In order to gain the communities’ trust and support to obtain and maintain their social licence to operate, companies in the mining and oil & gas sectors must engage with project stakeholders. Whether the scope of a project is narrow or broad, direct interaction between the companies and their key stakeholders – individuals, organizations, suppliers or communities – must be clear and transparent. Monitoring all interactions with stakeholders from formal public consultations to informal discussions is very complex due to the incredible amount of complex data that must be collected and managed. One may ask: Why monitor these interactions? The answer is quite simple. Relationships with stakeholders are like a persons’ pulse; by taking it you can know how healthy they are. And the only way to take communities, organizations and other stakeholders’ pulse is by monitoring their interactions with a company or a project, hence the importance to collect relevant information to track these engagements to ensure transparent and efficient communication.
Using accurate information is the best possible approach for companies to monitor the situation and react according to how events unfold. But even if all the ‘important’ data is collected, it will only be advantageous if it is used properly. The best tool to handle large amounts of data is an Information Management System (IMS), which provides management with an access to actions that are taking place in the field in order to see if operations are aligned with business processes.
Key benefits of an IMS include: enhanced follow up, auditable processes, traceable records, improved business processes, centralized storage of stakeholder engagement activities, optimized access to key project information, and better informed decision-making based on up to date and reliable data. Even though an IMS does have many benefits, extractive companies still confront some challenges such as process standardization, systematic gathering of information, and accurate and reliable data, just to name a few. Implementing an IMS is no simple task; it is an ongoing process that must be undertaken with vigorous and constant efforts. As the project evolves, so does the company and its stakeholders, therefore engaging with them and using the IMS to record information is an ongoing improvement process.
For the past seven years, I have been working on diverse projects, notably in South and Central America, Mexico as well as more recently in Africa. Through these projects, I have gained experience in managing data and implementing systems to monitor Stakeholder Engagement activities in different environments, based on best practices outlined by the IFC, the World Bank and the Equator Principles. As a Project Manager, first-hand contact with our clients and their stakeholders contributed to my in-depth knowledge and understanding of the intricate interactions between both parties and the information that companies are required to provide to show transparency and manage risks. In this White Paper, I present a case study about the data management and implementation of an IMS to manage Stakeholder Engagement on a project in Africa, and depict the challenges that were faced throughout the process. By sharing this experience, I hope to help others who work on the same type of projects and deal with similar issues better understand the ongoing improvement process that Stakeholder Engagement systems require.
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