The trend towards strategically aligning community investment with business strategy is a great one. Everyone wins: community investment becomes more core to the business, increasing the likelihood that companies invest; community partners are finally not at the whim of random strategy, but rather benefit from being seen as valuable partners around the table, not sponsors taking cash.

The most common lens for this conversation is ‘shared value’. This is a good, but incomplete one.

Shared value is great because it means that both the company and community benefit. However we suggest that ‘high value’ is an equally important lens – because different investments produce different amounts of value. CSR managers and senior leaders need to think not only about whether value is created on both business and community side, but also how much value is created on both.

‘Good value’ is another very important lens to apply. If an initiative creates a bit of social impact and returns a bit of value back to the brand, but costs an arm on a leg, the fact that the value is ‘shared’ is little solace for the CSR manager when they walk into the CFO’s office to justify the spend.

And ‘right value’ is probably most important. If a company has a massive strength in brand perception, but is weak in customer acquisition, is a community program that focuses on brand perception really the right option? Sure that would be ‘shared value’, but just not the ‘right value’?

In short, shared value: brilliantly important concept, and something we should care deeply about… it’s just not the only question we need to be asking when we sit down to design strategic community investment.  

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