A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved

“There are always two people in every picture, the photographer and the viewer” Ansel Adams.

At Give2Gain, in Stockport, we offer a range of networking meetings and workshops that promote local cross sector relationship building. We are big fans of the stakeholder experience. As we account for the social good we believe we provide, the process is brought alive by the role our stakeholders play in exploring information and testing assumptions.

Our Everyday Work supports people from local corporate and enterprise businesses to make connections. We find that whenever we bring people together, they bring with them a wealth of values, perspectives, ideas, assumptions and expectations. We help them navigate through this diversity, of their view of the world, to arrive at a mutually supportive helping relationship that in turn enables them to work together to help each other and other local people; the outcome of this is local social good.

Our Working Principles are rooted in the knowledge that local corporate and enterprise businesses are run by and employ local people and the belief that everyone has experience, knowledge and skills that can be used to help others. This is underpinned by our values of:

  • sharing information, time & resources;
  • enabling people to do it themselves and
  • relationship building across local business and enterprise.

Our local stakeholder experiences and contributions helps us to articulate the value that our local cross sector work creates. In our view, social accounting must include knowing and understanding the perspectives of stakeholders, but how do we do this and how is this used in our social accounts?

We do this through what we call, Community Conversations which is about talking with our stakeholders and listening to their views.  We like the conversational approach because it enables everyone to share ideas and learn from each other. People taking part tell us that they make lots of connections, meet new people and end up having conversations they never expected to have.

An additional outcome of our community conversations is the recognition of and challenge to various assumptions and expectations that we all hold.  We think it is particularly important to bring these into the conversations so that people have an opportunity to explore their beliefs and perspectives and relate them to the importance to them.

Making Sense of Information Provided is rooted in following the principles of Pollner [1] who, along with his sociology colleagues, firmly believed that we are all sociologists able to navigate through our lives by analysing and making sense of information along the way. Pollner observed members of the public in the American traffic courts.  

He found that when a person has been summoned to appear in court about a traffic fine, they would often visit the public gallery before their court appearance. Here they would work out what they needed to do to try to get the fine removed or reduced.

They observed what people did, how they dressed, how they stood, how they spoke, what they said and how they said it, and how all of this contributed to how the fine was managed by the court.

Pollner found that people recognised that certain behaviours, speech, dress and attitude reduced or removed the fine and so copied these when it was their turn to appear in court. In effect they were making sense of patterns of behaviour, within a given context, something that we all do in our everyday lives in numerous situations. 

Applying this in Practice means that our analysis begins during stakeholder feedback in our community conversations. We test our understanding of what stakeholders are saying by seeking clarification of what they have said. A group of us, including some stakeholders, then get together to check the notes from the conversations and the resulting analysis report is sent to everyone for final confirmation. Sometimes we might hold another community conversation to refine our analysis.

When we get confirmation that our stakeholders recognise our analysis of their perspectives, we know we are on the right track. This process is not an academic analysis, but rather a level of recognition, through our stakeholders of what we are doing, the why, the how and the result of our actions.

This allows us to collectively recognise and record what is going well, what could be improved and what has happened that we did not expect, both positive and negative. From all of this we can work with stakeholders to modify our objectives, activities and plans and move forward to the next stage of our social accounting work.

Give2Gain recognizes the importance of stakeholder involvement in the social accounting process. Stakeholders help us understand their perspectives of our everyday work. The feedback from them can then be woven into our social accounts.

We believe that stakeholders are a barometer of what we do and that developing a social accountability relationship with them enables us all to confidently account for local social good.

Involving and working with stakeholders is so much more than getting feedback. It is about the energy and momentum that is created through sharing and understanding different perspectives. Ultimately, it is a great way of working with local people who are touched in some way by the work that we do.

Dr. Lynn Sbaih
Director
Give2Gain CIC
https://www.give2gain.org/

[1] Pollner M, Explicative Transactions: Making and Managing Meaning in the Traffic Court in Psathas G (1979), Everyday Language, Irving: New York

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