“Community engagement requires intentional interactions between communities and public decision makers”(Sally Hussey, Bang the Table)
Those who are affected by an issue should be directly involved at the core of decisions that address the issue, especially since those who are impacted are the very ones who will use or engage with any proposed solutions. Not only does this approach target people’s needs more authentically, it also builds communities and develops more genuine solutions to complex issues. This may sound like common sense to some, but too often community voices are excluded from the core of decision making processes that affect them.
Engaging the opinion and feedback of the community is imperative as it can be used to gain more diverse perspectives of various stakeholders. Community members also become empowered by the involvement and responsibility as they are actively participating in the development of solutions. It also builds rapport and strengthens relationships between the community and government agencies, or any organisation delivering community engagement initiatives.
An example of an effective local community development initiative in the sports and leisure sector is Australia’s first Indigenous soccer academy in the South-West Suburbs of Sydney. Macarthur FC Bulls, situated in Campbelltown, will work with the local council and Western Sydney University to develop the academy. It aims to encourage Indiegenous youth to be part of one of the most popular sports in Australia. Club director Gino Marra states that “we will work with the Indigenous community, which is what the community wanted in our feedback”. An excellent example of using community feedback to identify local priorities.
On a global scale, ESPN have introduced ESPN Citizenship, their corporate citizenship arm that aims to use sport as a catalyst for social change. ESPN’s “Good Neighbour” initiative invests time and resources in communities where they live, work and play. The company has so far helped 1.3 million youth gain access to sport in the past 3 years, and have raised over $80 million since announcing the initiative in 1993. Now more than ever, it’s increasingly becoming imperative for large corporations such as ESPN to use their global prowess to address social issues, and use their vast resources to contribute to the communities they operate in – a key aspect of the social responsibility that companies have to their stakeholders.
By Riley Featherstone