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Inspiring upliftment

Embracing fresh perspectives and reshaping community engagement paradigms

SUZETTE DE WET, Head, Community Engagement and Social Performance, Africa

Community engagement is a multifaceted endeavor that requires a nuanced approach. No single formula can adequately address the diverse needs of every community. What works in one region may fall short in another, which is why we must view each client and community through a unique lens, offering an array of options and flexible solutions.

Organizations are increasingly realizing that giving a voice to communities and their leaders often paves the way to a more successful project. At Hatch, we use inclusive project delivery as a method of fully integrating community goals and objectives into the project life cycle. Using this approach, we combine two distinct professional services—design and project delivery, and community engagement—into a strategy that ensures communities come first in the delivery process.

There’s an opportunity to integrate traditional knowledge into projects in a way that serves the community by seeking input from elders, leaders, and youth, and respecting each community’s deep and unique connection to its land. In South Africa, where mining towns are experiencing a brain drain as workers migrate to larger cities, we work diligently to develop skills in local communities to ensure economic inclusion. Likewise, in Canada, clients and communities—both Indigenous and non-Indigenous—are creating opportunities that lead to jobs and sustainable, locally-owned businesses. In other words, we’re leading with projects that don’t just “do the job.” Through consultation and engagement, our projects present a physical manifestation of the social fabric and history of a society.

Clients want to carry out projects on time, on budget, and with as few conflicts and delays as possible. Community members, of course, want a say in projects to ensure they are culturally appropriate, provide jobs, and don’t have a negative effect on their quality of life, their environment, or their safety. When we lead with community engagement, we give communities a place at the table from the get-go. Local populations are viewed and treated as equal stakeholders in the decision-making process, leading to fewer delays down the road.

We are passionately committed to helping our clients and the communities find success. Many of our experts come from resource development backgrounds or grew up in small towns and villages where opportunities weren’t always plentiful and they have seen firsthand the positive results of effective community engagement. Like you, our team members believe their jobs aren’t just about paying the bills, but about making a difference.

Indeed, our project work goes far beyond our interactions with clients and communities. We partner with our clients to create lasting, positive impacts in the community. We’ve helped students attend university to hone their project management skills. We’ve helped unemployed young people go to school to become designers. And we’ve helped Indigenous businesses prosper. It’s this upliftment that benefits all of us, creating connections that go beyond projects, developing pipelines of talent and facilitating lasting relationships.

Through comprehensive planning, the vision and goals of our community plans include infrastructure feasibility studies and a particular focus on the overall prosperity, health and wellness, emergency response, governance, and education and learning of the communities we serve. This long-term vision is kept front and center in our design process and is incorporated into the earliest design activities.

As organizations continue to adopt community engagement platforms, we can expect growth in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG), particularly as it applies to the “S.” There is a true desire to evolve the social aspect of community engagement, ensuring that all are able to participate in economic activity through ownership, employment, skills development, enterprise supply, and socio-economic development opportunities.

We’re passionate about creating and delivering inclusive projects and putting communities at the forefront of design and project delivery; ultimately, it’s about clients and communities forming lasting partnerships that foster mutual support, shared goals, and positive outcomes for both sides. While there is no blueprint or standard operating procedure to achieve this, there is a universal commitment to fostering meaningful connections and lasting impact.

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