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Engaging Communities: Common Pitfalls, Uncommon Opportunities


Eversole, R, Engaging Communities: Common Pitfalls, Uncommon Opportunities, Corporate Social Responsibility and Sustainability: Contemporary Perspectives, Pearson Malaysia, M Nejati, A Quazi & A Amran (ed), Malaysia, pp. 99-108. ISBN 978-967-349-672-3 (2015) [Research Book Chapter]

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Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities often require organisations to work beyond their own boundaries and those of their supply chains to engage with other kinds of social actors. This chapter discusses this process of engaging external ‘stakeholders’ or ‘communities’ and how to do it effectively. It presents a simple framework for analysing the nature of relationships between a corporate organisation and external communities, and it describes four common pitfalls in community-engagement efforts and their consequences. Finally, this chapter provides guidance as to how to capture the value that can be added to organisations through effective community engagement.

The process of engagement with external stakeholders and communities is increasingly of interest to a broad range of organisations internationally. Across many different fields, it has been argued that effectively engaging with external communities can generate real benefits for organisations: from private corporations to government bodies and not-for-profits. Private companies can identify new product or market opportunities and build their reputational capital in the communities where they work. Government and non-governmental organisations can avoid inefficiencies in service delivery, grow their reputation and legitimacy, and identify local resources to support their missions. Regardless of the type of organisation, engaging with external communities has the potential to reveal untapped resources and stimulate innovative practice.

In the 21st century, it would be difficult to find an organisation of any size or influence that does not, at least in principle, recognise the value of building relationships with external stakeholders and communities. Nevertheless, the language of community engagement is imprecise, and the art of engagement is still poorly understood. This chapter explores why communities may be difficult to engage, and why corporate organisations may repeatedly fail to reap real benefits from engagement efforts. It then suggests some guidelines for achieving effective community engagement, and what effective engagement might look like.

The chapter begins by defining ‘community engagement’ as the intentional creation of relationships between a corporate organisation and other, external organisations and communities: relationships which may be developed for a range of instrumental and normative ends, with a range of characteristics. Drawing upon analyses of community-engagement efforts by government and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), the chapter argues that engagement relationships can be analysed with reference to the motivation and influence of each party in the relationship, and the institutional turf upon which the relationship occurs. These characteristics are central to whether or not external stakeholders are effectively engaged and whether or not the relationship creates a value-add for the organisations concerned.

Item Details

Item Type:Research Book Chapter
Keywords:Community engagement; stakeholder relations; corporate social responsibility; innovation
Research Division:Human Society
Research Group:Anthropology
Research Field:Anthropology of development
Objective Division:Economic Framework
Objective Group:Management and productivity
Objective Field:Management
UTAS Author:Eversole, R (Professor Robyn Eversole)
ID Code:102077
Year Published:2015
Deposited By:Institute for Regional Development
Deposited On:2015-07-27
Last Modified:2017-03-28

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