13Mar, 2014

Obtaining “Social License to Operate”

open_for_business_twoIndira Abidin

Opening new franchise stores in an area is not easy. We often hear about the various constraints, like rejection from society, demo from smaller similar business, and difficult licensing procedure.

This shows the importance of Social License to Operate. It is important for a business to get an official business license as well as the social license. It is also very important to build the support of all parties in the region before opening the business. If we are not able to get an official business license, our business will certainly be closed because they are considered illegal. If we do not seek to obtain social support, we will be warned to close the business because it is deemed to be “unwanted” in the area. So we can see that obtaining social license is as important as obtaining formal license.

There are some tips that are commonly used by different types of business to get Social License to Operate, they are:

1. Social mapping

Before getting into an area and starting the operation, conduct a social mapping. The things to be mapped include:

Decision makers: the official officers, authorities, and those who have authority in the region.

– Opinion builders: anyone who is considered a role model and heard by the public. They could include the elders, indigenous elders, community leaders, leaders of local mass organizations, NGO leaders and youth leaders.

– Influential media and people’s habits of media consumption.

– Characteristics of the society and the consumers, conversation topics from hot topics to sensitive topics, their needs, untapped potential, welfare level, etc.

– Market and competitors: the important industry players in the region, our competitors, potential partners, and those who are potentially hindering our business. Identify vendors and local resources that we can use.

– Perceptions and expectations of the local community toward what we have to offer; whether they are waiting for, already bored, or against what we are bringing about.  

2. Plan your strategies and do formal and non-formal approaches.

Having a “social map” will make it easier for us to manage the strategy for formal and non-formal approaches. We can make short, medium and long term plan about our progress in the region and the community’s support for our business. Set realistic targets according to our needs and local conditions. This stage includes:

– Determine our position in this new region.  Who we are, what we contribute, what we can give that others cannot and who will benefit from, love, and even seek our products.

– Determine the issues that we will manage in the area: what is our part in contributing to the region, how we can meet those needs, why they need to support us, and so forth.

– Conduct formal and informal approaches.  Do a lot of consultation, embrace and build a good bargaining position with the priority leaders based on the results of the above social mapping. Make sure they agree that our presence there is important; our contribution is positive and necessary. Build this perception well through approaches to formal and informal leaders, including local authorities, community leaders, editors, journalists, and opinion builders. Make them your friends and companions.

As one public relations employee at a branch office said, “Many people felt the need of practicing corruption, collusion, and nepotism (KKN); they should pay here and there for support. For me, friendship is more important. By having friendship, we will have a better bargaining position and they will be willing to do what we need from them without payment.”

– Embracing the industry players who could potentially become mutually beneficial partners. As much as possible, try not to make anybody feel “annoyed” or “threatened” with our presence so they would not sabotage our business.  

3. Build togetherness and the sense of belonging

At the opening, invite them all to attend the occasion so they too have the sense of belonging. Show them the success examples that we have done in other areas. While the business is running, do a lot of consultation and  

4. Sustainable communication

Regular approach and communication should be done continuously.

– Report the contribution progress we make, the welfare advances of the workers and their families, the communities, and our contribution to the region.

– Strengthen the perception that we are needed and beneficial to the area.

– Prove that we are loved by the community and local consumers.

– Pay a visit to important people mentioned above periodically and continuously build strong friendship with them. –       Make good friends with local journalists. Help them by giving interesting news about our business.

– Make ourselves useful resources for many parties.

– Empower the local businesses to support our business creatively. Create loyalty and broad support with mutually beneficial network.

5. Make contribution

Perform Community Development and CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) through various social and meaningful empowerment activities for community constantly and sustainably so that it can be measured. Find creative things to make the community development and CSR completely integrated and thus support our efforts to create productive, profitable, and efficient business. Do not forget:

– Conduct an analysis to find out whether such activities can be really useful and build appreciation for our business. Perform betterment for each stage so that it will generate more benefits.

– Communicate the results of the development that we have measured.

– Document and communicate all received impressions, messages and awards.  

6. Do monitoring and evaluation periodically.

– Measure the success and the challenges that arise over time.

– Compare with the targets we have set previously.

– Was there any strategy that did not work? Were we over-confident and did not take some important aspects into account that

– Perform strategy adjustment on an ongoing basis so that we can achieve our targets in the region significantly.

Above are the common things that can be used to obtain a Social License to Operate. Every type of business and area must need unique and different strategies. So, know your business, the area to be entered and how significantly we can build and contribute to the area, which in turn will produce a Social License to Operate and sustainably create the important social capital for the success and development of our business.

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