- Those who believe that legislative compliance is the main driver of everything they need to do
- Those who see value in having regular interactions with their communities and key stakeholders.
The first group is harder to categorise, other than that they have a narrow focus, see legislative requirements as a maximum level, and are reactive rather than proactive when it comes to dealing with external feedback. This group can include small businesses that have limited resources, which is understandable. It can also include government agencies and councils, which is much harder to understand, particularly when they have responsibilities to taxpayers, ratepayers or levy-payers. There are occasions when this approach will cost more than if an investment had been made in engagement activities, particularly when something goes wrong and the cost of putting it right is high.
Legislators who believe that engagement is important, particularly for government agencies and councils, may choose to impose standards of compliance in an expectation that low achievers will get better at it. Planned changes to the 2002 Local Government Act are a signal of what legislators believe are important. Such thinking presumes that there is value in engagement for the organisation in question and for its stakeholders. But that’s a hard sell to organisations who only see additional costs being imposed on them.
Benefits to an organisation from engagement include:
- Higher quality decision-making
- More effective and efficient service delivery
- Better management, by identifying risks early and reducing costs associated with those
- More streamlined policy and programme development
- Delivering services and outcomes that meet community needs
- Increasing community confidence in projects undertaken
- Great levels of innovation.
- Greater opportunities to participate in policy and programme development
- More open and transparent communication driving innovation
- More efficient and responsive levels of service
- Better integrated and comprehensive solutions to complex policy issues.
Organisations in the first group don’t really get this. They see additional work and compliance costs. They are fans of Tick Box compliance to a level that keeps their auditors happy. The happiness of their communities and key stakeholders isn’t afforded a similar level of priority. Community engagement is something they do because they have to.
So effective community engagement is about an aligned organisational culture. Changing the culture of organisations in the first group won’t happen overnight. But at Engagementworks we’re Rachel Hunter types (remember those Pantene advertisements of some years ago?), believing that change will happen. That’s one of the reasons we have a commitment to building strong communities of interest in engagement, and why we’ve developed a series of workshops and tools that are designed to help organisations progressively lift their engagement games. While we’re happy to help where we can, we believe that the best results will come from organisations that believe in the value of great community engagement, who own their own strategies and who are committed to delivering those.