• Dione McGuinness

Spring break-up is almost here…are you ready to begin engagement planning?


Spring break-up is around the corner. While it’s a great time for general “spring maintenance” it’s also a perfect time to reflect on all of your projects, and what your organization is doing to manage various levels of risk. In general, companies do an excellent job of managing legal, regulatory, health and safety, environmental and safety risks – most have entire departments dedicated to ensuring these are managed effectively. But you need only to turn on the news to hear of the risk that is not being managed as well or as consistently, and it is delaying, and even shutting down projects… costing organizations dearly. I’m referring to “non-technical” or social risk, and it’s arguably one of the most important (and least understood) risks to projects.

Now is an ideal time for teams to take stock of upcoming projects and any associated risks from Stakeholders and Indigenous communities, so that you can plan to include engagement considerations and resources (time, budget and people) in your project planning. Planning a major project? Start early! Here’s how:

Dedicate engagement resources: If you are planning exploration in a new area, expanding your scope considerably, planning a project that crosses multiple jurisdictions or will have significant environmental impacts, dedicate engagement personnel to the project, and allow enough time up front for them to develop an understanding of the stakeholders and Indigenous communities within the project area. Laying the groundwork well up front, reduces the likelihood of facing costly delays later in the project.

Assess the risk: A common mistake in assessing non-technical risk is to view it through our own lens. I’ve worked with many technical, regulatory and health and safety professionals who have had challenges during open houses by people who, despite hearing all the ways in which water is protected, are afraid and angry that their water will be poisoned! But by viewing the project through the community’s lens, you will be much more prepared to address their concerns. Begin to identify and analyze risk by answering some of the following questions: From the community’s perspective, what are the potential benefits and negative impacts of the project? (Not sure? Ask them!) What are they most concerned about? What do they value? Who may be your advocates and detractors? Once you have an idea of the issues, opportunities and stakeholders, you can begin to formulate a plan to address them.

Plan your engagement program: Based on the level of risk you’ve assessed in the previous step, draft a plan to engage all of your key stakeholders and address the risks you’ve identified. Be creative – while there are established processes and tools to go about this, some of the more nuanced tactics will depend on the skill and attunement of the engagement practitioner.

Alignment with your project team: Like safety, no one team or person is solely responsible for engagement… you will be most effective if you are all aligned. I’ve sat on project teams who didn’t buy into engagement activities, and those that did...often the difference was in simply understanding the rigour and principles around engagement, and the risks of not doing it well. Don’t forget to engage your internal team not only in the delivery, but in the planning of engagement activities, to ensure that everyone owns, and is responsible, for engagement.

The engagement planning process is a lengthy one, and may take you through the summer to complete. So, start this spring, and by the time projects are kicked off you will have in place a plan to address non-technical risk that includes the necessary time, budget and staff, and has your team’s buy-in.

If you’d like more information on engagement planning, contact BRITT Land & Engagement at info@brittland.com

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© 2019 by BRITT Land & Engagement

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