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Is 2016 the Year of Community?


By Marianne Hughes

Could 2016 be the year when big businesses become a bigger part of local communities? It seems as we enter the new year, the brands we all recognize are prioritizing local action. But how can local action become scalable for large corporations?

We left 2015 fresh from COP21, where discussions flourished on the role of business in climate change, and so inevitably in local communities. Most recently over the festive period, we have heard about the impacts of flooding closer to home. Business in the Community wrote about the response of businesses to the flooding, showing wide contributions from brands we know such as Waitrose and the Post Office. As we enter 2016, Marks and Spencer is making bold statements, as Mike Barry, its director of sustainable business, announced that community will be put at the heart of the company's business in an article for The Guardian.

At GivingForce, our clients, such as RBS, also show bold efforts to integrate with local communities, for example with ATMs now allowing users to donate to local charities. As these local movements continue to grab our attention, we wonder if this is the sign of a clear trend that will continue into 2016?

Why is a local community focus important to corporations, and why in 2016? An obvious observation is people feel more connected to social and environmental issues that are close to home. So, we must be able to recognize businesses acting on a local level in the communities where we live. One way businesses can go about creating local impact is through their employees. Getting employees involved with the local community, whether it's through volunteering or payroll giving, fosters a connection between corporations, communities, charities and employees. In 2016 it seems the discussions about global issues must take place on a local level more than ever. BBC news reported that since COP21 we want to know what the implications of climate change will mean for us as individuals, and further for our communities.

How can big businesses make this the year of community? Are there any tools which could help to make local actions scalable? A challenge for big business to achieving local activity is how to act locally whilst being centralized nationally or internationally. For example, when employees are volunteering with regional charity partners, how can central administrators track and report on their group activities?

Our research shows that technology can help to make local actions trackable and scalable. There are a range of tools and methods which TriplePundit readers might recognize. Moving to the technology sector itself, 3p reported in 2015 that big tech corporations were under our philanthropic watch. Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to donate the majority of his Facebook shares to philanthropic causes has to be one of the most talked-about topics for the latter half of the previous year. Facebook as a corporation is trying to localize its activities, too, causing controversy in India over the Facebook basics options for rural Indian communities.

Society’s expectations and opinions on big business in local communities seem to cause much to be debated. Whilst using technology is important, a point which Mike Barry importantly makes in his article for the Guardian is that the key to local connections is through offline activities and personal connections. Technology is an enabler for local relationships. So, what are we waiting for? Let’s get offline from reading this blog post and get involved with business in the community this year!

We would be interested to hear the the views of the 3p community.

Image credit: Flickr/James

Marianne works within client relations at GivingForce. GivingForce is the corporate employee engagement portal relied upon by FTSE100 organisations. The GivingForce portal covers volunteering, matching, payroll giving and corporate donations from one employee self-service location. Administrators can log in to access real time or scheduled reports. For more information please visit our website.

3p Contributor

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