Investing in Community Vitality

Successful entrepreneurs understand the crucial role that their community plays in the growth and sustainability of their business. It is a relationship characterized by reciprocity, integral to the makeup of our entire working environment. Once we understand the critical nature of this ecology, we can start to invest accurately in what matters most in corporate development – our people.

Let’s start with the word ecology. In their book, Community Vitality: From Adaptation to Transformationauthors Ann Dale, Rebecca Foon, Yuill Herbert and Rob Newell identify just how critical this relationship is.

In ecology, vitality refers to the success of an organism in translating nutrients or other inputs into growth. The word appears in numerous places in ecology literature, and broadly describes the ability of an organism to survive in the context of its environment. This field also illustrates that organisms are intricately connected… The idea of a competent community is one of the precursors to the idea of community vitality. It emphasizes the importance of developing and possessing a collective capacity to solve problems.

As you continue to read, I want you to consider the state your business, or the business you work for, from a birds eye view:

• Your company is largely defined by its leadership, its employees, clients and partners.

• Through hiring, sales, general operations and in service, your business exists in a reciprocal relationship with its community.

• The business provides the community with employment, access to goods and services.

• The community feeds the capacity of that business. It is the source of the company’s workforce as well as the consumer base that provides revenue for growth.

As such, a business owner can measure the vitality of their community by the skill, talent, focus, happiness and effort of their employees. Customer retention and engagement are also critical assessment pathways. However, these are only some of the elements that reflect how vital a community is. Indices like the Happy Planet Index and the Human Development Index take these elements into mind when assessing the quality of life in countries around the world. The degree to which a community positively experiences such elements as access to education, vibrant public health, mitigated inequality and environmental and political security, among others, directly reflects its abilities to not only survive but thrive.

It stands to reason that the more vital your community is, the more successful your business will be. In fact, in a recent 2020 report by First Round it was found that just under 80% of startup founders reported building a community as critical to their business. 28% described community as their most important competitive advantage. As the old saying goes – “a rising tide will lift all boats in the harbor”.

I have always contributed to my community for the greater good of the people I care about most. Improving and fostering human welfare will make for a better future for my children and a better environment for my friends and family to live in. That sense of humanity must always come first.

However, as business owners, there are a number of ways we can invite social development into our operations and invest in our communities for meaningful return:

Philanthropy – Lead by example and encourage a culture of giving

Contrary to popular belief, philanthropic giving is not reserved solely for the wealthy and affluent. For my family, this has meant significant financial contributions to worthy causes and initiatives but it has also meant volunteerism and the engagement of our network of supporters. Today, our work has contributed to hospital improvements, COVID-19 relief, the stimulation of arts organizations, and international development initiatives. For young people, volunteerism and small donation is not only possible but there is amassing evidence that it is crucial to a fulfilling career. According to a Gallup Consulting report How Millennials Want to Work and Live77% of millennials prefer to donate their skills instead of their money. However, the report also uncovered that more than 50% of Millennials see donation at any scale, critical to their personal development. As we continue to hire Millennials and now, Generation Z workers (who reportedly display similar traits) , it is critical that we foster these traits in our corporate culture.

Corporate Advocacy – Help to amplify the voice of your community

The community you serve may not have the access or financial resources to have their voices heard. Your business may be able to provide this sort of support. At Computek College, a large portion of our students are newcomers to Canada. Some face immediate social and political challenges, often without the proper resources to support them. Many have not yet found a collective voice. With Computek College as a platform, myself, along with many of our staff, students, partners and alumni, have become advocates for social equity and awareness in our community. We are advisors to community development where our campuses exist as well as in other communities throughout Ontario. We develop meaningful relationships with other local businesses that contribute to this ecosystem of support for newcomers.

Community Connectivity – Create channels for community development within your business

Humans are fundamentally social. At our core, we crave a sense of connectedness, purpose and belonging, especially in a working environment. By providing the means for employees to connect with their own community through corporate lead community development efforts, that sense of mission and shared agency is ignited. We encourage our employees and our students at Computek College to become involved with their communities – encouragement that I believe is crucial to the success of our business. According to a recent study by PWC, 69% of millennials report that working for socially responsible employers instills a sense of pride in their business. 64% say it strengthens their loyalty to the employer and 70% of employed Canadians say they would consider changing jobs to a more socially responsible employer. This translates to 87% employee retention and a 57% increase in effort to those that feel disengaged.

Your business exists in a reciprocal relationship with the community it serves. The strength and well-being of that community not only reflects the success of your marketplace but also the general well-being of your people – leaders, employees, clients and partners. When we invest our resources, time, care and attention into community development, we are contributing to the resilience and vitality of those people.

Efficiency and effectiveness increase, general well-being soars and above, the people we care about most are happier.

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