People who manage community engagement processes on projects that operate under the government licensing conditions or the lenders’ conditions would agree with me that compliance audits always come much quicker than you think. Imagine that on top of dealing with your day-to-day engagement priorities, which sometimes means putting out spot fires, you need to prepare for the audits as well. There are many things that the auditors will want to see of course. The IFC list of validation methods for ascertaining the process of free, prior and informed consultation include not only planning documentation, but also the entire schedule and record of community engagement. They want to see all discussions that the organisation has had with community representatives, affected households, respected key informants and other interested parties. They want to see what issues have been raised, how the organisation has addressed them, how effective was the engagement process, and whether the process was ‘prior’ and ‘informed’, etc.
We all enjoy being out there talking to people, building and maintaining meaningful relationships between the organisation that we represent and the stakeholders, sharing the community stories, and being inspired by them. For many stakeholder engagement practitioners that I know, sharing, learning, being able to influence change are reasons why we do what we do. And for many of us documenting those conversations and discussions and managing them in a systematic manner is a bit of a chore. Also, we may get too busy putting out spot fires so we push it to the bottom of our to-do-list. Then the audit time comes, we work the extra hours trying to catch up with our documentation. Sometimes we remember everything that was said at the time, sometimes our memories betray us.
Audit time is when you're going to really value having a good record keeping system
The time-saving value of having a proper record-keeping system should not be underestimated. Depending on the scale and nature of your projects, there will always be a system that works for you, from a simple excel spreadsheet, an access database, to a more sophisticated stakeholder engagement software like Darzin. This means you can be confident that all your good works are well documented and the audit preparation is effortless. There are other advantages of having a stakeholder management system in place, such as:
- Increase transparency on your stakeholder engagement activities
- Better manage stakeholder expectations by ensuring consistency in messaging and that the organisation’s commitments and promises are followed up in a timely manner
- Better share stakeholder information as well as knowledge about stakeholders across the organisation
- Help make informed and timely decisions on matters that are important to stakeholders that would support the social license to operate.
A simple example, a colleague told me that she received a phone call from a client saying that a landowner called complaining that last year he was told one thing, and now he is told something totally different by the project team in terms of land compensation. Fortunately, my colleague kept a record of every conversation with stakeholders on the project so she could quickly respond to the landowner’s issue. It was just a simple excel spreadsheet as the project was a tiny operation with a handful of landowners, but it sure did the job!
If your project has potential significant adverse social or environmental impacts, or of sensitive nature, you may want to think about having a stakeholder engagement system set up early on in the project lifecycle. Darzin software is designed specifically for stakeholder engagement market by practitioners with hands-on experience in this field. You will find that it gives you all of the tools you need to do your tasks more effectively.