Examining community stakeholder relationships from a communication perspective

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Quinn, Laura Ann

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This dissertation focuses on stakeholder relationships and an organization’s commitment to communities, and ultimately, corporate social responsibility. The relationship between corporations and the community stakeholder is being investigated for a number of reasons. First, the concept of corporate social responsibility suggests an organization has responsibilities beyond increasing operating profit and satisfying stockholders to addressing issues of society as a whole. Are organizations responsible to communities and society? If so, how and with whom do organizations attempt to address societal needs and issues? Second, stakeholder theorists suggest an organization’s social responsibility is achieved, in part, by paying attention to all stakeholders of the organization, stakeholders including the community. Using a narrative approach as a guide, this study addresses the question of whether organizations consider the community a stakeholder. In most cases, as the reader will see, the answer is yes. Yet, knowing organizations do consider the community a stakeholder is not quite enough to assume an organization’s social responsibility is alive and well. The results for this study will also address the narrative notion of actors and voice, questioning how community is defined and represented in a relationship with an organization and the implications this has for the concept of social responsibility and stakeholder theory. The study also explores the significance element of narrative, or the means by which to evaluate the appropriateness of the community stakeholder narrative. The reasons why an organization would want to establish a relationship with the community are presented. This aspect of the study highlights whose interests are being served in the relationship and why they are being served. Finally, this study ends with an examination of how an organization is involved with the community and the particular ways communication processes constitute the relationships between organizations and communities. The communication processes have been formulated into a model called “The Nature of The Organization-Community Stakeholder Relationship.” Ultimately, through investigating the relationships that occur between communities and organizations, we now have better insight into an organization’s commitment to communities, and thus, one aspect of social responsibility.