In 2011, Shell asked CBI to develop and tailor a curriculum and training approach that could help enhance the community engagement skills of its community relations staff. Strategically, Shell has sought to lead in the social performance space, yet – like many oil and gas majors – it has faced a deep challenge of harmonizing those skills across the global diversity of its community relations teams and the contexts in which they work.

Equally important and challenging, Shell’s community relations teams seek to integrate community engagement principles and practices directly into its site-based planning and operations, working closely with operations managers, technical, and logistical staff.

Following four months of collaborative effort, a CBI-Shell team jointly created the Social Performance in the Community Course. At the heart of the course is the interweaving of Shell’s Social Performance requirements and CBI’s Mutual Gains Approach to Community Engagement (MGA). The Social Performance requirements aim to ensure that Shell provides benefits to communities and minimize negative impacts on them in all of its operations. CBI’s Mutual Gains Approach provides practical principles and tools to make company-community engagement as beneficial as possible for all stakeholders.

The Mutual Gains Approach is based on a fundamental premise: that proactive and strategic engagement with the community – aimed at addressing priority needs and interests of both the company and the community – leads to more sustainable outcomes and strengthened relationships with stakeholders. For Shell and other corporations seeking to implement this approach, we offer a four-step framework to define and drive good practice in company-community interaction:

  • Prepare – by knowing your team, mapping the social context, and aligning for engagement.
  • Explore – by clarifying stakeholder needs, feeding back to ensure internal alignment, and adapting engagement.
  • Construct – by creating options for mutual gain, building credible shared information, being consistent, and involving stakeholders in solutions.
  • Follow Through – by maintaining company alignment and strengthening relationships through clear process and stakeholder involvement.

The three-day, highly interactive Social Performance in the Community course integrates this framework with the key elements of Shell’s Social Performance Standards. Using case studies and role play, Shell’s community relations staff practice the primary steps and activities required to meet the Standards, explore ways to partner with Shell operations counterparts, and build key skills for effective community engagement: communication, consultation, negotiation and conflict resolution.

Threaded into the curriculum are also 4 crosscutting principles that can comprise a culture shift for any company seeking to improve the way it relates to communities impacted (positively or negatively) by its operations.

  • Focusing on core interests and needs – both company’s and community’s
  • Creating options that generate mutual gain – in ways that address priority interests and concerns
  • Strengthening relationships – through consistent information sharing, dialogue, and follow through actions that are consistent with commitments made
  • Involving stakeholders in the solution – inclusive of grievance management, problem-solving, and social investment

To date the Social Performance in the Community Course has been offered to Shell assets/projects in 7 locations (Philippines, Ireland, Canada, Dubai, Jordan, Qatar, Nigeria) with expansion to 6 more for 2013 (Ukraine, China, Australia, Malaysia, Nigeria, US). In addition, an interactive e-learning version of the curriculum will be available online this fall in order to reach a wider audience of Shell staff and managers, to build understanding of how their work can contribute to effective social performance.

For more information, contact Merrick Hoben, Director of CBI’s Corporate Stakeholder Engagement Practice.