Our members recognised that there was significant amount of business-community engagement happening already. Yet they identified the need to increase their engagement and that of others, by growing the numbers of companies involved, making it less complicated to engage effectively at a local level and continuing to drive for best practice in cross-sector partnerships.
There was a real sense that the activities needed were not new – with many best practice examples existing – but the operational environment had changed for all and the need for increased scale to create long-term meaningful change was evident. 77% of business leaders said they could do more to scale up strategic support for communities across their business, while 80% felt they could do more to engage other businesses to scale up their support.
Although many business leaders felt that it was not clear what the key opportunities or relevance was for business in the ‘Big Society’, there was support for it as a focus for promoting and increasing the level and quality of effective local business community engagement. There were a number of areas cited as opportunities to maximise engagement and obstacles that act as disincentives, chief amongst them:
raising awareness of effective local business community engagement across sectors
better identification and support for businesses to work together on local priorities
removal of perceived red-tape structural and cultural barriers
public sector procurement as a positive lever for change
Overall, there was strong support for needs-led, collaborative action by companies at a local level and, to enable this, recognition of the need for an individual to take the lead in making the most appropriate connections between local issues and businesses. This was seen as critical to growing effective business engagement, particularly among small and medium-sized businesses.