Thank you very much for having me back again.
My name is Robert Beamish, and I am the co-founder and director of Anokasan Capital. I'll keep the introduction brief, as I was introduced previously.
We specialize in securing investment from east Asia for projects in indigenous communities in Canada. I'll be speaking about best practices from an international perspective and the perspective of indigenous communities within Canada.
These best practices are quite similar to the ones I mentioned in my previous presentation, but this time I plan to go into a little more detail on their value and why they are what they are.
I will start with the first one, which is to start with understanding. It is so important in relation to engaging with communities to not only allocate time, but also to budget for the understanding and needs-analysis process. If it's in the budget, it can be tracked and it can be delivered, and...finding out if there's alignment between community members and government for certain project developments. The more alignment you have, the more knowledge you can have of a community, and that will only help as the project develops and the negotiations continue to develop.
In a lot of communities there seems to be a process where people and individuals who go through the communities are very transient, coming for a time to learn or volunteer, and then ending up leaving. Over time, it can be an emotionally extractive process when you share your story, your culture, what things mean to you and your way of life and world view, and then people leave. Then more people come, and it's another process of sharing and leaving. This can also happen from the business perspective. In order to be successful, there needs to be that longer-term commitment from all partners.
Understanding goes to more than just project requirements; it's also understanding what the community's development goals are, what their history is, how they want to develop and where they are in that development process.
The next best practice would be communication alignment, and this relates to providing the platform for concerns to be voiced. If one isn't provided, then one will be created. It's about having regular intervals for communication, not only for dispute resolution, but also for an open floor to provide community members with feedback and details on the development of the project.
As different communication styles need different approaches in order to get all of the information out, you need to have set intervals, whether they be bi-weekly or monthly, to discuss the project's development as it relates not only to community members, but also to project leaders and stakeholders. Having these scheduled interviews allows the time for different people to process that information and perform the different types of analysis that they find valid.
For example, there was a geothermal project that was being worked on. It was in line with the values of the community. It was a renewable energy project, and it had education and employment opportunities included. When the project started to go forward, the machinery that was being brought to the community resembled classic oil rig machinery. When community members saw this, they said, “This isn't in line with what we thought we were getting into.” There wasn't a platform to provide information or dispute resolution, so one was created, and there was a process for this. There ended up being a team that went around to educate community members about what the machinery of a renewable energy project looks like, how it would change and what it would look like in terms of phases. They had to add this as an additional stage in their development process in order to ease the social unrest.
If there had been a platform for that open, free flow of information for community members to ask questions and provide feedback, that could have been avoided.
The next point would be cultural alignment. This one relates to the differences in cultures. Our differences can only bring us together once we understand how they separate us. It's about being proactive in understanding the protocols associated with the land, the land's relationship with that community, and what it means not only in terms of protocols and what should be done while on the land but also what it means in terms of the relationship with the land and why.
As well, a very important practice that we implement is a cultural bias awareness practice where we're self-aware of our own cultural biases. We do this because usually we're working with investors from the Asia-Pacific region, specifically China, but also with indigenous communities. We ourselves have our own cultural biases that we come in with. If we're aware of those, we can understand how our cultural biases are affecting how we're trying to do business, how we're going into this situation, how the cultural biases of the different partners at the table may be affected, and how they're going into doing business.
The next point would be the “four Es”, namely, employment, equity, education and the environment. These four Es affect every community in some way, some on a greater scale than others. We're proactively seeking these out in the “understanding” stage—for example, finding out the employment requirements, the expected equity in projects, the environmental concerns and the education for members, whether that be in training or literacy education. Looking for these and looking for ways to tailor these four Es to communities is an excellent way to proceed as a better partner, but likely these four Es are affecting communities in different ways. Whether they're all at the same time or one is greater than the other, integrating these into projects as opposed to leaving them as concessions is a much better way to start building a relationship.
A segue into the next one is information alignment. What gets measured gets delivered. When these Es can be measured, whether they're by literacy tests prior to a project starting, during the project start, during the training being implemented, or after the project or training has been completed, you are able to mark the improvements in literacy or education or as they relate to skills development. If these items are being measured, then they can also be delivered. Project requirements are measured and delivered upon and timelines are measured, but just as project requirements are measured, these social development requirements should be measured as well. Many communities are lacking in information when it comes to this area. It can be difficult to provide policy and create policy around where the community should go next if this information around literacy rates or around environmental contamination is not available. This information that you can provide to a community is value added to the community in their continued development as well.
I know that this is the last meeting on this topic of best practices, but I think it is very important to heed these best practices. A lot of them are not being implemented. There are challenges to implementing these practices, but the challenge that comes with these practices is also the great reward that comes from implementing them. Understanding these communities and understanding the individuals we'll work with on these projects will change how projects can be developed and how relationships can be developed, and it will affect mutual prosperity going forward. As we know from the different meetings that have been held on this topic, there are so many of these practices. I can only think of the ones that have been mentioned during the two presentations that I'm a part of. They will likely take effort, money and time to implement. They will take understanding and sacrifice in order to develop and be useful going forward, but it will be for the mutual benefit of all the people of this generation and the ones that follow.
I do thank you for your time on this. I'm looking forward to your questions.