Seven thoughts to keep in mind to promote equitable development

Historically, there have been a number of groups who have found it harder to make their voices heard, who have been marginalised and disenfranchised by systems that don’t reflect their experiences. As we build back from COVID-19, correcting these past injustices is critical to ensuring a more positive and equitable future for all our citizens – and to lay the foundations for a more resilient future for our places.

To address these challenges, we reached out to our panel of Experts to hear their top tips to ensure your strategies are driving equitable development...

1. Identify those with less of a voice and make sure you create a place at the table for them.

“Equitable development” raises two questions immediately. For whom? And how? Development can take myriad forms, economic, social, environmental, and more. But it needs be grounded in a sense of shared goals. What do we want to build together for our place? But to start, take a deep look at who “we” represents. The adage, “Nothing about us, without us,” should be a fundamental principle of local engagement. Spend time mapping the ecosystem of players who will be impacted by any place initiatives. Actively seek out voices that are not heard from often enough… youth, seniors, families, small businesses, racialized or marginalised groups, new immigrants, artists, LGBTQ and others.

There are a number of benefits to broadening the scope of voices and perspectives. Better understand who will be affected by changes. Find opportunities for alliances, collaboration and recognize potential points of conflict early on. Build up a better understanding of what really matters to people by looking at it from very different perspectives. Being seen, heard and understood is a first step in building inclusive solutions.

Jeannette Hanna, Chief Strategist, Trajectory

2. Build on your place brand as the foundation for driving equitable development.

I would say that the most important thing in driving equitable development is creating a foundation on which to do so. As I mention in our practitioner's guide, the '14 steps to Nation Branding', the first step when developing any Place Brand strategy is a solid foundation. Once this is in place, Place Branders must ensure that their strategy engages stakeholders and aligns them to the vision of equitable development. If the stakeholders are not aligned, your strategy simply cannot be implemented. After this, step twelve in Nation Branding comes into play. It is key for Nation and Place Branders to ensure that the impact of their strategy can be measured and monitored in order to be truly successful.

Jose Torres, CEO, Bloom Consulting

3. Ensure all your stakeholders are invested.

Findings from our reputational and international development research programs indicate that strategies crafted with input from, and executed with involvement of, all parts of the community have the highest likelihood of engendering positive outcomes for all.

Involving different parts of the community in strategic development will not only yield a more comprehensive strategy that incorporates the insights, sensitivities, and needs of all parts of the community; but it will also ensure that everyone is an invested stakeholder and benefits accordingly - increasing the likelihood of driving equitable development.

Jason McGrath, Head of Reputation and Nation Branding, Ipsos US

4. Understand the needs of your community.

To ensure equitable development, the ‘local community’ stakeholder set can’t be considered as an afterthought. Take the time to understand who they are and properly engage them to clearly understand their needs. Then make sure that these become a driver for your strategy. Doing so will not only deliver equitable development, but also drive greater authenticity; a key ingredient in place branding.

Gary Bryant, Executive Director, Strategy, Landor & Fitch

5. Create stakeholder networks to ensure a resilient future.

If the COVID pandemic has taught us anything, it is this: the only truly sustainable destination strategy includes an intentional and specific focus on community engagement and equitable development. The most successful destinations have intentional networks of engaged stakeholders who actively shape their collective tourism future. Community residents, artists, environmental groups, tech clusters, and civic entities are just a few examples of the destination stakeholder groups beyond the norm that can be aligned and engaged. Tourism exists to serve visitors and residents alike simultaneously. To ensure its resilience as an economic driver and shared community value, tourism must create legacy value assets and resources for the citizens and businesses of a destination.

David Peacock, Senior Advisor – Future Tourism Group, Simpleview

6. Find the perfect balance between your strategic goals and the views of your citizens and institutional stakeholders.

Contrary to what many may believe, brands have more stakeholder groups than just customers and shareholders. In the case of place brands, the list is even longer than for corporates. Apart from what you plan to do and what your target audience may need, any place brand strategy needs to consider the views of the local population - with its economic, political, social, ethnic, religious specificity - as well as governmental decision-makers, third-sector pressure groups, media etc. To build a place brand that lasts, your strategy needs to account for the views of all that have a stake in it.

Parul Soni, Associate, Brand Finance

7. Put collaborative storytelling at the forefront.

A collaborative storytelling approach is one of the single most important things to strive for when developing your strategy to ensure it is driving equitable development.

Destinations should work in tandem with both their tourism partners and the communities they live in and serve. By collaborating and elevating their stories, your neighbourhoods, cities, associations, and state/region are telling stories that authentically reflect local expertise in a synchronized way, rather than overlapping or even competing for the same audience.

Dan Holowack, Co-founder & CEO, CrowdRiff

Related reading

How can you foster better collaboration between stakeholders

14 steps to nation branding | A practical guide

Arctic exploration, Inuit communities, and the future of Greenland's tourism

The Place2Place Podcast:  New Zealand & Auckland - Understanding the relationship between city and nation brands

How destination brands can stand out through great storytelling

The Place Brand Portfolio is City Nation Place's searchable portfolio of Awards case studies from the past five years.