Social entrepreneurs rely on hearing from the local community. They create better solutions when local stakeholders share their knowledge, opinions, and lived experiences to shape social impact solutions. Social impact places a lot of focus on this aspect, realizing that local stakeholders should be involved in solutions crafted for a concern within the community and how effective it is in the long term.
Getting information makes a significant difference for people who have to make decisions, like social entrepreneurs. You know who else has to make decisions?
The local stakeholders.
Local stakeholders decide what information to share, what solutions they’re willing to participate in, what feedback to give a social impact initiative, and even more decisions that affect their lives. Since the community also has so many decisions to make, they also need to feel well informed. Communication is a two-way street not only in giving information, but receiving information.
Why Staying in Touch is Important
A solution to keeping local stakeholders well informed is to stay in touch. Open communication helps everyone know where a situation or scenario currently stands, which empowers people to make decisions on how they’d like to move forward.
You know this, but may wonder: Do I need to “stay in touch?” Can’t I just “notify” local stakeholders when something actually happens?
Well, for starters, miscommunication can spark distrust, and miscommunication can arise at any time.
It’s similar to marketing a business or developing a friendship. In those two scenarios, you don’t only communicate when something is happening to have a solid bond. A solid bond is built by nurturing communication and updating information even if it’s nothing urgent. Without this, there could be assumptions, uncertainty, or knowledge gaps that ruin the message for whomever is on the other side of your communication.
For social entrepreneurship, advocates nurture and update communications with local stakeholders. It helps solutions thrive, benefiting the community and the initiative.
5 Ways to Stay in Touch
Now that you’re more certain about how important it is to inform local stakeholders, you can start exploring how you’ll go about doing so. Every relationship between a community and an initiative is different, much like every relationship between two people is different. Your initiative has a task to find what’s most useful for the work you’re doing with the impacted community.
Here are 5 ways to stay in touch with the local Community:
Social media (Instagram, Facebook, TikTok)
Social media is part of almost any communication strategy. Society connects using platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok to stay updated on the latest happenings around the world. Your initiative can communicate with local stakeholders through social media regularly while building an audience.
Newsletters allow you to get directly to local stakeholders by greeting them in their inbox. People typically have daily, weekly, or monthly newsletters, so local stakeholders won’t be surprised at how regularly you contact them if taking this route. You can plan how you’ll share updates through your newsletter, but it’s also a great chance to share education and resources with local stakeholders.
Community Chat Tools (Discord, Zoom, Google Meet)
Most people like to hop on and participate in group conversations, like Discord and Google Meet. If they don’t participate, they at least pop in to listen to what’s going on and see who is participating. Some local stakeholders may have a better comfort level with being present for discussions rather than speaking, which is why tools with poll features like Zoom come in handy. Community Chat Tools allow local stakeholders to show up in a way that works for them, such as answering a poll question instead of having to speak.
SMS text (SimpleTexting, TextMagic)
SMS text tools, like SimpleTexting and TextMagic, allow you to send simple campaigns. Connecting to an audience through text is still relatively new, but it’s shown to be effective at guiding quick communication. Meaning, you’ll want updates and check-ins to be short and sweet. A small message from your initiative could brighten up someone’s day or it could remind them that your initiative does care for the community beyond the project you work on.
From casual talks to town halls, talking is perhaps a tried and true method for staying in contact. Talking is a classic way to communicate, and also needs to be done with care. This method probably requires the most skill as talking can take a left turn if miscommunication or a poor delivery happen in real-time. Luckily, talking is one of the things people have the most experience in, so it can be done well if everyone is willing to work together and keep an open mind.
To wrap up the list, remember this small and important note:****
If you use methods that require you to directly message/ contact local stakeholders, make sure the community has the opportunity to opt-in and opt-out.
Finding What Works for the Community & Your Organization
Similar to what was mentioned about the Community Chat Tools option, you want to allow local stakeholders to show up in a way that works for them and a communication method your initiative can keep up with. You don’t need to commit your team to publish a daily newsletter if your initiative doesn’t have the capacity for it and if the community tells you they’d rather use Facebook.
The main goal of staying in touch is that doing so helps create a more personable bond and a positive perception of each other.
If you decide to start planning your communications today, you may want to think about the following questions to narrow down what you’ll do to stay in touch with the community:
- Does everyone in the community have access to the same technology?
- What channels and platforms do people in the community use most?
- Do you want to segment your communications? (ex. general community, community leaders, and neighborhoods)
- What languages does the communication need to be in?
- Do you need to build a separate team dedicated to communicating with locals, or will a team member take on that role?
- What level of commitment can your team give towards communications with local stakeholders?
- Does your team want to use multiple methods to stay in touch with local stakeholders?