSR is quite broad and I’ve found it can mean different things to different people. The best place for a business to start is to review its various social initiatives or touch points, and assess the societal impact and business value generated by each one.
Making a conscious decision about a business’s ‘portfolio’ of social initiatives is the main goal. Companies are increasingly reviewing their portfolios, shedding the less strategic activities and building on the more strategic ones.
You help businesses better understand the link between social impact and increasing profit. What are the fundamental principles of this?
All sustainable partnerships are based on a mutual exchange of value, even our personal ones! My role is to help businesses and communities/non-profits to find exchanges of value that create new opportunities or address needs they have. If we can find win-win outcomes, we create reinforcing relationships.
How big a role do you think an engaging employee volunteer program has to productivity, retention and workplace satisfaction?
Volunteering programs can be incredibly important – provided they are well targeted for the employee segment in question. Giving everyone access to the same program may not be effective in some workplaces, and we need to drill down and create a range of community engagement opportunities.
Do you view collaboration – between businesses, their staff and charities – as an essential component of successful CSR?
In short, yes. The challenge is to make sure all the moving parts come together in a harmonious way. In larger companies, there are many internal stakeholders to satisfy, such as the CEO, product owners, the CSR team, corporate affairs and HR.
Anything you’d like to add?
I’d put the challenge out there for every employee, manager or executive: how can you use community engagement strategies to improve the way your company performs and increase your own level of personal fulfilment?
Does your business have a community engagement strategy in place? What is it? Please share it with us below.
Learn more about Phil’s work here.