Parts 1 and 2 in this 3-part review address the reality of community-based risks and their likely threat to private sector operations.
Societies are the convergent point for the majority of risks that companies face. Moreover, companies operating in frontier markets face the greatest challenges and threats from local communities. In austere environments, social tensions and grievances are flamed by adverse political organizations, activist networks, and extremist groups as communities seek to preserve their identity and long-term security. Therefore, community engagement is critical to achieve stability and profitability in today’s interconnected global environment. Without it, corporations cannot establish or maintain a social license to operate, which puts their production, infrastructure, and personnel at risk.
By focusing on security protocols and corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategies, as detailed in part 2 of this series, companies cannot develop early warning mechanisms to detect impending threats to their operations. Simply put, a purely reactive, defensive community engagement posture will ultimately fail. Most of the strategies implemented by companies, operating in austere environments, are at best ineffective, and at worst, counterproductive making community engagement actually more difficult. Fortunately, there are solutions that are already proven to be more effective.
First, companies must identify, through an appropriate methodological approach, the systemic drivers of instability and key narratives that resonate with the greatest segments of the population at large and within local communities. With key narratives and drivers identified, effective communications plans and engagement strategies are designed to help mitigate the potential challenges and identify opportunities that lie within the human geography. The combination of population-centric analysis, unconventional warfare strategies, and social media monitoring that ENODO Global utilizes can pinpoint the underlying tensions that exist within societies that provoke unrest.
Second, companies must design and implement community-based communications and engagement strategies to counter negative messaging and actions associated with disenfranchised communities and extremist groups. An alternative way to look at it is that companies need to align their objectives with that of the communities where they operate. This unique combination then delivers social engagement strategies that counter negative activities and destructive messaging, and allows for channeling of resources to address grievances in an ordered, constructive manner.
In summary, companies can make substantial profits operating within any environment by forming mutually beneficial relationships with communities while providing significant opportunity for growth – monetarily, environmentally, and culturally – to those same communities where they operate. Tailored engagement strategies provide companies the tools to direct investment, mitigate potential threats to production, reduce insurance costs, manage external perceptions and safeguard reputational risk more effectively. If corporations take a proactive versus reactive approach, truly learn what drives the people of the places where they operate, and form a cooperative relationship for everyone’s benefit, they will guarantee their investments and secure their bottom line.