Significant investment is being made by companies into philanthropic projects in the name of corporate social responsibility (CSR), yet many question whether these efforts are making an impact on the developmental needs of beneficiaries of such donations. As social disparity increases and countries are less able to meet development objectives, there is a growing call and need for companies to support the development goals of the state. It is proposed that using transformational methods of engagement, such as joint ventures with communities, is likely to provide better developmental outcomes, yet very few companies are currently engaging in this manner. The research asks what the current practices in community engagement for CSR are, and identifies the barriers and enablers for transformational community engagement to drive developmental outcomes.
Nineteen interviews with CSR practitioners, community beneficiaries and external experts across three business sectors, which are identified as having a community impact, were conducted. Semi-structured interviews were used to gather qualitative data which was then analysed using content and frequency analysis.
The results show that companies are using a range of transactional, transitional and transformational engagement practices, with the majority still being conducted in the philanthropic transactional manner. Institutional pressures of regulations are shown as being the strongest motivator for companies to buy-into and prioritise transformational engagement practices. The manner in which a company engages is also shown to be directly linked to their motivation for engaging. The biggest barriers to engaging communities are related to community members’ educational levels, community expectation and the internal capacity of the company to engage. The most prominent enablers of engagement relate to the building of relationships and require companies to have dedicated CSR practitioners that are able to become intimately involved in the community. This involvement results in the development of projects that both parties have a vested interest in, which is critical for long term sustainability.