Community Perspectives & Community Engagement: How do you get at different vulnerable groups to ensure their perspectives are included?

Workshop Summary Report

October 15, 2015

Toronto, Canada

The last decade has seen a significant advances in the practice of stakeholder engagement. Since the mid-1990s, there has been a growing appreciation of the importance in giving voice and ownership of local development processes to affected communities. Recently there has been formalization around the practice of stakeholder engagement, including within the private sector. At the same time, for all organizations – private, public and non-profit sectors alike – stakeholder engagement remains a challenge.

Every community, region and nation has voiceless, marginalized, and vulnerable populations. Both for those organizations focused on community development as well as for companies operating in these locales, there is growing appreciation of the importance in giving voice and inclusion to these otherwise disenfranchised groups. In October 2015, the Devonshire Initiative convened a workshop to examine current practices, challenges, and opportunities, around this theme of community engagement with marginalized and vulnerable groups.

The benefits of social and economic development are not universal or equally shared. Not only are some people left out of the opportunities, but some or many in fact may find their condition worsen. Understanding which groups in society are most vulnerable to these disproportionate effects is of growing concern to companies and development agencies alike. A starting point for attention in mining communities should be on women and girls, as well as youth more broadly. Increasingly, there is more thought being given to the development effects (or lack of) for other vulnerable social groups, including the elderly and people living with disabilities. Finally, there is much more attention today on indigenous communities and their highly complex relationship with development in mining-affected regions.

The development community as well as companies operating in close proximity to these conditions have all become increasingly aware of the complexities and potential for unintended consequences in development. Addressing some of these challenges through traditional stakeholder engagement approaches may not solve the underlying issues.

To address this gap in knowledge and practice, workshop participants and presenters shared experiences on successes (and challenges) in better engaging with vulnerable groups. This included through traditional mechanisms such as social impact assessments, as well as through legal frameworks including human rights regimes. More recently, big data and innovation in IT have allowed for new insights into vulnerability and exclusion within societies. Complementing this, two case presentations offered practical insights into the process of engaging with vulnerable and marginalized populations in the community.

The workshop concluded with focused breakout discussions along three topics:

  1. Building the business case for engaging vulnerable and marginalized groups
  2. How to ensure vulnerable and marginalized groups are included in stakeholder engagement processes
  3. How to measure and communicate impacts on vulnerable groups