SOCIAL RISK SCORE CARD
When managing the social risk of right of way projects,
there is no shortcut for the value of direct, personal
citizen contact. We have written many times in this
column about the value of entering the world of
citizens to understand how a community functions,
how informal networks operate for survival and
caretaking, how communication occurs, and how to
locate and develop relationships with those individuals
held in high esteem by their peers. Working in this
fashion provides operating space, increasing the level
of authority and resources available to a professional
change agent to accomplish their objective. In doing
so, the right of way professional can respond to emerging
citizen issues early, reduce the emotional rhetoric that often
dominates public venues and find practical solutions to
In this article, we want to present a tool for early
identification of social risk. We have now offered Course 225,
Social Ecology: Listening to Community in 10 locations
in the U.S. and Canada. We have learned some of the early
clues that a proposed project could become disruptive. In
today’s climate of instant controversy, a proactive capacity to
anticipate social risk is even more important.
Below, we present 15 indicators that can reveal social risk before a project is announced. We ask that you try this score
card out by considering a current or past project with which you are familiar.
Save Money, Save Time, Save the Project!
Check to see where the project footprint/corridor is in relation to playgrounds, schools, senior centers,
cemeteries and other vulnerable areas.
a. Within 500 feet or less; High Risk
b. Between 500 to 1500 feet; Medium Risk
c. Beyond 1500 feet; Low Risk
Check the location of minority populations and their proximity to the project. If the project has been placed in a
minority area deliberately to avoid battles elsewhere, the potential for an environmental issue is high.
a. Location is near minority populations; High Risk
b. Environmental Justice requirements are met; Medium Risk
c. There are no minority populations or the impacts on minority populations have been mitigated; Low Risk
Public lands are highly prized by citizens. Make sure that you avoid public lands if at all possible, especially federal
lands because national interest groups will attach their formal anti-development positions to your project.
a. Attempt a new route through public lands; High Risk
b. Follow a pre-existing corridor through public lands; Medium Risk
c. Avoid public lands; Low Risk
Farmers and ranchers describe higher costs and higher value for irrigated lands compared with non-irrigated
land. Does your project go through irrigated land?
a. Irrigated land is crossed to complete this project; High Risk
b. No irrigated land is crossed to complete this project; Low Risk
Information that can be assembled from project data or off-site sources. This information is publicly available from
government agencies or from private internet sources.