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Social research company Voconiq, a spin-out from CSIRO’s foundational social science, is helping mining companies manage community relationships with real data informing their social licence to operate.

"Mining companies in particular must sometimes balance what they are capable of doing within the letter of the law, with what is the right thing to do," says Dr Kieren Moffat, the CEO and co-founder of social licence research company Voconiq.

Last year, Voconiq spun out from CSIRO's foundational social science that he helped to develop.

An organisational psychologist by training, Moffat now heads up an international team of social and data scientists, and business consultants who use software tools, surveys and online data collection to help organisations engage with communities over time.

He says that presenting data about community sentiment in charts, graphs and numbers means 'social licence to operate' is discussed within mining companies in the same language used by planners, engineers and business analysts who typically inform decision‑making in large organisations.

These measures of people's experiences, their concerns and their objectives are then more able to be understood by companies and acted upon.

Giving communities impacted by mining a voice

"This gives voice to communities that often don't get heard, in the rooms where decisions are made which deeply affect them," he says.

"The platform gives a real-time view of what matters to the communities they work alongside," he adds – "and that's important because relationships between a community and a company change constantly and respond to what's going on at the time."

"We find almost universally in Australia that the level of responsiveness of a company, and their willingness to change their actions and behaviours based on community concerns, is the strongest driver of trust in a company," he says.

"Just like any productive relationship, trust is built on listening with respect and responding effectively."

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