Information Systems in Corporate Community Relations:

A New Perspective


Frederick R. Eberle

MBA Candidate
University of New Mexico, Anderson Schools of Management
Submitted to: The Center for Corporate Community Relations at Boston College

April 1997

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How does a company profit from being socially responsible and involved with their community? The benefits are often measured in the way the community feels. Sometimes benefits are gauged by customer behavior. Either way, calculation of benefits are almost entirely subjective and are performed on an ad hoc basis. The management of many companies sense the need for community involvement, and act on that intuition. For the management of other companies the feelings of a community are not enough to justify investments that they believe would detract from their commitments to their shareholders. Community pressure and media criticism sometimes compel these reluctant management to act, despite their aversion to doing so. Social responsibility advocates have struggled to shape arguments that would convince management of these companies to voluntarily recognize their social obligations.

But what if companies can be given the tools to quantifiably show profit from community involvement? If such a goal is possible, it will result from the use of information systems and technology. Of the many ways information systems will assist in this goal, accounting and organizational communication processes are two areas that stand out as candidates for immediate information system integration.

From an accounting perspective, it is possible that community relations departments are already profit centers. Information systems can provide new tools to reconsider both cost and benefit allocations. The savings will come from looking at accounting in a different way, and using new technology to measure benefits that have been notoriously difficult to collect or quantify. Adapting accounting models from production departments further illuminate the possibilities.

From an organizational communication perspective, information systems offer the most striking benefits. By embracing a systems approach to organization and communication, one of collaborative integration, community relations departments have the opportunity to maximize the use of resources set aside for community programs and socially responsible activities. Again, altering existing models of business processes, this time from manufacturing and purchasing departments, illustrate how companies might integrate various entities in their communities to stretch the value of their contributions to those communities, and even quantitatively measure benefits derived from the contributions. Developments in Internet technology and integrated systems derived from "web"-like structures bring perhaps the most exciting and affordable means for businesses to communicate and integrate with all stakeholders. As leaders and primary contributors, traditional corporate partnerships that may include both profit and non-profit groups will also be strengthened by the development and institutionalization of collaborative information networks.

The Profit Assumption

A central tenet of economic theory is that profit maximization leads inexorably to the well being of society. Deriving this notion from the writings of Adam Smith, Milton Friedman of the University of Chicago is probably the most renowned advocate of this theory. He writes:
In [a free economy] there is one and only one social responsibility of business - to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits, so long as it stays within the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition, without deception or fraud… Few trends could so thoroughly undermine the very foundations of our free society as the acceptance by corporate officials of a social responsibility other than to make as much money for their stockholders as possible. This is a fundamentally subversive doctrine. (Friedman: 1962, p.133)

The truth of this position is not at issue here. Writings on the debate are voluminous. This paper does assume that, to some degree, a great majority of corporate America shares Milton Friedman's views. The ubiquity of this corporate mindset has required innovative approaches by advocates for corporate social responsibility, and much energy has been applied in an attempt to convince business operators and entrepreneurs that their corporate strategic planning should be dedicated to actions that are socially responsible. The argument employed has usually been from a Kantian perspective which asserts that it is the "right" thing to do (Marsh: 1980, p.39). Much to the social responsibility advocates' credit, over the past few decades there appears to have been a gradual assimilation of humanitarian and communitarian values into the Smithian corporate mentality (McCoy: 1985, p.172). But many corporate leaders still remain unconvinced that social responsibility precedes their obligations to shareholders.

How have advocates tried to change the corporate mindset? One option has been to change law through the political process to compel companies to act. Since the political system usually reacts best to crisis and negativity, this method has had the unsavory result of demonizing the very entities that employ us, that provide products for us, that increase our standard of living.

Another way is to increase required ethics and stakeholder training in business schools. This exposure to ethics issues, though valuable, is possibly ineffective, because it is made only moments before students are embarking on profit oriented careers, and their personal value systems are undoubtedly well established. Professors can only hope that they might influence, if only slightly, their future decisions as business people.

Still another way is to convince top management that they need to set up ethical training in corporations to preempt bad press or internal friction in the event of a crisis. Some managers might feel they are simply being held hostage to a fashionable trend, or to the proclivity of the press to trump up charges against corporate America.

These approaches may be rooted in the categorical imperative (In Kant's system of ethics, the categorical imperative is a rule which is adopted unconditionally as being a good in itself, or "acting from duty." By comparison, the hypothetical imperative is "acting from prudence.), but the incentives are hypothetical: peer pressure, perceived crises, the prospect of acquiring a better image, or simply guilt; all are inherently subjective criteria. These approaches likely fail for those whose moral attention is committed to the bottom line.

What will induce all companies to honestly and unreservedly commit to community relations and to socially responsible strategic policy? Ironically, the answer may lie in Milton Friedman's own words. If it can be quantitatively shown that investments in social responsibility and community relations do in fact add to company profits and return on equity, then the social responsibility advocates would find corporations pleading with them to be shown how. Those who have already embraced social responsible activities will simply be further confirmed in their moral actions, and have the added benefit of quantifiable positive contribution to their margin.

A desire for accurate empirical data is not new. Effects of social responsibility and community relations are subjective, and have never been easy to measure. Quantitatively measuring good will, or customer buying habits due to, say, various corporate community projects have been impossible, impractical, or, at best, imprecise for one very specific reason: the cost is invariably too high. Can we find ways to reduce those costs, and to embrace new perspectives to measure benefits of various corporate contributions to the community? By integrating business concepts from managerial accounting, communications and marketing with information systems that are increasingly more effective, efficient, and less expensive, corporate social responsibility might be shown to have a much more direct and measurable influence on the bottom line.

Two Approaches to Profit

Two primary approaches will facilitate recognition of these efficiencies: first, to alter social accounting practices, and second, to alter organization and communication processes. The first depends on information systems to help allocate and calculate costs and benefits more accurately and reasonably. The second depends on information systems to guide organization process, to increase effectiveness of communication, and to reduce duplication of work. We could declare success if information systems significantly improved measured performance in either approach.

Both of these ideas have been underway for a some time, but a truly systematic implementation and integration has been missing. Maybe we are just now reaching the point of "self-organizing criticality," a concept described by theoretical physicist Per Bak in his recent book How Nature Works (Bak: 1997). Though this is a study in physics, the theory is applicable. As summarized by Steven Postrel in Reason Magazine, "a system is critical if it is poised to undergo structural changes, including possible major upheavals, upon being given a small push. The criticality of a system is self-organized if it ends up in the poised state as the result of a series of "natural" pushes." (Postrel: May 1997, p.58)

This idea is seen persistently in technology development. As information technology evolves, new uses for it are found that improve business efficiency and productivity. But sometimes, a point in information systems development is reached that suddenly and completely alters structures of organization, gives opportunities for decisive competitive advantage, or renders present practices obsolete. Perhaps we are near a point of criticality in the way information systems facilitates our ability to systematically evaluate and empirically measure the value of community relations to organizations. Let us now consider how information systems and technologies could augment present social accounting practices to better quantify costs and benefits in community relations efforts.

Social Accounting

Social accounting methods have been discussed and debated for many years. The concept of social accounting "has been supported by social critics who want companies to go beyond their usual accounting systems to consider true costs of their business." (Dierkes: 1973, p.94) But social accounting "data are particularly susceptible to manipulation," says accountant Raymon Gastil. He continues, "there is little reason to expect that social accounting will ever be more than a mirage - a tool of corporate public relations." (Dierkes: 1973, p.107) Because of the wide variety of measures, critics suggest that "fictional projections [will] come to be compared with realities to the benefit of the former." (Dierkes: 1973, p.94) Clark Abt pioneered efforts to discover appropriate ways to measure and account for corporate social activities. (Abt Associates: 1971) He recognized a "great need to apply rational management techniques to the task of increasing social return on corporate investments." (Abt: 1972, p.38) Methods of accounting that were employed, and that are still employed today were to extend financial statements with narrative disclosure, or by adding accounts named for social activities. (Estes: 1976, p.58) This process was frequently used to account for industrial site deterioration as depreciation, environmental costs, such as externalities, or capital expenses of pollution cleanup, (Beams: 1970, p.657) and still is. But accurate determination of costs to develop comprehensive social benefit/cost models in all areas of corporate social contribution has remained a vague science.

Though there will always be costs that must be allocated in some arbitrary way, the predominantly subjective nature of assigning social costs could be made less subjective by considering a form of Activity Based Costing (ABC), a concept discussed and used primarily in managerial accounting. Let us rename it Community Based Activity Costing (CBAC). The Activity Based Costing model assigns costs to an activity center, breaking down general costs into many smaller categories of costs, or activity centers. Then the costs are assigned to products through cost drivers, like employee hours, or computer terminal time. In CBAC, our "product" could be a specific community relations project being implemented.

Can we take the theory of ABC and apply it to gather a more accurate picture of the value of benefits to communities? Can we assign a value to community relief in the same way that we allocate a fixed cost in a manufacturing process? ABC is used primarily in companies where there are many products and many inputs. It is historically expensive to set up and carry out. However, information systems technology has made significant improvement in reading, measuring and automated detection devices, all of which minimize data entry, thereby reducing costs. The key here would be to find ways to measure benefits using a variant of the ABC model. In addition to assigning every small cost attributed to community relations projects to separate accounts, each small benefit or value would be measured in the same way. For example, data might be collected using surveys or interviews of project recipients, and remote data collection technologies, like those used for utility meter readers, or retail inventory counters, could be used to enter that data only once. Coupons with questionnaires could be read at retail checkout and tabulated automatically, much like the way standardized multiple choice tests are scored. Companies could ask in those questionnaires about reasons for purchase, or what customers knew about the company, and why they knew it. This data would be of unquestionable value to marketing departments, but the data could also more quantifiably substantiate the value of the community relations projects.

As costs and benefits are tabulated, community relations departments might begin to be seen as what is known in responsibility accounting as a profit center. Community relations departments could have a legitimate case to suggest that they deserve in transfer prices portions of revenue that has been allocated to other departments. Even if the Community Relations department doesn't actually show a profit, new accounting procedures would more accurately show their contribution to the margin.

Organization and Communication Systems

S.J. Giovanisci, Public Relations Vice President from ARCO, said of community relations budgets, "when business gets tight, and our company spends fewer dollars, we hope they are more 'thoughtful dollars,' producing proportionately greater impact because we are guiding them with precision into areas of proven need."  (Pedersen: 1988, p.22) Can information systems effectively help community relations departments in this goal? The most recent technology has combined telecommunications and information systems to allow for distribution of computer processing across networks of users. If community relations departments can harness this power and bring together stakeholders in an integrated system, companies will see potential savings or greater impact, and stakeholders will see community needs addressed.

We look now at systems theory to give a texture to, and illustrate the value of more recent developments in distributed processing. Then we consider how these developments have engendered business system processes known as Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) and Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM), and the Internet. Creating adaptations of each of these distributive processing applications gives us the opportunity to substantially change and improve the community relations function.

Communication and Systems Theory

We must develop a systematic approach to the organization of business community relations and its integration with the community. The systems approach "broadens our way of looking at organizations by borrowing concepts from other seemingly unrelated areas of study," (Eisenberg: 1997, p.95) much like the relationship between information systems and community relations found in Per Bak's criticality theory discussed above. In their textbook Organizational Communication (1997) Eric Eisenberg and H.L. Goodall, Jr., propose that systems theory has its origins in life sciences, especially biology. A system is alive because of interactions and interdependencies, and relationships among processes. It is the idea of "dynamic systems of interacting components whose relationships point to a new kind of order." (Eisenberg: 1997, p.97) As opposed to scientific management of organizations, where the only thing that counts is the finished product and profit maximization, systems theory emphasizes interdependent processes, information flow and feedback, contingent plans and scanning the external environment. The management of systems requires analysis of process and component relationships, which results in focusing on groups and networks. "Systems theory provides a new connection between communicating and organizing… Communication is not inside, outside, or tangential to the organization; rather it is the organization." (Eisenberg: 1997, p.102)

According to systems theory, organizations must also be open systems. From a scientific definition, "that a system is open means, not simply that it engages in interchanges with the environment, but that this interchange is an essential factor underlying the systems viability, its reproductive ability or continuity, and its ability to change."  (Buckley: 1967, p.50) In other words, organizations are not isolated from their social or physical environment, and success requires working with and alongside their environment. An organization that is an open system is:

Two or more individuals who recognize that some of their goals can be more readily achieved through interdependent (cooperative) actions, even though disagreement (conflict) may be present; who take in materials, energy and information from the environment in which they exist; who develop coordinative and control relationships to capitalize on their interdependence while operating on these inputs; and who return the modified inputs to the environments, in an attempt to accomplish the goals that interdependence was meant to make possible (Farace: 1977, p.16)

Computerization lends itself naturally to offering systems that vastly facilitate and organize communication. These processes are best accomplished using distributed processing.

Distributed Processing

The term distributed processing describes "the dispersion of information system location, ownership and control to different parts of an organization." (Alter: 1996, p.564) It implies many different users having simultaneous access to and control over the same information by way of telecommunication technologies. Not too long ago computing had very local boundaries within which information could be shared. Where data might have been transferred between neighboring offices with a floppy disk, now individual office or home computers are being linked not only with everyone else in an organization but with the rest of the world. Computer systems that include vast databases of information are integrated using telecommunications technologies, providing processing capability, both input and output, among armies of users and organizations. The new technological capabilities lead to further innovation in their use, in turn requiring more new technology developments, and the iteration continues. The point is that distributed processing has had the effect of eliminating duplicate work, facilitating communication and creating new perspectives in organizational processes for business.

While distributed processing is usually used to describe the dispersion of information systems in a business organization, in the context of community relations we might extend the definition of "organization" to include all individuals, groups, and companies (all stakeholders) involved in a particular community project. To the extent that they have access to the information network, they would be considered part of the "organization." We then need to organize these disparate entities which could include any mixture of corporations, individuals, non-profit organizations, community groups, or public and private assistance centers. Each of these entities generally has very different needs, expertise and resources, but each must be made a part of the team. What might be the opportunities in the development of a community project?

While involving all the different groups in the early planning stages might have been logistically too difficult before, technology and distributed processing now make it possible, and even preferable. With access to the computer network, each entity can be a proactive part of a community project prior to its inception, and even participate in determining what should be done. The corporation's job might be to develop the infrastructure, monitor input and proffer guidance, but the information is received from any number of sources, decentralizing the effort. Interactive discussion, voting, pledges of money and other resources could all be accomplished in the digital realm. Though the firm still needs to determine what resources it can commit, those commitments are based on knowing what resources other firms or entities will contribute.

If all community entities dedicate time and resources directly to the information system, the corporation would be able to free up otherwise committed resources to be involved in even more projects, in effect by outsourcing work to the beneficiaries and other contributing entities. However, the perception of "outsourcing" is only an effect. In the new paradigm of a distributed processing network, the corporation is more accurately "relieved" of work, having ceded some of its prior workload to others in the network system. Most of this relieved workload results from recognizing or using work that has been done, or could be done by somebody else. The net result is a reduction of costs. How can this duplicate work be found and eliminated?

Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) is one distributed processing-type application that was developed to eliminate duplicate work between businesses. The application and use of EDI is one of the more important sources for potential savings of community relations resources.

Electronic Data Interchange

Electronic Data Interchange is "the electronic transmission of business data, such as purchase orders and invoices, from one firm's computerized information system to that of another firm." (Alter: 1996, p.269) Looking at the movement of data for, say, purchase orders, the advantages of EDI become clear. Traditionally, after a buyer's purchase order is filled out and printed, it is sent to a supplier who then re-enters the same data. The supplier enters data to create an invoice, and returns it to the buyer, where it is again entered in the buyer's database. With EDI, the purchase order is entered once, sent electronically to the supplier's computer, transformed into an invoice and sent back electronically. An analyst from Sears estimates that 70 per cent of one business computer's input is another business computer's output. (Brandel: 1990, p.92) Other advantages include responsiveness, reliability, speed and improved coordination among participants. As long as all the participants in a community project are actually integrated, spreading out any number of tasks would be facilitated by EDI.

However, a much more extensive integrated application, which generally includes elements of EDI is Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM). Aided with distributed processing, we can use an adaptation of the CIM model to implement the process of community project design development and carry it out. We will call this adaptation the Computer Integrated Community Network (CICN).

Computer Integrated Manufacturing

Computer Integrated manufacturing melds information systems and telecommunications technologies to integrate planning, design, manufacturing processes and other business activities. All stages of these processes are closely linked throughout the business so that when any one part of any process is completed, the work is immediately available for use in other area. The beauty of CIM is the concurrent and iterative quality of the process. It requires team work and joint analysis, and previous tasks can effectively be checked and modified while projects continue moving forward to completion. Setting up CIM is difficult, as much structural organization work is required, but the payoff is often large, because products are usually produced correctly the first time. How might we adapt CIM to create our Computer Integrated Community Network (CICN)? Will the setup costs make CICN development prohibitive?

First, the information and communication sources need to be standardized. All the network users must use the same formats and protocols. Planning should be oriented to forming mutually consistent goals and strategies, financial reporting formats, and outlines for work schedules and commitments. The network systems would keep all design, planning and implementation information readily available. The Internet is a good parallel example for this structure. Thinking in terms of a "mini-web" accessible only to the "Computer Integrated Community Network" (or any other designated users), we would add functions that would allow users to update reports or parts of the "pages" of information on this "mini-web." Everyone, at any time, could keep abreast of developments, and anyone, at any time could determine what information they thought was absent. Through the network planning process, new work or updates would be volunteered or assigned, and no work would be done twice.

But what about the cost? Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM) is notoriously expensive to set up, and resources in needy communities are far from adequate to assist in CIM-type program development. Even if companies do collaborate and invest substantial resources into a community, it is difficult to evaluate the value of the investment to the company. One of the problems is that "many grass roots organizations do not have access to measurement tools [making] comprehensive evaluation infrequent....[corporations] are demanding to see some return on their investments and have increased the demand for measurement of outcomes." (Peterson: 1994, p.43) For a community with minimal resources, it would seem impossible to comply with this demand. How do we set up our Computer Integrated Community Network (CICN) with full stakeholder participation? The Internet may have the answer.

The Internet

The Internet has proved an explosive marketplace for companies to create exposure for themselves and their products. The Internet allows companies to present a sparkling image by packaging themselves in slick multimedia presentations. Companies can query and gather new clients, or provide searches to Internet users through vast databases of information. As "outbound multimedia [publication is] technically practical over high speed networks, so too is inbound access to multimedia databases. Here the multimedia kiosk in the reception area becomes a metaphor for truly global access to institutional resources. (Duffy: 1994, p.25)

In addition to a "kiosk" having the corporate image and product line displayed and accessible for customers' perusal, companies can encourage stakeholder participation and comment over issues and social needs that transcend their product lines. Typically, "national business firms have a multitude of communities with which they must be concerned. In our modern age of instantaneous communication, and speedy travel, the region, the nation, and even the world can become relevant." (Carrol: 1981, p.184) Through the Internet, even small local companies can take on a national character, but they can still remain connected and responsive to issues in their stakeholder communities. "The Internet can be equivalent to a million letters to the editor," (Gordon: March, 1996, p.72) says Gordon Stewart writing in Bests Review, and the "editors" can instantaneously respond to those letters, allowing everyone else to witness the debate. The Internet provides the atmosphere of a forum where all stakeholders can participate and interact.

Netscape Communications Corp. has a vision of business and all stakeholders capitalizing on this inter-connectivity:
The profound impact of the Web has stemmed from standards that allow information to be created and delivered online across platforms and networks. This has led to an explosion of online content in both intranet and Internet environments. The form and function of initial online content has been limited and much of it has been unmanaged and consequently either inaccessible or overwhelming…[but now] managers [can] centrally manage and control highly distributed networks of servers and services throughout an entire organization and then extended out to partners and customers. (Andreesen et al: 1997)

One company's new software products (see: are set up for business process inter-connectivity between firms, their suppliers and their customers. Using the Internet as the primary connectivity point, it is designed so that companies can customize programs to integrate their processes with other companies. The software appears to have structural similarities with the Computer Integrated Manufacturing (CIM)model as discussed above. Suddenly, our Computer Integrated Community Network (CICN) could come to life without the huge investment of capital and resources previously required for starting up similar complex systems. In addition to linking companies with companies, our CICN would be expanded to include community groups, individuals, stockholders, non-profit groups, and educational institutions, to name a few. By definition, each one of these entities on this network is called a node. Each node's hardware costs for full connectivity could cost as little as $1,000 for "bare-bones" setups. The process is essentially software based, and basic training for implementation appears to be integrated into the software. Because it uses the existing Internet infrastructure, many potential networks are already partially in place, and simply waiting for linking and training.

The Computer Integrated Community Network program gives companies an opportunity for high visibility. Of course, this assumes the continued use and growth of the World Wide Web. Some complain that actual commerce has failed to thrive on the Internet, and so it is of only moderate usefulness, but this misses the point. As an interconnected information network, the Internet can serve vital communication needs between industry and all stakeholders, organizing collaborative "systems" that benefit everyone. As business interests take the lead in developing community networks, they promote a positive presence in those communities, and either reduce their costs or extend their reach.

Corporate Community Partnerships

With the most recent information systems resources, we can almost create a new definition of community to include not only local stakeholders, but global stakeholders as well. The definition might also expand the scope of community needs that local and global businesses are willing to address. Whatever the scope, effectively partnering with community groups to form an integrated network that addresses the community's needs is far more feasible today than ever. Nearly ten years ago, Ronald Speed, Public Relations Vice President of Honeywell, Inc., seemed to visualize the notion of including outside groups to help create community networks. Though he thought the management concept controversial, he said "that we [should] look much more to community groups to broker and facilitate ideas and networks in the community, to invent new programs and to bring business and community together."  (Pedersen: 1988, p. 26) Because of technological developments, this notion of community participation has become a necessary reality, and hardly controversial. Boston College's Neighborhood of Choice program mirrors this reality. It's program "is grounded in the theory that communities, not government, grant companies their license to operate… and [the program] works to prepare those responsible for shaping the company's relationship with the community." (Center for Corporate Community Relations at Boston College: 1997)

Traditionally, community relations departments have created partnerships with various entities to focus on a variety of social problems like urban decay, poor educational opportunities, the disadvantaged, and the environment. In the most difficult areas, companies often struggle with both their staying power as benefactors, or their ability to assess the probability of worthwhile results. Companies that can not reasonably measure the benefit of their investments in the community have difficulty justifying the continuation of funding. In one example, a study on creating community partnerships in urban centers showed inconclusive results because "corporations have completed few long term comprehensive neighborhood development programs. Therefore there is little empirical basis for projecting the chances of success." (Peterson: 1994, p. 12)

Some groups have committed to community partnerships and continued investment anyway. "Business for Social Responsibility (BSR) has created an 'alternative business lobby' to promote a new agenda for business that includes commitments to rebuild inner cities, improving worker welfare and protecting the environment… One of the critical areas targeted by BSR is community development." (Peterson: 1994, p. 12) Still others suggest subjective, hard-to-measure justifications for maintaining community partnerships: "Companies that associate closely with non-profits - that genuinely adopt a non-profit's cause, that measurably help its work - find that... the goodwill accorded to the non-profit rubs off on them. (Steckel: 1992, p. 13)

The partnerships companies can envision with other companies, non-profits, community groups, government, individuals and others now promise to be more effective by the use of integrated information systems. Business and all other stakeholders will have many more resources on which to tap in the collaborative, integrated, network environment. Raw empirical data that had previously been too difficult to measure will cost less to gather. Needy communities will directly benefit from the existence of this data, and, optimally, assist with its collection. Companies that had decided to continue their contributions in the absence of data will more likely see measurable performance from those contributions, substantiating their efforts. The idea of corporate community partnerships will be strengthened, and Computer Integrated Community Networks (CICN) will be empowered by their continued partnership commitments.


The value created by community relations departments has always been subjective. Information systems stand poised to offer corporate community relations departments the opportunity to prove themselves as potential contributors to the margin, and possibly as profit centers. This notion would have broad implications for society in general, because when managers who feel their only responsibility is to the bottom line learn that real profits are made from community involvement and other "socially responsible" activities, community investment will be unstoppable.

Though the concept requires more research and discovery, computer integrated systems are already successfully used in many business applications and have successfully driven costs down and revenues up. The most recent technological developments seem perfectly suited for the community relations function. We looked at two primary processes here. The first suggested altering accounting practices and procedures to reconsider both cost and benefit allocations. The second advocated an expansive look at organizing and communicating with stakeholders, developing relationships where collaborative integration would bring new efficiencies, more participation, and consequently greater impact for community projects and partnerships.

Most exciting are the opportunities available by capitalizing on the burgeoning resources of the world wide web. Already, individuals and smaller groups have discovered how to effect a global impact in the way they communicate and collaborate. Passing over the precipice of "criticality" is producing an avalanche of new possibilities. Corporations will develop more than simply an advertising presence on the Internet, and promote an integrated, interactive community network where needs are discovered, resources are allocated, and projects are acted upon. As the communication networks continue to evolve and expand, the corporate community relations function will becomes the driving force behind bringing companies truly closer to their stakeholder communities.


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