How to create brand ambassadors, with Shared Value through implementing projects focused on social change!

Laura Potgieter  |  28 December 2021

Business leaders increasingly recognise the value of this practice both to their companies and to the communities in which they operate. The information gained from the research is used to strengthen their operations, to engage with their communities more effectively, and to foster dialogue with governments and policymakers.

Shared value is a way to create business solutions to social and environmental issues. It involves applying the skills, innovations, and resources of an organisation to problems that are relevant to its business. In shared value, the goal is to build collaborations between government, businesses, and other stakeholders. Social challenges are often expected to be addressed by businesses.

In DevCom’s experience, shared value constitutes one of the most powerful practices that companies can utilise to fulfil their objectives, since it drives societal change by leveraging the core business to enhance the competitive context in key regions where the company operates. Shared value is a management strategy in which businesses generate economic value while also adding social value. By embracing the value framework for social change, this enables businesses to gain a competitive edge and increase profits.

Development programmes can never be fully realised without mobilising people and communities as agents of change. We’ve gained extensive experience through research and implementation of programmes over the past 16 years, we know that without local people taking ownership of the changes that the programme requires, sustainable impact is not possible and this links to ABCD as an implementation tool and Poverty Stoplight as a measurement tool.

Communicating with stakeholders about the socio-economic impact of business:

The purpose of stakeholder management is to identify and understand all individuals, businesses, governments, internal stakeholders, shareholders, and other stakeholders associated with or affected by your project or organisation.

Stakeholder management involves:

  • Building trust between all stakeholders
  • Understanding stakeholders’ needs, concerns, and priorities
  • Providing opportunities for feedback and encouraging participation in decision making processes
  • Ensuring that this feedback and needs are reflected in decisions
  • Fulfilling statutory and moral obligations (to keep people informed or seek their feedback)

Communicating authentically means more than producing a well thought through external communications campaign. This also means that those with experience of an issue should be at the centre of organisations advocating for them (and ideally in leadership positions within those organisations). Strong buy-in at all levels of the organisation, effective leadership, investment and a commitment to embed and live out a values-driven approach builds credibility, which is significant alongside carefully crafted external communications.

A ‘meaningful’ stakeholder engagement process builds a proactive two-way process between the organisation (internal audience) and the stakeholder (external audience), in which communication, opinions and proposals flow in both directions and where the organisation is willing to change its behaviour because of engagement. The process is not linear; rather it is an interactive process in which an organisation learns and improves its ability to perform meaningful stakeholder engagement while developing relationships of mutual respect, in place of one-off consultations.

Ultimately, stakeholder management (done correctly) should result in better decision making and better outcomes for all parties involved.

DevCom’s involvement with Timbali started in 2010, with stakeholder management as our brief. At that stage, the incubator had only one funder and it had limited, ad hoc communication with its stakeholders.  Timbali Technology Incubator is an agri-incubator that sets up small-scale farmers in their own businesses. In doing so, its model addresses burning national issues such as food security, land utilisation and youth unemployment. This non-profit organisation receives its funding from government, private companies, and international aid organisations.

DevCom was set specific, business-integrated targets. Our campaign had to increase operational and project funding by R250 000 to be self-funded, and our communication efforts had to realise a 15% production increase.

We designed an integrated communication campaign based on the conviction that if we empowered the internal audiences with the tools to communicate about Timbali at every opportunity they have, we would reach the funding goal without large investments in an external campaign.

We followed these steps, that have been tested and consistently show sustainable results, to incorporate development communication into the strategy:

  1. Build a strong business case
  2. Conduct a communication-based assessment (research)
  3. Design a strategy (based on the theory of change)
  4. Implementation through Asset-based Community Development
  5. Monitor and evaluate with Poverty Stoplight, KING IV

The results speak for themselves – At Timbali Technology Incubator, behaviour and attitude changes spearheaded by strategic communication, led to a production increase of 96%. Simultaneously, upwards communication flow improved with 15%; understanding of the “cost of development” grew from less than 20% of the audience to 90%; and the understanding of Timbali’s business and funding model increased from 60% to 100% (December 2012).

“Trusting internal stakeholders with your message, and equipping them to deliver it, is an extremely powerful stakeholder management strategy, as we experienced in the world of agri-incubation.” 

Mari Lee – Founder & CEO of DevCom