Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
The answers below respond to some of the most frequently asked questions from the Social License Platform’s collection of feedback from one-on-one interviews, webinars, and surveys with current and prospective users.
If you would like to know more about our next introductory webinar, which will cover many of these points and allow you to ask any further questions that you might have, please see SLP Webinars.
If you have a question that is not answered here, please direct it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The SLP is an online service that facilitates collaborative working relationships between local service providers and businesses to achieve more responsible investments in land and land-related projects.
The SLP aims to promote international best practices for investments in land and land-related projects. The SLP helps land-related investments protect and respect the land rights of women and men in affected communities and meet best practice standards for environmental and social responsibility. In facilitating connections between businesses, local people, and the service providers who know those people best, the SLP helps prevent the disputes and delays which all-too-often cause problems for people and project alike.
The SLP has received funding from UK Department for International Development (DFID) to support the project during the pilot phase to advance this mission.
On the SLP, a business is any entity that procures services via the platform. A service provider is the entity being hired to deliver a project. We understand this can be a little confusing – some “businesses” will be consultancies or NGOs looking for local implementation support; some “service providers” will be consultancies that operate as for-profit businesses. Service providers include international, national, and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs), research institutions, academics, consultants, and private consultancies.
Businesses often struggle to identify, evaluate and form strong relationships with local service providers, primarily due to a deficit of trust and capacity on both sides. Local NGOs – who can be the most effective providers of services like stakeholder engagement, social impact assessment, and dispute resolution – are particularly unlikely to work with a business without support and reassurance.
The SLP helps to connect businesses with the best kind of service provider for their needs, with a particular focus on local support. Our experience shows that local service providers can provide high quality services at a low price, making responsible investment more efficient. Where local people know and trust a service provider, it can be much easier and cheaper for a business to develop and maintain social license to operate.
By working with responsible businesses, local service providers can help to deliver more responsible investments with better local impacts that are more equitably distributed. In short, they can help to ensure that local voices are heard in the way land-based projects are developed and run.
Businesses can develop and post Terms of References (ToRs) for specific projects and activities and receive proposals from service providers on the SLP. The platform provides different options for distribution of ToRs:
• SLP Open, where a business can post a ToR and any service providers that are registered on the SLP can view the ToR and submit a proposal; and
• SLP Match, where the SLP will invite a small group of service providers, selected based on location, expertise and project needs, to review a ToR and submit a proposal. As part of SLP Match, businesses and service providers have the option to enter into a non-disclosure agreement prior to a service provider reviewing a ToR in order to prepare a proposal for activities requiring the disclosure of confidential information.
Businesses ultimately benefit from the financial, reputational and operational improvements to their projects resulting from the partnerships that the SLP facilitates. The SLP helps businesses procure essential skills and expertise for their projects by connecting them with local providers of services who can help them build social license in the projects. This social license is instrumental to project success, and without it companies and investors are exposed to significant risks.
The SLP streamlines the process of finding and contracting with high-quality local expert assistance, driving down transaction costs and increasing the chances of successful contract completion. However, the real value of the SLP lies with its potential to improve stakeholder relationships and inject trust into local dialogues. By facilitating productive relationships between business and service providers, the resulting cooperation with local peoples can be based on the best evidence for building social license.
The SLP is particularly focused on attracting and supporting qualified national and local providers: in our experience this is where there is the biggest need for facilitation between businesses and service providers.
To help national and local service providers, such as NGOs and CSOs, be better positioned to participate in projects on the SLP, the SLP offers:
• Direct support to service providers in explaining how their respective skillsets and experiences can help businesses achieve more responsible investments in land and supply chains.
• Training on international best practices for land-related projects. The SLP is also developing additional training resources for discrete skill areas, such as qualitative research methods and social and participatory mapping and consultative work; land and livelihood assessment methods; and supporting companies to establish social management systems, including writing procedures for companies on responsible performance on land and natural resource issues.
• Assistance with designing work plans and strategies to implement projects aligned with international best practices.
• Assistance in connecting local service providers to national or international groups.
Service providers who register on the SLP are never obligated to submit proposals for projects. Registering gives service providers the opportunity to view and be matched with projects that may fit their interests and skillsets. A service provider can then decide to create a proposal to compete for a project. For CSOs and NGOs, registering on the SLP may offer another pathway to support missions to protect the rights and resources of communities by providing constructive advice to companies on how to improve practice.
Registration provides access to training and support services, access to direct networking opportunities, and the ability to participate in SLP Projects.
• Access to SLP projects: You must be a registered user to be matched with a service provider or project that can help you reach your goals. For businesses, this means being able to develop Terms of Reference and hire a service provider. For service providers, this means being able to locate available projects and submit proposals. We make this mandatory because we need to be able to assess and perform due diligence on all of our users. This helps us to maintain a platform populated by highly capable organizations (and individuals) with expressed good intent.
• Access to training and support services: You must be registered to access SLP support services. For many businesses, we imagine the most attractive part of this is being able to access a world-class team of experts (the SLP Support Team) on an ad hoc basis during the pilot phase, including support in drafting Terms of References (ToRs) which are aligned with corporate needs and informed by international best practices. For many service providers, we understand that access to free training and capacity building is compelling.
• Access to direct networking opportunities: You must be registered to browse the User Directory that gives access to the SLP network. The SLP is, as the name suggests, a platform to bring together existing networks to facilitate better communication between them (rather than to replace them in any way). As of early 2020, the network of the SLP includes its 71 users and the organizations developing it (TMP Systems, Landesa, Pelum Tanzania and Pelum Uganda). We are interested in ways that the SLP could support networking outside the process of connecting businesses and service providers. Please contact us if you would be interested in events (initially virtual) or services provided by the site that support this kind of relationship building and communication.
Typically, businesses create a Terms of Reference for a project requiring expert assistance on a range of issues related to investments and projects that impact land and natural resources. For example, a project might involve:
• Identifying existing uses and rights to land identified for prospective investment, including informal rights and the rights of vulnerable groups;
• Assessing potential impacts of proposed investment activities on land uses and livelihoods;
• Holding consultations with local communities to understand grievances and issues of encroachment; or
• Training outgrowers to improve productivity and get certification.
The SLP team can offer support to businesses in defining and developing these projects. Find a list of all current skills areas offered on the SLP here. The common thread in these services is that they both require trust to implement and help a business to develop trust among local people.
During the pilot process, there are no subscription fees associated with the SLP, nor is there a charge for any matching, support or training services. Participating in the pilot therefore offers a number of benefits without any financial commitment.
Although there are no fees associated with using the SLP, if a business prepares a Terms of Reference (ToR) and hires a service provider to conduct a project, the business will pay the service provider the negotiated price.
The SLP pilot is funded by DFID into 2021, at which point it will launch as an entity that is able to support itself over the long-term. We are working with DFID to explore business models that can support the SLP in the long-term and ensure that a large and diverse group of users can benefit from the platform. These business models will be tested with users through a consultation process so we would be very interested in talking to anyone who has specific views on this issue (you can contact us here).
We know that even small financial barriers could easily prevent some of the best service providers, e.g. small local groups, from participating. In keeping with SLP’s mission focus, having these groups as a part of the SLP is highly desirable and all of the business models under consideration are aimed at minimizing these potential barriers to participation.
Registered users are able to view information that comprises your public profile. This information includes things that are helpful in understanding potential partners but which are not commercially sensitive, such as company website URL, head office location, countries of operation and the number of staff. We do not share any contact information here.
The SLP requires all users to register and build profiles. As part of this process, users must agree to the SLP Principles of Conduct, which require businesses and service providers to act fairly, equitably, and transparently. We expect all users to participate in projects to the best of their abilities and to abide by the Principles of Conduct.
The SLP aims to create an enabling environment for responsible investment in land. Responsible investments, by definition, must safeguard community land rights. So this is a top priority for the SLP along with supporting equitable and sustainable economic development that reduces marginalization and improves livelihoods. These goals are aligned, in our experience.
All users must abide by the SLP Principles of Conduct, which outline the international best practices that users are expected to uphold regardless of the country. At a high level, these standards call for businesses to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the human rights and legitimate tenure rights of others. National laws and regulations are viewed as floors, rather than ceilings.
In Tanzania and Uganda, Landesa, TMP Systems, and Pelum form the SLP Support Team, the team that is building and operating the SLP. The SLP has received funding from UK Department for International Development (DFID) to support the project during the pilot phase.
• Landesa is a global nonprofit organization working to develop sustainable and gender-sensitive laws, policies and programs that strengthen land rights for millions of the world’s poorest men and women. Landesa helps implement these laws, policies and best practices across countries, companies and communities, translating intentions into pragmatic actions.
• TMP Systems is a network that solves complex environmental and social problems using expertise in finance, technology and political economy. TMP develops and deploys systems that improve decision-making processes and outcomes related to public and private investments in emerging and frontier markets. The network works with a wide range of clients, from private equity funds to development assistance organizations.
• Pelum Tanzania and Pelum Uganda are both supporting the implementation of the SLP. Pelum Uganda and Tanzania are part of a 12-country strong association of civil society organizations in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa working to improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and the sustainability of rural communities, through the fostering of ecological land use management.
We have tried to develop the SLP through an inclusive process that includes the networks of each of the organizations behind it. This includes working with colleagues with significant international expertise on tenure issues like Earthworm, Proforest, the Forest People’s Program (FPP), ODI and the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).
These organizations have all provided feedback at many stages of the SLP’s development and we hope to include them in our offer of training and future webinars. Importantly they have also helped us to promote the SLP among their own networks, which include many local NGOs that are otherwise hard to access or overlooked by conventional methods.
TMP Systems, Landesa and Pelum are also drawing on our own local networks wherever possible. The most important of these is likely to be Pelum’s: Pelum Uganda and Tanzania’s networks of local NGOs and land experts provide critical local connections. These are reinforced by Landesa’s relationships with local and international NGOs in many key countries. TMP contributes connections with international NGOs as well as with consultancies, responsible investors and technology providers. So our network is already quite broad but we hope that we are just getting started.
As the SLP expands into other geographies, we expect the SLP Support Team to further grow. If you are interested in exploring how you or your network could help improve the SLP or expand its impact, please contact us.