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 was hoping this blog would achieve something similar – the regular, free and open sharing of ideas and experiences. Three years on and it hasn't worked as I had hoped so I'm taking a break and having a bit of a rethink. In the meantime I have reposted a "best of" selection.

STE(A)M powered education

Responsible Business Management |  1 February 2022

Quality Education (SDG4) is a laudable goal but I have struggled for years to find a strong case for company funding of community requests for assistance with education-related activities and projects. I have never bought into the oft-stated rationale for spending time and money on the early education of future generations of potential employees. It just doesn’t stack up for most projects with their relatively short development and operating cycles. The exception might be where the majors (Rio and BHP come to mind) with their 30 to 50-year operating windows have a much stronger argument for inter-generational impact. For everyone else, supporting education activities the return on investment in education-focused activities is in building relationships with local communities. 

Water Security - difficult to do well

Responsible Business Management |  1 February 2022

I can’t think of one site I’ve worked on or visited that doesn’t provide some level of support to improving the availability of clean water and better sanitation. It is easy to cut the cloth to fit the available resources, although it must be said this is an area where it is easy to under-estimate the amount of effort to create long lasting behaviour change which goes far beyond simply providing a borehole or building a toilet and hoping for the best, which unfortunately is an approach taken by many companies, big and small...

Permaculture powered community development

Responsible Business Management |  1 February 2022

I don’t know about you, but when permaculture was suggested to me a technique for community development I had some doubts but having seen Edge5 Permaculture in action I am  now a convert. The Edge5 way uses an integrated approach to design, combining the ecological processes of land, plants, animals and climate into highly productive systems resulting in stronger and healthier communities. The approach is practical and hands-on, encourages peer-to-peer learning, starts at the backdoor with intensive kitchen gardens before building to larger scale strategies for water-harvesting, sustainable farming (crops, trees and animals) and agro-forestry...

Tapping into local knowledge

Responsible Business Management |  1 February 2022

This short piece highlights a few simple actions you can take that will reduce your community-related project risk.

My suggestion is that whether you are taking on an existing project or you’ve acquired it through a purchase or takeover, the simple act of talking to the in-country site team can save you a lot of grief. If they are on-the-ball they will be a good source of information to help you get up to speed…

Feeling the pulse- your relationship health check

Responsible Business Management |  1 February 2022

We know that the level of social risk associated with a project is linked to the quality of relationships with local people but how can you know where you stand? There are two simple ways to do this. The first is to pay attention for changes in the tone of meetings with government agencies, partners and community members. The second is to note changes in behaviour and attitude you see happening in the community...

Making the most of your first site visit

Responsible Business Management |  1 February 2022

If you're working on an overseas project and have never visited the site you'll be well served to make some pre-departure arrangements ahead of your first visit so that you can tick off the actions on your "what do I need to get out of my first visit checklist".  The more advice, views and ideas you can gather early on the better informed you’ll be and the less likely it is that you'll make costly mistakes. Having "been there done that", believe me when I tell you that it is not a good place to be...