My doctoral thesis created a value-based approach to obtaining social license, building on a methodology developed by the University of Waterloo's Faculty of Engineering. This case study offers a brief description of how I applied my research to the Northern Gateway pipeline conflict.
1. Conflict Modeling - find hidden opportunities for common ground using conflict decision support systems.
Using a computer simulation I was able to uncover twelve different possible outcomes of the conflict. These possible future outcomes are like parallel universes, which hinge on the possible choices made by parties to the conflict. The result uncovered hidden opportunities for resolution, and helped to generate a strategy path to resolution that leveraged possible areas of common ground.
2. Stakeholder Research - spend the effort to find out what's actually important to them.
As in any complex, multi-party conflict, there are number of parties in the Northern Gateway conflict. The main benefit of this approach is that it forces you to simplify the conflict to its basic components, by focusing on the parties who can have immediate impact. In the case of Northern Gateway, those parties can by simplified even further if you group them by what's important to them and find overlapping interests.
3. Value Proposition - be clear on what you actually bring to the table.
Northern Gateway would cross a diverse range of economic landscapes. Some Aboriginal groups would have a high chance of benefitting and a relatively low risk of harm, where others would face a very high risk with essentially no chance of benefit. For example, inland groups for whom environmental risks can be mitigated and who have economic infrastructure can benefit from economic infusions. However, that same approach will not benefit coastal groups who either are not interested in economic infusion, or for whom the environmental risk (e.g. a tanker spill in the Douglas Channel) would be catastrophic.
4. Integrated Communications - mobilize results with digital, traditional, earned, and social media.
The plan is rooted in understanding what others need, the value Northern Gateway brings, and the areas of common ground that otherwise may have been hidden within the overall conflict system. In this case, the opportunity was for Northern Gateway to work with groups focused on marine safety in British Columbia, as well as with those interested in greenhouse gas reduction in the Alberta oilsands.