New Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative Announced

May 1, 2013

This press release, an announcement of the new Conflict Free Sourcing Initiative (CFSI), is evidence of the progress that’s been made by electronics companies and other manufacturers and retailers on the issue of supply chain transparency and “conflict free’ sourcing of tin, tantalum, tungsten and gold from DRC and the surrounding countries. What’s notable is the extent to which tool, strategies and programs have been shared across industry sectors. In the release, you see links to the automotive industry, department and big box stores and others.

NGOs like Enough, PACT, PAC and others have played a key role.

When RESOLVE first began working on this issue over four years ago, ideas, strategies and relationships — particularly those that extend across sectors — were in short supply (see the 2011 Responsible Mineral Development Report).

Today, the CFSI is complemented by a number of linked initiatives to support in-region capacity building (e.g., PPA) and “conflict free” sources (like Solutions for Hope and Conflict Free Tin Initiative).

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Solutions for Hope and Progress on Responsible Sourcing

Apr 17, 2013

As companies prepare for reporting as required by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission “conflict minerals rule,” many are also working to support responsible sourcing from and development in the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa.

Yesterday’s story in the NY Times recognized Solutions for Hope (SfH), one program that makes responsible sourcing possible. It isn’t an NGO but rather an innovative program housed here at RESOLVE as part of our Solutions Network. It’s designed to support sourcing of minerals from conflict-free mines in Democratic Republic of the Congo (and which could be expanded to bordering countries). Leadership and support from Motorola Solutions, AVX, HP, Philips, the Dutch Government, iTSCi and NGOs like Pact and the Enough Project has been essential for SfH and the Conflict Free Tin Initiative, which was modeled on SfH. In just a few short years, we’ve gone from uncertainty as to how to assure supply chains for these minerals to an increasingly transparent supply chain, a public-private alliance to fund and build capacity in countries challenged by conflict minerals, and in-region sourcing pilots so that miners and DRC can be part of the solution. There is still a lot of work to do, but these individual initiatives and especially their efforts to align and scale up are evidence of real and meaningful progress.

- Jen Peyser

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As Food Safety Moves to the National Forefront, RESOLVE Launches Second Phase of Forum

Jan 28, 2013

With the release of proposed rules on January 4, the FDA took a major step toward implementing the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), a 2010 law that overhauls how the agency governs food, moving to a more risk-based food safety system. RESOLVE has been very active on this issue. The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation jointly fund our Collaborative Food Safety Forum (CFSF). The progress on FSMA was front page news in both the New York Times and the Washington Post, and featured quotes from Mike Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods at FDA and our program officer at Pew, Sandra Eskin.

We convened a series of CFSF discussions to engage key stakeholders in rigorous, collaborative, and creative problem-solving and consensus building dialogue to think through ideas for efficient and effective implementation of the law. Phase II of this work is underway with meetings timed to coincide with the roll out of these rules, providing stakeholders an opportunity for collaborative analyses.

The website for the Collaborative Food Safety Forum provides information on the meetings held during Phase One, and will have information as Phase Two unfolds.

RESOLVE also was involved in the design and facilitation of the Pew funded Produce Safety Project, convened by Georgetown University. This project  included a series of five regional meetings that engaged stakeholders, particularly food growers and producers, in discussions on the current science underpinning considerations for improving food safety, particularly the “4 W’s” – water quality, waste management (including use of compost), wildlife, and worker hygiene.  Input from these sessions provided context for the now released proposed rule for produce safety.

- Abby Dilley

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Strategic Planning With Large Groups Using Poll Everywhere

Jan 3, 2013

Collaborative Technology Program Coordinator Jason Gershowitz writes about RESOLVE’s successes using Poll Everywhere technology to get meaningful input from 400 participants in a strategic planning process. His original blog post can be found here.

Strategic Planning With Large Groups Using Poll Everywhere
The Neighbor Dialogue: Engaging 400 Participants in a Meaningful Way for Strategic Planning

How do nearly 400 participants meaningfully contribute to one strategic plan? Not all participants are decision makers, so how can decision makers effectively leverage the experience and ideas of a large group?

Sure, there are a variety of tools that come to mind: individual interviews, surveys, small group discussions, voting, etc. Participation, however, is most valuable when: 1) participants feel their contributions have been heard; and 2) participant contributions actually inform the decision makers. Many established tools don’t always do this.

As RESOLVE’s Collaborative Technology Program Coordinator, it is my job to identify opportunities to enhance decision-making processes using collaborative technology. We don’t come at situations with a one-tool-fits-all approach, but rather a one-approach-fits-all “tool.” Technology is designed for general interactions, and we specialize in evaluating an interaction to select and tailor a technology and engagement process for a specific outcome.

In a 400-participant town hall-style strategic planning process, we tailored Poll Everywhere (PE) to create a Neighbor Dialogue™ – gathering feedback from the large group, providing a space for discussion, and prioritizing that feedback for decision makers. PE allowed each participant to share their sense of the biggest organizational strengths.

  • Using a pre-designed process and Poll Everywhere’s easy “export to word cloud” feature we shared the feedback with the group visually while we crunched statistics.
  • As our facilitation team explained the word cloud results and participants digested the feedback from their fellow respondents, we prepared the next poll, which included the ten most commonly mentioned strengths from the previous poll. Participants used the second poll to select their top strength from the list.
  • Through this iterative method, we were able to identify the large group’s vision of their organization’s top three strengths and then use this input to drive the facilitated discussion forward.

The meeting was very successful, identifying focus areas for subsequent discussions and generating buy-in from the larger community in the strategic planning process. Poll Everywhere enabled our team to collect feedback from 400 people, funnel feedback into priorities, and gather specific ideas about those priorities, while compressing the process into a two-hour high-energy meeting. These participants moved from “being informed” to “informing the process” – or taking part in meaningful engagement.

To learn more about our Technology Assessment approach, check out our Integrating Collaborative Technology Webinar Training Series.

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Juliana Birkhoff on Using Conflict Resolution to Reduce Mass Shootings

Dec 21, 2012

RESOLVE Vice President of Collaborative Practice, Juliana Birkhoff, contributed an article to reflecting on last Friday’s mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, and how mediators can use conflict resolution skills to help reduce mass shootings in the United States. A copy of her article is available online here.

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Dispatch from the World Economic Forum Council meeting in Dubai

Nov 13, 2012

Check out this post from the World Economic Forum Council meeting in Dubai. The original post and survey results are available here.

“The notion of responsible extraction (or sourcing) should be embedded in the concept of stability and growth in supply as a response to scarcity”


Can resource scarcity help drive responsible mining?


According to a World Economic Forum survey, resource scarcity ranked 4th in terms of “what to expect” in regards to upcoming trends. But, survey respondents were split on whether the issue deserves more public attention.

Heightened concern over resource scarcity is not a surprise. Even if scarcity is experienced on a short- to medium-term basis, and is therefore only temporary, the experience is real and often felt directly by businesses and consumers. For example, the impact with regard to rare earth minerals has been felt in electronics and other manufacturing. In the US, where the survey showed this as a trending issue, we have seen and felt the impact of a severe drought on corn supply and prices.

Where scarcity is real it can promote alternatives – such as the use of other natural resources – and efficiencies or product substitution. But questions of scarcity are also an opportunity to go directly to the source and better understand and support what it takes to respond to scarcity (real or perceived) and promote responsible, stable sources. I would argue that the notion of responsible extraction (or sourcing) should be embedded in the concept of stability and growth in supply as a response to scarcity.

Green technology, specifically green power, is one example. Consider the issue of the limited supply of some rare earth minerals, many of which are used in electronics and green power technology. Or consider the use of lithium for batteries.

Can environmental and social best practices in mining and sourcing (on the part of buyers and manufacturers) increase confidence in supply? At first glance this may seem counterintuitive. However, there is growing evidence that responsible, ethical supply chain management is partially driven by risk control on the part of manufacturers.

Efforts by Intel, HP, Motorola Solutions, GE and others to address conflict minerals in their supply chain are promoting new, more responsible sources in the Democratic Republic of Congo. And on the issue of rare earth minerals, the strategy of Molycorp is instructive. Molycorp has taken concrete steps at its reopened Mountain Pass mine in the US to differentiate itself on the grounds of environmental management practices.

And what about a new “green deal” that takes a look at the entire supply chain and promotes and rewards responsible development at every step, not just at the product phase? Can we extend the experience from other supply chains into minerals, energy and food? Recalibrating incentives and pricing on this basis might be good for society in a number of ways, including promoting new, responsibly developed supplies.

- Steve D’Esposito

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Ethical Electronics – Starting at the Source

Oct 24, 2012

I saw a story that ran on October 6th in The Observer (London) with the title “Is there an ethical laptop?” The author, Lucy Siegle, raises a number of questions about ethical consumption and production—looking at electronics in particular.

I know of some good news when it comes to electronics and ethical sourcing. Check out this short video clip from Motorola Solutions about the Solutions for Hope project. Turns out that Motorola Solutions, and others like AVX, F&X, Flextronics, HP, Intel, Motorola Mobility, Nokia, and Research In Motion didn’t stop at creating conflict free supply chains for tantalum (although they are doing so); they decided to support the direct sourcing of tantalum from conflict-free mines in the DRC—the region targeted as a potential source of minerals that support conflict.

The easier solution would have been for Motorola Solutions and other companies to simply turn their supply chains away from the region, sourcing their tantalum from other parts of the world. But they took this additional step. They invested effort and resources in working with civil society and others to identify a conflict free mine site and support a dedicated chain of custody—from mine to product. The video does offer hope. Check it out.

There is more work to do. The Public Private Alliance for Responsible Minerals Trade (PPA) is serving as a public-private catalyst for capacity building to support additional in-region sourcing in the region and to help make sure that “conflict-free” does not mean “Congo-free.”

RESOLVE is helping these stakeholders—both corporate and civil society. We’re the secretariat for the PPA, and the Solutions for Hope story and its cousin Conflict-Free Tin Initiative can be found on our Solutions Network.

Steve D’Esposito

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My Summer Internship: Research for the Forest Collaborative

Oct 11, 2012

This summer, I had a wonderful three months working at RESOLVE as a policy research intern and completed my first-ever independent research – exciting, rewarding, and unforgettable!

My paper is a case study on the amount of public participation training in accredited forestry degree programs in New Brunswick, Canada. The working group within the Sustainable Forest Community-University Research Alliance (a.k.a. “Forest Collaborative”) asked me to research and answer the following question: Are there enough courses provided in New Brunswick to engage forestry students in public participation and to prepare them with necessary skills to work in the forest planning industry? The answer to this question will help the working group propose solutions for enhancing the region’s forest planning.

When I was first assigned to a group of Canadian stakeholders discussing forest planning and public participation, I literally had no idea what they were talking about. It took me almost two weeks to get familiar with terms like “collaborative efforts” and “public engagement.” Cathy Lu Wall - Map!It took me another two weeks to absorb all the other information I needed, including the state of forestry education, forestry planning practices, and the geography of  Canada  (I did hang a huge map in my office and it’s still there). Meanwhile, I started designing the survey and began conducting phone interviews. I ended up spending more than a month talking to about 20 Canadian scholars, educators, foresters, and government officials over the phone – the first-hand notes I took in the one-on-one interviews really helped me develop the structure of my research! Thanks to their diverse perspectives, I was able to have a broader view of the issue.

Two months after I first stepped into the office, I had read and heard enough about what the issue was – enough to get me started writing.  The information I had collected, however, was just so overwhelming that I didn’t even know where to begin. My supervisor, Juliana Birkhoff, spent a lot of time helping me get on the right track. To provide a model for my paper, I looked up the work of others who have done similar analyses; some scholars from the Forest Collaborative team generously provided me with their previous working papers as references. The actual writing time was not as long as I thought it would be – it helps to have a concrete idea of what you would like to say! My lovely RESOLVE co-workers helped me review the draft paper, as did the group members of the Forest Collaborative.  The final 14-page research paper has been delivered to the working group to review. I hope this research project I did over the summer can be of help to the advancement of forest planning in Canada.

- Cathy Lu

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IIED, Rio +20, and RESOLVE

Jul 31, 2012

I just saw the report on mining that IIED prepared for Rio+20.  It’s terrific … and well worth reading & forwarding on. It notes that capacity building for both communities and companies is still needed, and I couldn’t agree more. As we continue to navigate the intersection of mining, sustainability, and human rights – and based on my experiences working with communities and mining companies – it’s clear we need to find ways to connect dots, and stakeholders, so that policy is informed by on-the-ground realities.

RESOLVE was mentioned in the report, and the observations from our president, Steve D’Esposito, are also worth flagging:

  • Stephen D’Esposito, now Head of RESOLVE and representative of the NGO sector in the GMI Toronto conference, noted that addressing issues in isolation (such as biodiversity offsets and FPIC) has led to a ‘missed opportunity’ in considering the trade-offs inherent to sustainable development.
  • According to D’Esposito, ‘the incentive structure for civil society has shifted and partnerships with companies are seen as a way to make gains in ways that weren’t as clear before’. He went on to say there have been missed opportunities on issues such as Free, Prior, and Informed Consent, tailings disposal and ‘no go’ areas, which are ‘often framed in black-and-white terms with NGO demands followed by industry reaction or responses.’ This ‘call and response’ dynamic typically prevents constructive engagement.

RESOLVE is committed to enabling constructive engagement, and helping stakeholders identify and seize opportunities. Through our efforts to improve FPIC implementation, and address supply chain and other sustainable development challenges, we hope to contribute to the emerging guidance and good-practice case studies that IIED calls for in the coming decade.

- Kate Kopischke

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Rio +20 – Looking at the Past and the Road Ahead

Jul 10, 2012

Did anything important happen at the Earth Summit—also known as Rio+20—a couple of weeks ago? Was it worth the expenditure of money, time and energy? Did calling tens of thousands of people together advance anything? And what about the opportunity costs? Would the effort spent prepping for Rio+20 have been better spent on working directly on the issues, investing in specific actions and programs, and building the partnerships necessary to actually design, test and implement solutions? It’s easy to be critical of an undertaking so large and cumbersome, particularly when its real purpose—advancing agreements on global policy—simply wasn’t on the agenda. For some, the simple act of taking stock has value even though the exercise leads many to disappointment. But taking stock issue-by-issue, sector-by-sector is a more positive exercise. Energy solutions are not advancing fast enough but they are advancing. Development is taking place in significant and positive ways in less developed regions. And there is evidence of progress in one of the most challenging sectors—mining. Some thought it unlikely when CEOs in the mining sector stepped up to the plate at Rio+10 and made commitments to improving industry performance on sustainable development. A new report from IIEDlooks at the sector’s progress over the past decade—and IIED finds that progress was made. For those interested in finding collaborative solutions in this sector the report is a good read. Of course, as we know, much has changed and new strategies and solutions are needed.

At the recent GEMM 2020 conference on taking stock of the progress the mining sector has made since Rio +10 organized by the Responsible Mining Sector Initiativemy remarks focused on the need for 1) a focus on collaborative learning and a design to advance social license and FPIC for larger scale development projects, 2) a consolidation of sustainability initiatives, 3) a focus on transparency and risk reduction in supply chains, 4) capacity-building programs focused in new mining regions, and 5) an emphasis on the contribution responsibly sourced minerals and materials can make to technology and new products, including green tech and products.

- Steve D’Esposito

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