Barrick’s community relations teams in Chile recently implemented an innovative approach to address and manage community engagement in host communities using customer service technology. Known as the Stakeholder Relationship Management System, the app will help them to not only keep track of commitments that the Company has made to various community groups, but also to anticipate and act on information needs for wider segments of the local community, and determine public opinion for a mine or project.
In other words, this is helping teams make data-driven decisions.
Because of the overlap that exists between customer service and community relations in terms of service delivery and anticipating stakeholder needs, the Company sought best practices from that industry. The end result has been the Stakeholder Relations Management system, which is an off-the-shelf product deployed in the theater of community relations.
The data that community relations team members input into the tool is automatically updated across other team members’ mobile devices, helping to improve coordination.
“Our digital transformation is about more than just improving the Company’s operational effectiveness on our mine sites,” says Simon Thompson, Barrick’s Product Owner for License-To-Operate Digitization. “We’re leveraging technologies to enhance transparency and engagement with our host communities and host governments.”
Following door-to-door visits to gather feedback from local community members, the system led the community relations teams in Chile to discover that there are large numbers of community members who are passive observers and may not be engaged on the project. Nonetheless, these community members also have concerns that could be addressed by the Company.
For example, certain community members may worry that the local youth will end up leaving their rural towns in search of job opportunities, while others may worry about a project’s environmental impacts without seeking further information to support those views one way or the other. The technology helps the community relations teams track those interactions and share specific information that different stakeholders are looking for—from the indifferent to the passive to the highly engaged.
Over time, this will help community relations teams deliver the right information to the right people at the right time, and anticipate some of those needs early on. This also allows Barrick to establish baseline data around sentiment towards a project or mine.
“What I like most about this is that this approach gives you complete managing accountability of community engagement,” says Daniela Rojas, Barrick’s Manager of Corporate Affairs in Chile.
The data that community relations team members input into the tool is automatically updated across other team members’ mobile devices, helping to improve coordination. Teams can create tasks, assign team members to those tasks, and track progress against planned activities. This helps to address social obligations, grievance mechanisms, and local employment matters in a timely and organized manner. In cases where there is little to no Internet connectivity, such as in the rural areas where community relations work is typically conducted, teams can still input data and the tool will automatically send it once an Internet connection is established.
Based on the rich data collected during the trial of this technology, the Company is now looking to extend and expand this program to other community relations teams.
“Ultimately, this helps our community relations teams identify issues, proactively engage community members, and drive solutions to those issues,” Thompson says.