Women on the corporate frontline: The role of gender in community-facing teams - a new research project from Audire Consultants and ECW Energy

Inspiring women: Avis Babalu and Tracy Tanzar Toto, members of Total’s community-facing team in Papua New Guinea. With Clare Bebbington and Emma Wilson.

Inspiring women: Avis Babalu and Tracy Tanzar Toto, members of Total’s community-facing team in Papua New Guinea. With Clare Bebbington and Emma Wilson.

A new research project exploring the ways in which gender influences corporate community engagement in resource sectors (or resource-extraction projects) has been launched by Clare Bebbington (Audire Consultants) and Emma Wilson (ECW Energy). The new initiative is inspired by the female community liaison officers with whom they have worked and follows the successful conclusion of their pioneering two-year study of community-facing teams in the oil and gas industry.

One-third of CLOs are women[1]. This new project will study the experience and impact of these female CLOs, and how this compares with their male colleagues. The research aims to: 

  • Explore the extent to which gender diversity influences the resilience and flexibility of community-facing teams, and their ability to deal with multiple local challenges. 

  • Consider the ways in which female members of community-facing teams engage with community leaders, community members and in particular with vulnerable and marginalised groups. 

  • Identify the specific needs of female members of local communities and how these are addressed by male, female and mixed community-facing teams. 

  • Explore the specific challenges female CLOs face, and the particular strengths, networks and life-skills they bring to the role. 

  • Look at the responses of communities to female CLOs, and test ways in which this may differ from responses to their male counterparts. 

Clare and Emma’s previous research led to the development of a toolkit for companies building resilient community liaison teams, which was launched by IPIECA in 2018. The intention is that the new study will have similar practical outcomes.

The research will include scoping interviews with thematic experts, structured interviews with team leaders, functional managers and most importantly with female community liaison officers working in different social, economic and political environments worldwide. It will be supplemented by an online survey and will if possible bring groups of female liaison officers together to discuss issues in plenary sessions and to learn from each other’s experience. It will focus on the oil and gas industry but will extend to other industrial sectors including hydro-power, mining and other major infrastructure projects. 

If you are interested in participating or supporting our work, please contact cbebbington@audire.londonor emma.wilson@ecwenergy.com

[1]Bebbington, C., Wilson, E., Smith, L. and Van Alstine, J. (2017) Community liaison officers:

exploring the frontline of corporate practice in the oil and gas sector. London: Audire and ECW

Energy Ltd.

Acorn International and Audire Consultants Agree Cooperation MOU

Audire Consultants and Acorn International have agreed a two-year memorandum of understanding to work together in delivering environmental, health, safety and social (EHSS) risk management consulting services to clients around the world.

Houston-based Acorn International provides affordable, world-class EHSS assurance consulting services overseas. The company operates not through a traditional consulting services model, but by providing structured tools and support to qualified host-country teams, maintaining a link with international clients and building capacity in the host-country team.

As part of the agreement, Audire Consultants’ Managing Director Clare Bebbington will join Acorn International’s Global Experts Network. She said: ‘I’m delighted to be part of the wider Acorn International team. We share many of the same values, and – like Acorn – believe particularly in the importance of developing and supporting in-country teams.’

Acorn International Managing Director Dean Slocum said: ‘We are delighted to have Clare as an integral part our Global Experts Network. Her recognized global expertise in social performance and CSR will provide an important complement to our ability to deliver broader services to our clients, particularly at the senior and executive leadership level.’ 

For more information, see www.acornintl.net

Community Liaison Officers: Exploring the frontline of corporate practice

Community liaison officers play a critical role in developing and maintaining relationships with communities in and around sites of company operations, but their 'voice has been missing for too long' in the development of corporate policy and practice. 

Community liaison officers: exploring the frontline of corporate practice in the oil and gas sector by Clare Bebbington (Audire Consultants), Dr Emma Wilson (ECW Energy) and Dr James Van Alstine and Laura Smith (Leeds University) is the first paper in a research programme which aims to address this gap. 

It concludes that there is a need for a more coherent approach in the management of community-facing teams. Enhancing cross-organisational communication among those responsible for the management of community relationships would offer companies important perspectives on key non-technical risks and improve the organisational effectiveness of these teams. Better training and development opportunities would deepen the CLOs' impact and better equip them to manage complex issues in challenging environments. And incorporating lessons from the field and listening to the CLOs' own experience would enhance corporate and international policies, guidance and best practice. 

Bebbington, C., Wilson, E., Smith, L., and Van Alstine, J. (2017) Community liaison officers: exploring the frontline of corporate practice in the oil and gas sector. London: Audire and ECW Energy Ltd. ISBN: 978-1-912420-27-8

For the full copy of the paper, click here.

Launch of new research project on Community Liaison Officers

Work has begun on a new research project looking at the role and challenges faced by Community Liaison Officers (CLOs) and others who navigate the choppy waters between corporate and community activities and interests.

The project is being undertaken by independent consultants Clare Bebbington and Emma Wilson and aims to shed some light on the role of the CLO - who they are, how they are employed, the work they do and the challenges they face. It will aim to identify best practice and areas for improvement. The outcome will include pragmatic recommendations for CLOs and those who manage them, with a view to working with practitioners and specialists to develop tools and supportive professional networks which address identified gaps and needs.

The pilot phase, which will run until the end of October 2016, focuses on interviews with senior executives and line managers of teams which include community relationship management, consultants, and CLOs themselves.

For more information, contact Clare Bebbington or Emma Wilson

Consultants’ CVs:

Clare Bebbington
Linked In

Emma Wilson
Linked In

Audire Consultants MD appointed Director of John Smith Trust

Audire Consultants Managing Director Clare Bebbington has been appointed Director of the John Smith Trust. 

The Trust, which was founded in 1996 as a permanent memorial to former Labour Party Leader John Smith, seeks to promote good governance, social justice and the rule of law by nurturing a leaders committed to making a difference in their countries and societies. It has a 500-strong Alumni network of Fellows from the wider Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East.

'I'm delighted to have this opportunity,' says Clare. 'I've been admirer of the Trust and its work  since first meeting Azerbaijani Fellows in Baku ten years ago. I aim to build on the Trust's success, to enhance relationships with the Alumni, and to create supportive and challenging programmes and networks for new generations of leaders.'

For more information on the Trust's activities:


New consultancy offers clients a fresh approach to managing risk.

Today sees the launch of Audire Consultants, offering clients a fresh, flexible and pragmatic approach to managing risk, particularly those confronted by major projects in complex and post-conflict environments.

‘Major investments represent major opportunities for those financing, building and operating them,’ says Audire founder and managing director Clare Bebbington. ‘But with these opportunities come risks. Some of the hardest to mitigate relate to the people affected by them - those who work on them, regulate them, fund them, secure them, live near them or who have a stake in their wider political, social and environmental impact.

‘Manage these risks well, and an enduring foundation of trust is built. Manage them badly and schedules are impacted, reputations damaged and value eroded.’

Audire - which means ‘to listen’ - offers strategic insight and pragmatic solutions to companies confronting these ‘non-technical’ issues and risks, based on its consultants’ successful track-record with some of the world’s biggest infrastructure projects in the world’s most challenging countries.

‘My experience in Central Asia and the Middle East has taught me that the most successful approach to managing these risks means exploiting all of the resources available to an organisation, whether it’s a company’s supply chain, recruitment, brand, corporate social responsibility, health, security, environmental or other activities - and of course, by aligning all of this to commercial imperatives. 

‘At Audire, we not only understand that this integrated response to complex challenges is one that better offers benefits for all stakeholders, but we also know how to make it work on the ground, often in extremely challenging circumstances. 

‘Above all, we hope to bring this blend of strategic insight and practical experience to meet our clients’ needs.’ 

For more information contact Clare Bebbington +447403006106