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Cape Town consultancy launches community engagement platform for large-scale projects

9th July 2024

By: Marleny Arnoldi

Deputy Editor Online

     

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Cape Town-based sustainability consultancy Cultiver Group has launched a community engagement platform called ENGAGE!, which is aimed at helping ensure inclusivity and lower social risk for infrastructure projects.

The company had been undertaking pilot implementations for one year to test the platform through renewable-energy company Enel Green Power, particularly for its Karusa and Soetwater wind farms.

The solution is now available for large-scale project developers and mines in South Africa and in the broader Southern Africa region.

“While mining, renewable-energy and infrastructure projects are vital for economic development and community upliftment, marginalised communities often remain excluded from the benefits of these projects and are vulnerable to potential negative impacts,” says Cultiver CEO Fezeka Stuurman.

She adds that mismanaged or insufficient community engagement is a leading cause of project-related social unrest, project delays, development and construction delays, as well as profit losses for project owners.

ENGAGE! is expected to bridge the gap between large public and private projects and local communities, ensuring projects advance in a manner that is inclusive, just and socially responsible.

The platform offers a toll-free number and trained community ambassadors through which community members can voice project-related concerns, challenges, or inquiries in 11 national languages.

In developing the platform, Cultiver drew from more than a decade of experience working on the ground with communities and providing innovative and impactful solutions to social challenges for clients such as Enel, Scatec, Impala Platinum and Conservation South Africa.

The pilot-scale rollout of the platform demonstrated how project and community interaction can improve, while it also raised community awareness of projects’ benefits.

The platform can now equip more project owners with actionable insights that enhance social impact, enterprise development and environment, social and governance initiatives.

“This holistic approach bolsters relationships with existing stakeholders and also attracts new partnerships, thereby strengthening the social fabric around large infrastructure projects,” Stuurman states.

The ENGAGE! platform has provided the community with great support and indispensable resources, narrowing the gap and strengthening the relationship between communities and infrastructure project owners to help advance economic development efforts, says Laingsburg-based Thusong Centre senior clerk Shirene Gouws.

Nonprofit organisation Initiative for Social Performance in Renewable Energy co-founder and MD Dr Holle Wlokas adds that, by enabling the real-time lodging of information and grievances, it can strengthen project owners’ relationships with communities and complement engagement strategies in natural resource-based businesses for better social performance.

 

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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