March 3, 2016

Vulnerability in mining

Written by: Sabrina

Brene Browne – The power of vulnerability

This TED Talk by Brene Brown on vulnerability resonates with me on several levels, and so I wanted to share it here, an oldie but consistently relevant.

On a personal level, being vulnerable is a tough thing to do. It means being exposed to the risk of wounding my ego (or my heart).  Professionally, bringing vulnerability into my work ethic is something that was taught to me years ago by the villagers of Mandromodromotra in 2004. As an engineer I am trained to control and predict, to keep things orderly and systematized.  Then as a master’s student studying sustainability issues of mining, I learned the risks of ‘going native’, of becoming too closely connected to your interviewees.  And operating under these guidelines will reduce risk – to my work, my ego, and my heart.  Over the years, working with communities, site teams and corporate teams, I have found that my best work emerges when I am able to let myself be seen by the people I am working with. I make a connection.  And then, they let themselves be seen. Soon (or later) all cards are on the table.  Everyone’s priorities are stated and the ‘what ifs’ are listed, and from there a real and authentic approach to problem solving and project planning begins.

Brene says we numb vulnerability – a particularly true statement for the working environment.  Now a regular part of our working environment is the ‘softer side’ of corporate social responsibility (‘CSR’) that dictates us to know who the stakeholders are, list their interests, and then share standard benefits such as local employment and local procurement.  I appreciate from experience that going beyond the scientific stakeholder mapping exercise or the standard local employment and local procurement strategies, to be vulnerable and empathetic can bring a stronger protection of the project (and the brand) because of personal connection.