Why is this research project important?
The trust landscape has shifted significantly in recent times. No business sector can rely solely on their financial contribution to the economy, job creation, innovative technologies or strong values as a benchmark for best practice. Increasingly, the public are influencing benchmarks for best practice. Unless industries can effectively engage with the public on issues and values important to them, in a transparent and consistent manner, then community trust will be compromised and so will the ability to do business effectively.
This project involves conducting national surveys of more than 5,000 Australians over three years to understand their perspectives on positive and more challenging aspects of Australian rural industry practices, and to determine the key drivers of trust and acceptance of these industries. In Year 1 we established a benchmark understanding of community perspectives; we’re now focusing on going deeper into areas of community uncertainty, testing and implementing strategies to build trust in rural industries.
Why did you get involved in the project?
AgriFutures Australia approached me to talk about work that we had been doing at CSIRO with Australian Eggs on community trust. When we spun that research out of CSIRO to form Voconiq, this project just felt like a fantastic way to scale up and build on that success with Australian Eggs with a key set of Australian rural industries. And while projects like this with lots of stakeholders and funders can be tricky to navigate, we knew that there was a unique opportunity to support collaborative action across Australia’s rural industries in an area we are passionate about.
How will this research benefit the agricultural sector?
Through this research we have already helped rural industries understand the key drivers of community trust in and acceptance of them. We’ve benchmarked community perceptions across a broad set of issues, highlighting those areas of real strength in the relationship, for example the value of industry products in people’s lives, its contribution to regional communities, and areas of challenge such as effective environmental management and acting as responsible stewards of the land and sea.
This is important because industries can and are using these insights to engage differently with the Australian community. Doing this well increases the ‘freedom to operate’ for rural industries and ensures they can innovate to meet the challenges of the future with community right there beside them.
But more than the data, the power of this project will be in creating a collaborative, cross-industry effort to understand and address social licence and community trust – that is hard, complex work and it’s just fantastic to be working with so many excellent and committed RDCs and industry stakeholders in this common pursuit.