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NetPositive: reimagining resource development for local prosperity and sustainability

NetPositive logoNetPositive is one of the newest projects on Tides Canada’s shared platform. We recently interviewed Project Co-Director Jane Church to talk about how NetPositive is working to reimagine resource development so that local communities see positive benefits and social change now and into the future.

Can you share a bit about NetPositive and its mission?
The extractive sector affects communities in Canada and around the world on a daily basis. Many people champion the contribution mining and oil and gas make to society. But our current approach to extractive development does not consistently lead to long-lasting benefit and positive social change for the local communities that are most impacted by extractive development. We work with affected communities, companies, governments, and other stakeholders to collectively change the approach to extractive development and increase the likelihood that communities will see sustained positive outcomes from resource development.

To do that, we help create a neutral space where communities, companies, government, and civil society groups can come together to talk about issues and agree on a path forward.

How does NetPositive work to achieve its mission?
NetPositive leads collaborative dialogue and problem-solving with companies, civil society, government, and local communities that are involved in extractive development. All of our work is based on a core framework which outlines what our approach to extractive development should look like. In order to see sustained positive outcomes for local communities, we must collectively:
NetPositive framework

  1. Treat communities as legitimate, equal partners in extractive development
  2. Build strong partnerships between communities, companies, and governments
  3. Create a clear vision and define outcomes for extractive development
  4. Make decisions in a systematic and transparent manner
  5. Manage tensions between the worldviews of communities, companies, and government

Through our work we explore these five elements and share lessons learned between regions. This helps to connect the various stakeholders that are pushing for a new approach and prevents us all from reinventing the wheel. This is critical in our push to create systemic change.

It’s important to note that we are not trying to promote natural resource development, but we also aren’t anti-development. We support what communities decide is best for them. Our position is that where extractive development takes place, communities should see sustained positive outcomes from that activity.

What is your role with the project and why did you get involved?
I founded and lead the project as Co-Director with my colleague Carolyn Burns. Carolyn and I started NetPositive after working in the natural resource sector for many years. We noticed that increasingly more effort and resources were being put towards improving the social and environmental outcomes of extractive development. Yet we were frustrated by the lack of progress that was actually being made. We felt like a step-change and new approach was needed – one that put outcomes for local communities at the center.

What activities are coming up for the project?
NetPositive is in the early stages of a new collaborative project with a Cree community in northern Quebec. The project is focused on community dialogue and planning around the effects of natural resource development on the community. The community is hoping to better understand people’s views on natural resource development and how it can be managed going forward. The community wants to explore how natural resource development fits into its vision for the future. NetPositive facilitates this process with the community and brings together the various players, including resource companies and government actors.

NetPositive is also working on a few topical research projects. One focuses on understanding how companies, investors and communities value social outcomes in their financial decision making. Another focuses on better understanding worldviews in the extractive sector, including the role of the extractive sector in reconciliation.

In what ways have you found being on Tides Canada’s shared platform is beneficial to your work?
Being on the Tides Canada shared platform is actually more like being part of a supportive community. NetPositive is growing and we have found the resources that Tides Canada provides to be very useful for us in this stage of development. In particular, having a dedicated Project Specialist who is committed to us and can help guide us, has been amazing.

How can people learn more and support NetPositive?
A core aspect of NetPositive’s work is sharing knowledge about what works and what doesn’t when it comes to improving social outcomes from extractive activities. We are always looking to connect with communities, civil society, governments, and companies that want to learn more and improve the outcomes for affected communities. You can learn more about what we’ve learned in our work thus far on our website or email

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