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Ulula uses simple mobile technologies and social media platforms that work on any cell phone, anywhere, to connect business leaders with key stakeholders surrounding high-intensity energy and mining operations.
Using established technologies and innovative techniques, Ulula can engage and receive feedback from individuals who were previously unreachable due to social, cultural and/or geographic barriers.
Ulula gathers and synthesizes this data with other information gathered from online social media networks to provide efficient communication between stakeholders and actionable insights to client businesses.
Ulula’s innovation solves the problem of maintaining strong stakeholder relations in place based energy and mining companies.
"Mining operations are place based businesses. You can’t move the mine. You are dependent on good relationships with the communities around you."
These companies need strong relations with the local communities around them and the severity of risk posed by an incident in their operations is high.
"A three or five person community engagement team is never going to be able to collect and reflect the views of a population of 80,000."
Ulula’s innovation multiplies the effect of a small team through the use of digital technologies. Ulula’s service is "digital channel agnostic." If a community has privacy concerns they use USSD, which doesn’t leave cell phone trace. If people can’t read and write, they use voice recognition. If they can read, Ulula uses simple SMS. If people have internet access they can do video reporting.
Ulula’s data collection abilities exceed those of traditional methods and allow companies to gather data from a wide selection of sources on social, environmental and economic topics. The face-to-face interaction of a community engagement team is still necessary, but Ulula makes the data collection process involved in community engagement much more rapid, efficient, and cost effective.
“We help our clients tell the story of the people in their supply chain”
The founders have years of experience talking to communities and extractive industry professionals around the world. In their previous careers, they went into communities to record problems and translate those issues into language that policy and business could understand. Those experiences were combined with another founder with expertise in IT and phone applications for social impact. The team built Ulula to address a fundamental gap in community engagement in a globalized economy. The team believes in transparency and accountability as key drivers of successful business.
Overall Impact: Ulula combines mobile technology, pulse surveys, trouble ticketing, natural language processing and machine learning to drive innovative positive impact in stakeholder engagement. The mobile stakeholder engagement platform developed by Ulula provides companies and governments actionable insights, and workers and communities a way to communicate concerns and grievances to high impact industries.
Among Ulula’s current clients are place-based businesses, such as mining or oil and gas companies, and business with multi-tiered supply chains spanning several continents, such as textiles or fruits and vegetables. It is fundamental that these firms develop and foster good relationships with local stakeholders, like communities around extraction sites or factory workers. Firms benefit from addressing concerns and grievances in an ethical and timely manner; they are also required to demonstrate responsible operations to governments. Companies can use the Ulula platform to collect perception data relevant to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) performance, and trouble ticket for grievances.
“Mining operations are place based businesses. You can’t move the mine. You are dependent on good relationships with the communities around you.”
These companies need strong relations with the local communities around them and the severity of risk posed by an incident in their operations is high.”
Workers and communities use the Ulula platform, either via SMS or interactive voice response (IVR), to submit “tickets” about issues, such as labor abuses or pollution - related to the company. The platform is flexible and channel-agnostic, meaning that the trouble ticketing can go through SMS or IVR. This ensures that even community members without access to the internet have an opportunity to voice concerns directly to the company.
Ulula uses mobile technologies to provide a more efficient complement and/or alternative to existing stakeholder engagement strategies. For example, a small community engagement team employed by a mining company may be responsible for responding to concerns and grievances from tens of thousands of individuals, and it can be difficult to effectively monitor worker condition with annual audits in factories. By using mobile technologies, Ulula can help companies identify and address problems early.
“A three or five person community engagement team is never going to be able to collect and reflect the views of a population of 80,000.”
Ulula uses machine learning to create real-time risks and performance metrics based on the activity on the platform. The platform can also use predictive analytics to flag potential risks before they happen, giving early insights to the firm. Ultimately, Ulula hopes that earlier insights, greater transparency and accountability will drive more sustainable operations for their clients.
Ulula’s innovation: a combined mobile tech platform, data pooling mechanism, and stakeholder engagement model, provides as much to benefit society and the ecosystems on which it depends as it does to drive transparency, efficiency, and the company’s bottom line. Ulula’s innovation allows communities and workers to submit meaningful feedback in real-time about what works, what doesn’t, and general observations about operations. While this process has always occurred, the Ulula allows this interaction to happen at scale to enable monitoring and comparing sustainability performance at multiple locations around the globe. At the same time, contractors and suppliers are being tapped to provide their perspectives, creating a combined data pool that reflects the views of all relevant stakeholders and reveals critical insights into factors affecting the company’s most salient Key Performance Indicators (KPI). The potential benefits provided by this access to real-time insights and collective communication include: 1. Reduced chance of operational disruptions, 2. Improved communication between the business and the local community leading to improved relationships and more trust, 3. Improved safety culture and employee satisfaction, 4. Better overall business productivity. 5. Anonymous worker feedback for reporting safety incidents or workplace abuses dissolves a culture of fear and silence, allowing business leaders to have a transparent view of levels of management at multiple different operating sites. This transparent view from the perspective of the workers at individual sites allows the business leaders to have unprecedented access to, and awareness of, their operations at all levels.
Ulula’s innovation allows for unprecedented worker empowerment and engagement in industries and operational environments in which workers have historically had little or no impact on the decisions impacting their own labor. The anonymous reporting mechanism built into the Ulula product allows for fast and safe reporting of accidents or grievances involving either workers or environmental concerns. The platform allows community members to be involved in company discussions about the form that investments from the company, in the community, will take, i.e. education, health care, access to clean water. The platform makes it considerably easier for local governments to keep track of CSR standards in companies at much lower costs, leading over time to an improved national economic environment that is more attractive to foreign direct investment. The innovation also allows workers and contractors to access modern best practices information for their industry, reducing the likelihood of environmental mismanagement and worker injury resulting from ignorance or general worksite informality common in heavy industry worksites, especially in the developing world where access to mobile communications technology is only beginning to become a widespread phenomenon.
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Cornelius Graubner, COO & Co-Founder