I was a novice when I went to Ghana and became involved in the social aspects of mine development for the first time. I didn't make a conscious decision to move from engineering to community, it just sort of happened. I actually went over to oversee some early on-site pre-construction activities but things didn’t go according to plan (the project ran into some unexpected permitting barriers) and I found myself dealing with the many community issues that came up - some easy to work through and others not so. The project did finally receive its approvals but not without a lot of angst and missteps.
My idea with the SLO-toolkit was to bring together experiences and lessons from my time in Ghana and since with the aim of creating an easy-to-use resource that is equally useful as a how-to guide for a new starter and as a memory jogger for a more experienced manager.
I'd like to think that these easy-to-do essentials will help you to take your first steps with a bit more confidence.
Companies wanting to operate responsibly, to systematically address the social challenges they face, earn their social licence and take control of their social risk are more likely to succeed when they stay focused on the company actions that determine social acceptance.
It is difficult to deliver full value to the bottom-line without a social license to operate.
One approach for earning a social license uses this simple cause-and-effect model.
Chances are you don't realise how much useful information is within easy reach.
When you go to site, cross-check your desktop work and also do the following.
Doing the right thing isn't complicated. These ten very simple actions will take you a very long way towards earning your SLO.
Click on the other resources tab to see more useful info.
End of year reflections on Ghana
I went to Ghana as part of a team planning to build a new mine. I had been working on the studies and design work for the company's two Ghana projects for five years so I was very familiar with the project but not particularly familiar with Ghana which I had visited only three times, two of those being very short project kick-off trips. I was also a complete community novice, with this being my first overseas assignment so, perhaps not surprisingly, I made plenty of mistakes. What follows is a look back on some of the processes we put in place and the results we saw in three important areas...
It used to be that satellite imagery or aerial photography was expensive and difficult to access. Now it is easy to see what is happening on the ground around projects. At its simplest you can start by logging into Google Earth, zooming in on a known set of coordinates or a local town name and having a play. If you have a team on the ground, asking them to take some drone imagery is cheap and easy to obtain and provides another level of detail...
Must-do-actions are all about demonstrating the behaviour needed to establish trust and build relationships. Without both the likelihood of success (for the business generally and for community-facing activities in particular) is greatly reduced...
Company aspirations will dictate how you go about your business. With this in mind, what are you saying – the ubiquitous vision, values, mission statement – and how are you putting the words into practice?
This is the second in a short series outlining the basic information needed to quickly come up to speed with the social aspects of a new exploration field activities / project / existing operation / business acquisition. Taken together the full series (when I get it finished) should give you a checklist that is useful whether you need to do a risk assessment, as input to a study or project kick-off meeting, an onboarding briefing for a new project or operations manager or a general familiarisation.
We make assumptions all the time. Sometimes they are reasonable and sometimes they are wrong and lead to serious consequences. Investing an hour to do a bit of on-line research to learn about the general socio-economic conditions in the country where your project is located will be time well spent. While there are any number of sites to choose I find some to be more useful than others...
This lesson comes from my early days in Ghana. At the time we were in the pre-final investment decision phase and not having in-house community development skills we chose to work with a local development NGO. We also made the decision to put a strong focus on debunking community misconceptions that the company was the centre of their universe, that we had unlimited access to money and that we had all the answers. We had a very self-centred reason for taking this approach, believing as we did that success for the business was intimately linked to the ability of the local communities to develop and grow and that success would only come if we worked with local people and local government to identify and implement ideas and actions that would ensure that they would both be better off as a result of us operating in their backyard...
A good way to spend an hour getting an introduction to how the performance standards work. You'll find more useful IFC-generated information here.
SDGs - Forty achievable targets
This list of 40 targets is the result of mapping the seventeen global goals against the company actions in the SLO-framework. It trims the number of targets from 169 by focusing on company activities and local communities, bringing the global agenda down to something achievable at a local level by smaller companies.
SLO Idea: Feeling the pulse
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 use this one-page checklist to note changes you see happening in the community over time.
SLO Idea: Getting the most from baseline studies
We know that decisions that are well informed are more likely to lead to better results than decisions based on assumptions and inadequate data. Pulling together the socio-economic information needed, in a manner that is appropriate for setting, scale and stage of the project can seem overwhelming but, as this simple, one page guide shows, it doesn't need to be...
SLO Idea: Leaving early
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...
Zandvliet and Anderson: Getting It Right
This book has been written for corporate managers who are responsible for company operations in societies that are poor and politically unstable. Many such managers are frustrated with the situations they face. They try their best to run effective, profitable and beneficial operations that take account of the needs of all their stakeholders, including local surrounding communities. But, even with their best efforts, they encounter community dissatisfaction, unrest, opposition, and delays and, worse yet, threats and violence. Why does this happen?
I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Luc while I was feeling my way during my early days in Ghana and am forever thankful for the lesson (obvious with the benefit of hindsight) that resource development by default creates tension and conflict, and that it is how companies approach conflict – as an opportunity or as a threat – that shapes the ongoing relationship between company and community. Some of the ideas in the book have been particularly sticky:
Relationships matter – at a personal and business level this seems a no-brainer but sometimes the connection seems to get lost when it comes to communities
Company impacts are never neutral – they can be negative or positive but from the time a company starts work on-the-ground it starts to create change
People everywhere get annoyed about the same issues – this one gave me a lot of comfort that I could be confident applying the ideas to my particular circumstances plus, the issues are not complicated – behaving appropriately, taking responsibility for impacts and fair distribution of benefits are the keys
Relationships require ongoing effort – again not really earth-shattering news, so it is somewhat surprising how often it happens that over time we take things for granted and it takes a nasty wake-up call to show us how far we’ve gone off the rails
Company actions shape the nature of relationships – this last one relates back to the third point, because the reality is that the three issues that most influence a relationship - impacts, benefits and behaviour – are all company initiated actions, and it is totally within the company’s control to determine what it is going to do and how it is going to act