I first heard the words “meeting under the mango tree” as a euphemism for having a predictable, easy to access process for enabling community members to raise issues and concerns in a safe and familiar place. There is no fixed agenda and no one-size-fits-all for these exchanges. With one company we set up drop-in centres in each local village with a designated community officer in attendance everyday. Another made it known that a company person would be available “under the mango tree” for two hours every market day. I am hoping this blog will achieve something similar – the regular, free and open sharing of ideas and experiences. Time will tell how well it works out.
Living with uncertainty is part and parcel of exploration and development but this doesn’t mean that you can’t plan. The reality is that the uncertainty is with the outcome of each phase, not with the project management process, where one well defined step follows another. For the most part, when decisions are made they follow a pattern – a round of drilling is completed, results are assessed and are used to inform a go / no go decision for the next step. Likewise, there is a conscious decision to start a scoping study, to progress to a feasibility study or to put a project on the shelf.
If you have done a good job with your community engagement you will have explained the unpredictable nature of your project and the industry. Even so, your departure from the site – whether it is for the season, until the market recovers or for good – will be a shock for the community. Leaving on good terms will be critical for the future of the project and can seriously affect your company reputation as well as that of the industry.
So, as you prepare to leave you could do worse than give some thought to the following:
- Take the time to explain (again) why you are leaving;
- Consider ending on a festive note rather than just disappearing -something like a community event;
- Make sure any outstanding commitments are met. If it isn’t possible to keep your promises then make the effort to explain why and ask the community for permission to break them;
- Close out all complaints and grievances;
- Ensure the site doesn’t pose any ongoing environmental or health and safety issues;
- Be clear whether you will continue to provide project updates. This is particularly relevant when suspension is due to market or technical issues; and
- Decide whether you want to provide the community with an easy way to contact the company.
- Ensure all outstanding wages have been paid and that accounts with local contractors and service providers have been settled;
- Consider providing a reference letter or statement of service employees can use to help them secure a new job;
- Consider providing a level of outplacement support - something as simple as helping them draft a resume can be very valuable and doesn’t take a lot of effort;
- If it is a temporary slowdown, consider opportunities for job sharing rather than redundancies; and
- If ongoing services are required – like security, site rehabilitation or environmental monitoring – try and use as many locals as possible.
The institutional memory is a valuable resource so:
- Ensure your records are filed and as complete as possible; and
- Consider writing handover notes for the next person – personal insights, anecdotes, useful stuff that gives the local flavour
Adapted from PDAC First Engagement Field Guide for Explorers: www.pdac.ca/programs/e3-plus/community-engagement-guide
- Community Development
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