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 licence to operate.
One approach for earning a social licence 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 more resources tab to see other useful info.
The importance of keeping an open-mind
A few years ago I reviewed a community-company grievance mechanism. The client didn’t have the best of reputations and I had some seriously negative preconceptions when I agreed to take on the work. I have to say, I was wrong. I found the teams on site were doing a much better job than I expected with a significant and multifaceted effort being put into grievance prevention…
A Community Relationships Primer for Exploration Companies
Why Building Strong Relationships Matters.
Going into a new area to explore and ultimately build and operate a mine you start with high and positive expectations that you can work constructively with the local communities. Then it goes off the rails. Most often, with good intentions and a focus on an immediate issue, individuals in the company or in the community will take actions or make decisions (or fail to take actions or make decisions) that over time, cumulatively and progressively add up to major problems and consequences that are for the most part predictable – difficulties, costly delays and if it really goes badly, loss of the project. The good news is that 10 simple actions you can take will give you far more control than you might think...
Management systems supporting the pursuit of excellence and continuous improvement are found in all other aspects of business - technical, financial, administration and health and safety and environmental performance - so why not community relations and social performance? Why not indeed…
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...
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 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...
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…
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 – how are you putting the words into practice in the context of the country you are operating in and the legal requirements you must meet?
This is another in our 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 provides 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 little on-line research to learn about the 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...
Making a contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals.
For the last few years I have been making the case that junior and mid-tier explorers and operators can contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (the SDGs) and just as importantly to be recognised for what they do, to the extent that shorter life-cycles, smaller physical, environmental, social and economic footprints, leaner management structure and lesser lobbying strength allow. So I’ve been digging away, looking for ideas to borrow and tweak. The ICMM was quick out of the blocks, mapping the SDGs to theirSustainable Development Principles. Another good source has been a think-tank reportmapping mining to the development goals . Both have been useful but they definitely reflect the capabilities and strategies of the big-end of town. More recently IPECA has published a guide for the oil and gas industry and the US FAO has incorporated SDG considerations into their Sustainable Forest Management Toolbox.
This story 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...
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.
IFC Webinar: Performance Standards 101
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: Checking the state of your relationship
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