Corporate – Community Relationship : An exploratory study

This summer, I finish another small study as a part of a research methods course. While findings are thin and not too reliable either, I have enjoyed every bit of it. For there are few opportunities when one can try out a variety of methods – qualitative, ethnographic, GIS based analysis, observations of various types etc.

With a team, I have tried to understand what kind of relationship exist between a large corporate facility and its immediate community, in a city like Bangalore. A wide range of things could have been done, explored and closely investigated whereas we ended up looking at a few historical satellite imagery and developments in land use – land cover on the ground. As I write the paper, here is what we are presenting tomorrow.

The idea (and research question) for us emerges from two sources –

i) From our exposure to corporate –community tensions across India. We find that from West Bengal (Lanjigarh) to Maharashtra (Lavassa) to Kerala (Coco Cola in Plachimada) corporates have had a not so easy relationship with the immediate community with which they co-exist. The distrust of corporations run so high that the relationship is automatically inferred as exploitation of the community by the big company. We try to understand this relationship in the urban context and examine if the relationship is always negative. Although we don’t end up establishing any conclusive evidence as our time spent in doing this was very limited, we find that the process gives us a segue into studying this relationship with a certain system level view.

ii) That urbanization is a major force shaping cities across the world. If this is real then what do we know of corporate – community relationships in urban contexts? We try to develop this understanding.

Going further we must map the range of interactions and then weight them into the final relationship map that will evolve from this exercise. A whole lot of possibilities exist. But perhaps that will have to wait till we get time and institutional space to pursue this.



On how not to do a study

It would be interesting to see the sort of writing that would come out if ‘researchers’ of Marxist influence were to leave their desks, go out into the real world (in quotes for I doubt if they should be called so) and do a study with actual field observations. I am making no criticism on why Marxist ideas are being pursued in the current times and of course it would be naive to do so. The problem is with the way it is being pursued. The ‘lens’ syndrome is all too rampant where a researcher conducting a sociological, environmental, political or philosophical study is quick to summon these thinkers and their ideas and gift wrap their studies in it.

An example is this one on Community-Coco-Cola Interface: Political- Anthropological concerns on Corporate Social Responsibility. I find that the study has been too quick to summon grand ideas without sufficiently examining how do these relate to the subject at hand. Also that it starts with a position that the corporate in question has had damaging effects on the community. While this position is okay to take, it obfuscates a fair judgement as it does not examine the positive effects (sure there would be some for millions of dollars spent on it by the company worldwide) that CSR had on the community.

The presentation below is a short analysis of this study’s key ideas and conclusion prepared during a lecture on research methods.