In our previous post we noted how participatory monitoring helps generate more trust between communities and companies with potentially controversial projects.
But there are right ways to carry out these joint monitoring exercises. We’ve boiled down our experience at the IDB into three key tips that can provide a starting point for participatory monitoring.
- Don’t assume you already know what the issues are. Engage with the community to understand their concerns so that you can focus the monitoring on easing the concerns they’ve identified. For example, in the large petrochemical plant in Mexico (Etileno XXI) the participatory monitoring took a different form. Through a series of monthly meetings with the surrounding communities, the company learned that one community was dissatisfied with the flooding that occurred each time it rained. Although not a direct impact of the project, the company built a new drainage system to foster trust and goodwill with the community.
- Be honest. If negative impacts are identified, take responsibility to correct it. Do not try to hide it or misguide the communities. Being open with information allows the community to also propose creative solutions and ideas for the projects that impact their lives. In Peru, when community monitors uncovered a concrete slab and lots of stones that had been left behind in their cattle field by a contractor, , instead of demanding that the contractor return to remove the debris left behind, they proposed that the company hire community members to remove the stones and that the slab be repurposed as a rest area for the cattle- ranchers. This solution saved money for the company, provided additional resources to the community, and avoided a lengthy legal battle with the contractor at fault.
- Leave knowledge behind. Pass on as much “know how” as possible. Knowledge is precious to the underprivileged communities we serve as it can open up the door for greater entrepreneurship and larger civic engagement. Both Camisea and Peru LNG community monitoring trained close to 100 local community members each. As “monitors” they learned about natural gas, construction elements, erosion, water contamination, air pollution, and much more. This knowledge empowered these monitors- a lot of them women- who later became leaders in their communities, or went on to pursue further studies with scholarships offered by the Minister of Energy and Mines of Peru.