Social engagement steps
Author: Meghan Cartwright
The Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining
Created: March, 2009
Knowledge of effective stakeholder and community engagement is still evolving, especially as formal engagement practices are new to many mining companies (Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources of the Australian Government, 2006). Figure 1 illustrates the phases involved in the engagement cycle, including planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation.
Figure1 Stakeholder and community engagement steps throughout the engagement cycle (International Finance Corporation, 2009)
During the planning phase, the key community requirements and resources, the stakeholders, the key issues, and the company resources available for engagement are identified. This is when engagement is initiated. Although many companies use stakeholder mapping to determine the important stakeholders to engage, it is important to conduct interviews with the identified stakeholders to ensure that the correct people have been identified, to check that no important stakeholders have been overlooked, and to assess the relationships between stakeholders themselves and with the company (International Finance Corporation, 2009). It is important to define the community (or communities) that will be affected positively or negatively by the mining activity.
Consultation with stakeholders during the planning and implementation phases can include:
- Community meetings/briefings;
- Individual conversations with stakeholders;
- Workshops with small groups;
- Meetings with community organizations;
- Public displays; and/or
- Surveys. (International Finance Corporation, 2009) (Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources of the Australian Government, 2006)
It is important that consultation be culturally sensitive, and conducted in the local language (International Finance Corporation, 2009). Any information provided to stakeholders or community members should accommodate the local language(s) and various levels of literacy (International Finance Corporation, 2009). Consultation should be a well-coordinated and supported activity (Aboriginal Engagement Task Group, 2008).
This early phase of engagement is often begun by geological surveyors, as they are the first mining-industry personnel to make contact with the communities of interest (Aboriginal Engagement Task Group, 2008).
During the implementation phase, engagement continues via open dialogue between stakeholders, communities of interest and the mining company. It is also during this phase that the company embarks on community development projects to benefit the community in which it is operating.
A mining company's contribution to community improvement can take many forms, including infrastructure, workforce and/or social development (International Finance Corporation, 2009). It is important for a mining company to recognize that the stakeholders' and community's expectations may not be met through a single initiative, but instead through a wide variety of contributions throughout the life of the mine (International Finance Corporation, 2009).
Ongoing engagement is needed to:
- Make decisions about the project (such as design, operating procedures, closure planning strategies, etc.) and resource allocation ;
- Allow for ongoing stakeholder involvement in the direction of the project and its impact on the communities of interest;
- Enhance the transparency of the mining company and the project; and
- Ensure open communication between all stakeholders. (International Finance Corporation, 2009)
Ongoing engagement can take the form of:
- Advisory committees and/or boards consisting of stakeholders and community member;
- Community liaison groups;
- Regular project updates from the mining company;
- A visitors' centre;
- 24-hour telephone lines;
- Direct mail and newsletters;
- Open days and site visits; and/or
- Staff involvement in community groups. (International Finance Corporation, 2009) (Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources of the Australian Government, 2006).
To ensure the sustainability of resources for community development, community trusts, a community foundation, self-financing projects, and/or co-financing projects can be established (International Finance Corporation, 2009). In regions where multiple mining companies operate, resources can be pooled between companies to provide better and more secure long-term community development funding (International Finance Corporation, 2009).
Monitoring and evaluation phase
During the monitoring and evaluation phase, the effectiveness of the engagement process for the community and for the company is evaluated. If expectations are not being met, measures are taken to improve the engagement process, including the return to the planning or implementation phases of the engagement cycle.
Engagement is not a simple or easy task. A mining company and its stakeholders and communities of interest can encounter many challenges related to engagement throughout the mining life cycle, as shown in Figure 2.
Figure 2 Potential community development and engagement challenges through the mining life cycle. (International Finance Corporation, 2009)
Although there are many challenges with community development and engagement faced by mining companies, there also exist many opportunities, as shown in Figure 3.
Figure 3 Potential community development and engagement opportunities through the mining life cycle. (International Finance Corporation, 2009)