• Eugene McGarrell

How to deliver a sustainable community engagement plan by creating trust to boost profits


Trust between a brand and its customer is key to the ultimate success of that product. Cigarette companies back in the 1950s used doctors in their adverts to successfully create trust in their product.

Trust between a brand and its customer is key to the ultimate success of that product.

For the first time in history more people are dying because of overeating than starvation. The mortality rates caused by diabetes continue to rise yet the soft drink companies continue to promote trust between their product and the customer.


Back in the 70s sugar won the battle of trust against fat as the cause of coronary disease. Low fat products (substituted by sugar) fly off the shelves to this day despite the science that points to sugar as one of the the main causes of chronic health disorders.


And then of course there is alcohol. Don't even get me started on that subject.

People realise they have been lied to by the tobacco, fast food, alcohol and sugar industries. Gaining trust requires significant effort and is easy to lose. Selling lies on posters won't do it anymore. Honest, integrity and authentic engagement is now required.

Selling lies on posters won't do it anymore. Honest, integrity and authentic engagement is now required.

Trust in financial institutions, aged care services and public health services is currently being tested following several inquiries and commissions into practices that were not, shall we say, in the public interest. Regaining that trust requires an authentic and sustainable strategy that will aim to deliver shared value for community and the organisation.


Some well intentioned organisations have attempted to generate trust through their corporate social responsibility investments. Many have set up foundations while others have pioneered social bonds and shared value projects. With a few exceptions these investments, although well intentioned, have not generated sustainable social impact or trust. The poor impact of social investment programs has frustrated many companies and has often led to cynicism among the communities they were intended to benefit.

The poor impact of social investment programs has frustrated many companies and has often led to cynicism among the communities they were intended to benefit.

Organisations have not been able to measure the impact of their activities and communities are seeing these activities as nothing more than pure theatre.

So how does the modern CEO get smart about creating trust among their community?


1.      Connect with the community engagement sweet spot.

The community engagement sweet spot is the overlap between the organisation’s target customer base, the underlying social issue affecting that community and the social innovation that will create more wealth for that community.


2.      Start an authentic dialogue with the customer base

This conversation is not about selling the product. This conversation is about listening to the community. Listening with the intent to authentically understand. What does your customer base experience? What problems do your customer base face? And what are the solutions your customer base sees as potential opportunities.


3.      Promise and deliver against that promise

As the potential solutions emerge from your customer base promise to fund and support those innovations. Promise without expectation. Deliver on time to demonstrate integrity. Do not over promise. Over deliver and trust between your community and your company will strengthen.


4.      Be humble

The temptation to advertise success to enhance your brand must be avoided. Success of the innovations should be owned by the community and not by the company. This is a gift from you to the community. Don’t give away that gift for a “sugar hit” post on LinkedIn. Word of mouth within community will enhance trust much more successfully than a self-aggrandising social media post.


It is surprising that organisations have failed to engage with the community engagement framework in NSW, Australia, South East Asia and across the globe. The network of community centres is vast and is well placed to support well intentioned social innovations funded by government and business. In fact, there are more community centres in Australia than there are McDonald fast food restaurants.

The network of community centres is vast and is well placed to support well intentioned social innovations funded by government and business.

These community centres are embedded in community and work with people that find themselves in vulnerable situations. Homelessness and suicide rates are increasing across OECD countries despite strong economies. Business needs to get involved to help turn these rates around.


The United Nations has committed to 17 sustainable development goals including “no poverty” and “decent work and economic growth”. The community centres activities are aligned to these UN goals.


In August 2020 Sydney will host the international conference and this will provide businesses with the opportunity to create a sustainable community engagement program in NSW, Australia, South East Asia and globally.

In August 2020 Sydney will host the international conference and this will provide businesses with the opportunity to create a sustainable community engagement program in NSW, Australia, South East Asia and globally

If you are a senior executive and you are looking for a sustainable, efficient, cost effective and productive model of local and global community engagement that will enhance trust in your company and make a difference for people experiencing social disadvantage then an opportunity currently exists.


Eugene McGarrell is a management consultant with 40 years experience in health and social care. For more information on this opportunity or details of the International Conference in Sydney in August 2020 email eugene@eugenemcgarrellconsulting.com

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