To predict, prevent and respond to community conflict, companies need a structured and culturally appropriate strategy in place, the success of which will be determined by two factors; the quality of the strategy, and how well it is employed in any given situation.
The nature of the strategy that will be employed can change dramatically between industries and countries, even internally to a single company. However, the factor that will determine how well it is employed in any given situation remains a constant throughout the world. That is a deep understanding of the situation in which it will be employed, encompassing the context and needs that will inevitably be unique in each iteration.
What do the strategies look like?
There a many examples of strategies containing mature and advanced structures and mechanisms on projects on a wide range of industries all over the world, indicating that there can be success through a range of strategic avenues. Strategy as it is used in this article refers to the following:
A strategy acts as an overarching principle that guides a group of structures within which mechanisms are built to produce the desired outcome. Structures in this context can be a well-developed social performance department within an operating company that contains a range of teams covering areas such as community engagement, land access and social investment. Mechanisms in this context are specific processes that are designed to produce the output for an individual structure, for example a Grievance or Complaint resolution process that carries out a comprehensive resolution workflow, involving investigation, analysis, recommendations and outcomes. An example of such a mechanism can be found in the IPIECA document titled “Operational level grievance mechanism“.
An example of a project strategy for shared value would contain a series of structures, which would each contain a series of mechanisms.
How are strategies employed effectively in unique situations?
How effectively these strategies are employed will determine how well a company will be able to predict, prevent and respond to community conflict (assuming internal capability is adequate). A company can have a robust strategy but if it is not implemented effectively it will be less likely to lead to improved community conflict management and could lead to degradation of the existing situation. There are a range of examples in which greater understanding could have enabled a strategy to build an improved situation and/or prevented further degradation, such as the Bougainville – BCL experience of 1989.
The reason for this is the extremely varied nature of the myriad of communities in which projects from multiple industries occur throughout the globe.
It would be naïve to assume that a strategy which is successful in one location can be transplanted into another and expect the same results. This assumption disregards the unique nature of each community group within a region and throughout the world.
However, it is reasonable to assume that the guiding principles and some aspects of a strategy will be transferrable. An example set of guiding principles can be found in the Equator Principles forged by the IFC. A framework such as the Equator Principles can be interpreted and applied in a range of ways allowing any strategy that includes them to be flexible. As a strategy may need to be shifted, it must be malleable enough so that it can be customised to meet the needs of each new situation in which it is employed.
Consequently, one of the key factors in determining how well a strategy will allow companies to predict, prevent and respond to community conflict will depend on the companies’ ability to identify the needs of the situation in which the strategy is to be employed.
How to identify project needs?
So the question now becomes; how can a company better identify the needs of a situation in which it wishes to deploy a strategy to better predict, prevent and respond to community conflict?
Fortunately the answer to this is straightforward; by developing a deep understanding of the new situation through comprehensive information collection and insightful interpretation.
Before a reasonable decision can be made, a deep and complete understanding of all influencing factors and potential impacts must be gained to ensure the intended outcome is reached with the minimum on flow consequences.
A way this can be achieved is through extensive data collection of appropriate information coupled with insightful analyses to identify root issues and their trends. Through carrying out a comprehensive social baseline study, in conjuncture with extensive stakeholder engagement and capturing all relevant data, a broad picture can be developed. Once this broad picture has been built the information must be interpreted and queried to gain the insight that will determine the needs that have been mentioned above. This process requires a purpose built information management system (such as the BoréalisIMS) as it allows this process to be initiated and efficiently managed to a point at which it will drastically enhance the value proposition for the entire strategy and consequently feasibility of the project.
A deep and complete understanding of the situation is the common need for all strategies that are employed across every industry. Throughout the world as in the space of community conflict management there is only one constant; that each new experience, each new situation, will be unique and must have a unique response that is purpose built.
Developing a strategy that contains strong and robust mechanisms and structures is only the first step in improving the management of community conflict. To better predict, prevent and respond to community conflict, the implemented strategies must be based on a deep and comprehensive understanding of the situation in which they are to be applied, and then configure appropriately to meet those unique needs. Thus one of the key factors in strategy (and project) success will be the ability to identify the unique needs, which can be achieved through robust data collection, management and interpretation.
An example of a process to enable a company to better predict, prevent and respond to community conflict can be summed up in the following steps:
- Develop a mature and specifically targeted structure for community conflict, social licence, or social performance management.
- Recognise that each project and each location is unique and therefor the structure developed in step one will need to be shifted and customised to meet the needs of the new situation.
- Identify the needs of the new situation through the collection of appropriate information and interpretation using appropriate metrics.
- Using the insights to gain understanding of the new situation, shift and customise the strategy appropriately.
- Continue to collect and interpret the relevant information and use this to refine both the specific application of the strategy in this situation, and the overarching core principle strategy that will be used as a guide for new implementations.