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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Corporate Community Involvement: The Definitive Guide

Corporate community Involvement: The Definitive Guide to Maximising your Business' Societal Engagement

By Nick Lakin and Veronica Scheubel

Publisher: Greenleaf Publishing
ISBN 978-1-906093-33-4
This review was first published on on 20th October 2010


Companies around the world are trying to answer these questions. Many are asking the same questions even as, collectively, they continue to spend billions on their communities. How do they know which activities are really worthwhile?

Building on the authors' own extensive global experience at Nokia and E.ON, as well as the experience of many other experts in the field, this book offers the first-ever "how to" roadmap for managers on the comprehensive implementation of strategic Community Involvement inside their companies. It is designed to be practical - for those who want to act upon what they have read. It will fill a long-neglected niche as a day-to-day reference guide for practitioners.

Corporate Community Involvement demonstrates what to do and how to do it. The advice is backed up by inspiring interviews with best-in-class practitioners from businesses such as Microsoft, GlaxoSmithKline, Ericsson, and Deutsche Bank and leading international Corporate Responsibility and Community Involvement experts. The book highlights proven best-practice approaches, effective methods, and concise tools to help managers "get there faster" and get it right first time."


Corporate Community Involvement (CCI) needs to be a part of every sustainable business strategy. A well thought through approach to CCI delivers true value that may be hard to achieve through other business activities. A quick flick through a few corporate sustainability reports will tell you that this is the section where most companies go to town, eager to relate how they are supporting local communities, how many employees are volunteering, what community partnerships they have created, and last but not least, how much money they have donated. This is usually the most colorful section of the report, and contains pictures of many people smiling. Rarely do we see a strongly strategic approach to corporate community involvement and rarely do we see any account of the outcomes of such activities. Companies are all too willing to recount what they did, but few evaluate the outcomes of what they did. Almost none cover the processes they applied to establish their CCI initiatives. With all this investment in CCI, wouldn't you think companies would spend a little more time and energy actually planning their CCI program so that it that delivers full strategic value rather than just a theoretical reputation boost? That's where Nick Lakin and Veronica Scheubel come in. Their book, Corporate Community Involvement: The Definitive Guide to Maximising your Business' Societal Engagement is the most comprehensive guide ever written to help companies and their internal CCI leaders do just this.

The authors have significant experience as CCI practitioners, Nick Lakin having set up the global CCI practice at E.ON, one of the world largest power and gas companies, and Veronica Scheubel having established and managed Nokia's global community program in more than 20 countries. Together they have developed a high-res guide book about how to conceive, plan, develop and manage Corporate Community Investment programs.

The book's 11 chapters start with how to develop a CCI program, build the organizational structure needed to put this in place, manage the budget and integrate CCI with other departments in the business such as Marketing and Operations. On the way, they explore the difference between a foundation and other charitable spending and ways to develop an approach for disaster relief. They continue with implementation tools, cross-sector collaboration guidelines, employee involvement, measuring success and internal communications. The book ends up with a look at challenges and change management. Woven into the different chapters are deep-dive interviews with senior practitioners from Shell, Telefonica, Ericsson, IBM, Deutsche Bank, Microsoft and IBLF (International Business Leaders Forum). The detail in this book is incredible, providing models, tools, frameworks, checklists, definitions, assessments and advice at every step of the way. Some are directly related to CCI programs but others are taken from more general management practice such as change models, strategic thinking frameworks, planning cycles, project management plans, SWOT analyses and more. Examples of different aspects of CCI from many other companies, small and large from around the globe illustrate the points made.

If I were to pick three key takeaways from this book, they would be:

Plan, plan, plan and plan your CCI progam. Treat it as seriously as any other business project and you will succeed. The authors say: "It entails devising a plan to achieve goals and objectives over the long term".

Use volunteering to build employee skills. The authors say that volunteering in Community Involvement projects can play an important role in employee and team skills development, helping to develop skills such as "planning and organization, leadership and management, effective communication, team-working, motivation and involvement of people, time management, creativity and innovation, diversity awareness, budget management, measurement and monitoring." I believe this is right and that these aspects of CCI have been largely disregarded by the HR departments in most companies.

Measurement and evaluation (of outcomes): The authors give three good examples of programs from Nike, Nokia and Adobe in which actual impacts were evaluated, rather than just the inputs and activities of the company. This is a critical point. It is not enough measure your involvement in the community. You have to measure the difference you make in the community.

This book speaks head on to those charged with developing CCI programs. For the novices, it holds their hand at each twist and turn. For the more experienced, it answers all the questions they have come across in their efforts to date, and provides new insights and approaches. There is much in this book that can help CCI Managers do it better. If they use it, we all benefit.

elaine cohen, CSR consultant, Sustainabilty Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices  Contact me via on Twitter or via my website

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