What makes stakeholder engagement in social licence “meaningful”? Practitioners’ conceptualisations of dialogue

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Rural Society, 2018, 27 (1), pp. 1 - 17
Issue Date:
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© 2018 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. Social licence to operate (SLO) acknowledges the need for extractive industries to move beyond regulatory requirements into social accountability, which requires engagement between companies and their stakeholders. Engagement efforts point to dialogue as being integral for increasing the inclusivity of, for example, land-use decision-making in rural governance. Since little research explores what constitutes “constructive dialogue”, this research empirically explored how dialogue is conceptualised by expert engagement practitioners in SLO. Practitioners conceptualised constructive dialogue as both a threshold for, and an indicator of, social licence. This finding aligns with academic theorisation of dialogue wherein dialogue represents a collaborative form of engagement core to the development of SLO. Practitioners suggested dialogue is most commonly, and potentially problematically, operationalised as a goal-oriented process, aligning with previous work suggesting a “spectrum of dialogue” from strategic to learning-oriented. Contextual realities, such as time and costs, define where implemented dialogue practice ultimately falls. Analysis of practitioners’ views suggests industry and academia may consider future engagement practice and research in light of the centrality of reciprocal dialogic processes for increasing the inclusivity of SLO processes.
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