Building Local Capacity: From Community Engagement to Social Development
By Rasha Shawoosh, Senior Social Development Manager at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC)
The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) is a powerhouse of talents and creatives working collaboratively to achieve the ambitious goal of creating a sustainable and regenerative tourism destination. Our pristine project area has been blessed with the presence of generous community members who seek to be part of our success story and share their culture and heritage with our future visitors.
Community Engagement started as an initiative under Special Projects with the aim to reach out to our local community, engage with them, and address their concerns. Our relationship with the local community started to develop and grew stronger day by day. We recognized their eagerness to be part of our success story, and consequently partnered with government entities to harness their support in providing more opportunities to our local community. We developed and launched a community outreach strategy to establish a systematic approach and streamline our efforts to bridge the gap between our community ambitions and the project objective to benefit and uplift the local community and provide them with alternative livelihoods.
At TRSDC we align all aspects of our work with national and international standards, such the National Social Development Strategy of Saudi Arabia, the IFC’s (International Financial Corporation) Environmental and Social Performance Standards and the United Nations Sustainability Development Goals (UNSDGs). In order to comply with international benchmarks, the Community Engagement function was reshaped and became the Social Development under Corporate Environment and Sustainability Department. This shift in gear took place because social development is considered an essential pillar of sustainability internationally. In Social Development, we are eager to fulfill our commitments to our three main strategic pillars: socioeconomic development, community engagement and outreach, and socio-cultural values.
We are committed to developing socioeconomic opportunities in the local community by focusing on three main aspects: Building partnerships, building capabilities, and enhancing livelihoods. Our partners work closely with us to create various opportunities. A great example of this, is the Human Resource and Development Fund (HRDF), who work with us in initiating job opportunities for our local community job seekers. This requires us to prepare local job seekers by equipping them with the required knowledge required by the job market. In order to do this, we worked closely with Tabuk university to develop a socioeconomic baseline assessment to fully understand the current status of the local community to meet any needs and assist in building capabilities and enhancing livelihoods. Moreover, as we have the exposure on both TRSP needs and the local community capabilities, we see it as an opportunity to bridge the gaps between the two to increase the opportunities provided to the Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) in the region and prepare them to compete on these opportunities in the aim of achieving a sustainable economy in TRSP region.
Community Engagement and Outreach:
This pillar focusses on engaging with the local community through knowledge sharing, raising awareness, and delivering outreach programs. For example, The Red Sea Thrive is an environmental awareness campaign in collaboration with The National Center for the Development of Vegetation Cover and Combating Desertification (NCEC) affiliated with the Ministry of Environment, Water, and Agriculture (MEWA), and Tabuk University, that aims to shed light on our mutual goal to increase the vegetation cover of our area. In this pilot program that took place in March 2021, NCEC provided us with 17,000 native seedlings, and we hosted 180 volunteers from Tabuk University in our nursery to showcase the steps of upscaling and incubating process of these seedlings. We engaged our volunteers by planting local seedlings in individual pots and encouraged them to write their names on these pots, creating a bond and a sense of ownership to the plants. This will incentivize our young volunteers to come back and be part of the second phase of Thrive where we will be planting all seedlings in an open area.
Preserving the local culture and heritage is one of the social development pillars we are committed to, as we aim to protect both the tangible and intangible assets of our local community. We conducted site visits to assess the current assets and resources to enable us to enhance, preserve and showcase the beauty of the local culture. We work collaboratively with internal and external stakeholders to document key aspects of the local culture and strive to shed light on it and celebrate it as an integral part of our destination’s DNA.
We have come a long way from where we started in 2018, and we still have a lot of exciting milestones to achieve our future targets.
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