Training CROs to Strengthen Social License

Developing and maintaining a social license has become a key success factor for extractive companies. The performance of Community Relations or Liaison Officers (CROs or CLOs) plays a critical role in this process as we heard during a recent training event in Central Asia. How do you boost the performance of your CRO teams?  Shortlink:

Last week, Prizma delivered a training workshop to a group of 17 CROs and colleagues working at a number of gold mining properties associated with Centerra Gold in the Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia and Turkey. Prizma delivered this course in collaboration with LEAD International.

This training workshop was designed to enable course participants to apply a more systematic approach to stakeholder engagement, enhance their communication and mediation skills, and share knowledge about grievance mechanisms. It integrated materials published by organizations such as ICMM and IFC/CAO (many thanks!).

The course was also designed to provide opportunities for CROs to interact with colleagues in different departments (community relations, environment, government relations and media) and different countries (Kyrgyz Republic, Mongolia and Turkey). This process was supported by team-building oriented activities, including a real challenge exercise.

The challenge exercise allowed participants to analyze a case study about Kumtor. As part of this, several stakeholders participated in a rapid engagement exercise. This provided participants with an opportunity to apply their learning. It also allowed them to recognize and tap into the expertise of colleagues in different departments and countries. Subsequently, each team discussed its findings and recommendations with Kumtor’s President.

Looking back, there were lots of interesting ‘aha’ and learning moments. One of my favorites was a metaphor used by one of the course participants who likened Kumtor to a stream. She also highlighted an important role of CROs and colleagues: ensuring that Kumtor’s community investments – smaller creeks originating from the Kumtor stream – are directed to create and grow orchards and do not disappear in the sand.

As the proverbial proof is in the pudding, I was pleased to note that Kumtor also announced signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with one if its key biodiversity stakeholders: Flora and Fauna International  (see here: ).

How do you improve the performance and impact of Community Relations Officers? Does training play a role in your approach or  do you not have an adequate training budget for this? What have been the most effective approaches you have encountered?

9 Comments to Training CROs to Strengthen Social License

  1. […] Key components of Kumtor’s BMSP include a portfolio of Biodiversity Enhancement initiatives expected to be implemented in collaboration with key stakeholders. In December 2012, Kumtor also announced that it had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Fauna & Flora International. Related activities include updating the Sarychat Ertash Nature Reserve's Management Plan. FFI will also provide a series of training sessions for the Reserve staff and local communities, and technical support for the implementation of the Plan. The initial 2012-2013 budget is approximately US $250,000, of which Kumtor will contribute US $70,000 (see press release). Kumtor has also been providing training to its Community Relations Officers (CROs) to further improve stakeholder engagement activities (see here: Training CROs to Strengthen Social License). […]

  2. I have appreciated and copied the thread of comments, discussions and links that took place on LinkedIn below. Please continue to add your comments.

    Dion Jamieson Arnouse • Great article, CRO’s are critical to those industry initiatives with any community. By listening to the community you begin a collaborative process to build on those areas that really matter and will ultimately lead to a win win for all and that is usually accomplished through some proactive and innovative capacity building initiatives. An open, honest and transparent process will open the doors to many opportunities and is simply a good business practice. Its also important to think long-term and what will the socio-economic environment look like after the project is gone.

    Mehrdad Nazari | CSR & ESIA Advisor • Thanks, Dion. I can’t disagree with any of your comments. Is it needless to say that this process is not always that straight forward or reciprocal? There are conflicts both before and after the extractive company arrives on/exits the scene. And not everyone is seeing her/him/self as a beneficiary (enough? fair? risks?) – and some just don’t want any part of change.

    Dion Jamieson Arnouse • Absolutely Mehrdad, thus the need for a CRO to be well rounded and have the industry experience combined with being a solid negotiator/mediator. Each situation should be treated as unique and different from the other and at the core a CRO has to do their homework on the community, culture and traditions and be a good listener. This is my perspective but one also has to be very innovative and creative in developing solutions to those challenges and when things don’t go well “be patient” and try new approaches in collaboration with all the parties involved. And last but not least a CRO has to be passionate about their work, I love the challenge of my work thus I enjoy great success.

    Cam Kowalski • Well stated Dion! Whether you’re dealing with the mining industry or any other industry it is about what you bring to the table with your own principles and philosophies. The training piece will just serve as an enhancement.

    Mark Ritch • Great piece Mehrdad – I spend a great deal of time working with CROs (or similarly titled officers) in the Victorian mining industry.Those with a values based approach to practice always seem to enjoy greater success.

    Mehrdad Nazari | CSR & ESIA Advisor • Thanks, Mark. No doubt, most stakeholders appreciate authentic and value-based approach and practice. This approach will also feel much more professionally rewarding.

    Mehrdad Nazari | CSR & ESIA Advisor • Curious to hear your impressions about rate of and reasos for CRO turnover.

    Dion Jamieson Arnouse • Mehrdad, in response to your comment on reasons for CRO turnover I will offer my comments. I believe when you have a CRO who operates via a value based approach they tend to give more of themselves through the passion of the work and in some cases this can lead to burnout and frustration. A CRO has an interesting and unique role of two fronts.

    The CRO on one side is brought into the corporation or Industry to aid Industry in engaging the community, this could mean, developing and implementing a corporate engagement strategy, educating all levels of the Industry from the frontline to the top corporate levels on the initiative and gaining their support and cooperation to follow the initiative which can be a very challenging task.

    Whilst at the same time the CRO is engaging the community on behalf of Industry by actively establishing relationships, trust and listening to and addressing their concerns via front-line contact with the community, attending community meetings and in some cases taking on a mediation role.

    All this can be a big challenge and a huge demand on your CRO and if they are not given the tools, trust and support to carry out their job, these demands can lead to some frustration and stress for the CRO who may leave the role for a better job elsewhere.

    I believe Industry has to take a hard look and ask, do they understand the importance and demands on the CRO and, have they invested enough to ensure the success of the position. If Industry makes the appropriate level of investment, this will result in a higher probability of success for both Industry and the community.

    Mehrdad Nazari | CSR & ESIA Advisor • Thanks for sharing this, Dion. Curious to hear if there are major differences relating to CRO turnover challenges between places like Canada and emerging markets. What about developing a career and development path for this job category?

    Merrick Hoben • Hi everyone, I’ve appreciated this thread. I’m the lead of a corporate stakeholder engagement practice ( Starting in 2011 we began to roll out CRO / CLO training for Shell staff operating on the front lines of social conflict. We’ve help with negotiating community benefits agreements in the Niger Delta. One thing we’ve learned in our range of engagement is just how tough the CRO job is, as well as the importance of negotiation and facilitative leadership skills required to bridge community and company cultures.

    Many staff don’t last in these positions precisely because CROs are often hired from the communities themselves, thus creating a dynamic of feet in two ponds, and the divided interests that come with it.

    I would also add that the fundamental skills of community engagement often parallel with some important human virtues…

    * the importance of preparation – and thinking about both what matters to both the company and to the community

    * being prepared to explore interests and options on all sides, not just one’s own

    * leveraging a problem solving mindset in which the CRO is seeking to create value not just for the company but also community

    * following through on implementation of agreement reached

    At the heart of all this (and being realized by several majors) is the internalization of the idea of shared value, and that the best extractives won’t survive without it over the long term. We written a bit about this at:

    José Oscar Guzmán Mendoza • he professionalisation of Community Relations is essential today for better management of Social Responsibility policies appropriate strategies involving relationships with communities and social project proposals for sustainable development, particularly in the areas of influence of the project and extractive operations.

  3. […] which are yet to be fully defined before finding ways to solving them? Can I contribute to institutional capacity building and avoid dependency on external consultants? And is there evidence that my solutions are going […]


  5. Mehrdad says:

    Many thanks for your kind comments, Godson. Collaboration would be great. Do you have a specific client or industry association interested in such a course? How about funding sources? Feel free to contact me directly by email: mehrdad at to expore further.

  6. […] Previously, Prizma supported Kumtor with the development of it's biodiversity management strategy and plan and also provided training to it's Community Relations Officers. […]

  7. […] also assisted Kumtor with the development of its Biodiversity Management Strategy and provided training to Centerra's Community Relations Officers from Turkey, Kyrgyzstan and […]

  8. […] Training Community Relations Officers to Strengthen Social License […]

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