(Blackstone Consultants)

Monthly Archives: February 2015

Our Approach

Blackstone’s assignments have included a large number of social analyses and social assessment projects in Canada and in some 45 countries around the world.   Utilizing qualitative and quantitative research techniques, our social assessments and socio-economic analyses provide our clients with very vivid and accurate information and insights regarding conditions that could affect the success of a proposed project, create adverse impacts on local people and institutions, or offer opportunities to build on assets/create linkages.
We carry out social analysis work based on a sustainable livelihoods approach. This approach is focused not only on needs assessment and problem identification, but also on detailed analysis of the positive assets that are available to build upon, particularly with regard to social capital and “social energy” among the local people.  Our work almost always involves highly participatory, iterative stakeholder development processes. We look for realistic solutions that can provide benefits for all of the stakeholders, including the most vulnerable people.  Our strong analytical approaches strive to avoid the production of simplistic “wish lists” that do not lead to any action. Instead, we provide our clients and stakeholders with action-oriented recommendations that take into consideration the capacity to implement any such recommendations.   It is our experience that this type of approach leads to widespread agreement among the various parties, can avoid painful and expensive conflict resolution processes down line, and generates real and visible results.

Sally Davidson, B.A., M.A., M.C.P.

un vehucle 3.jpgSally Davidson, B.A.,M.A., M.C.P., has a Bachelor of Arts in Archaeology, a Master of Arts in Social Anthropology and a Master of City Planning.  Prior to co-founding Blackstone in 1991, Sally developed one of Canada’s first firms dedicated to sustainable development, growing it to 17 staff over four years.


Socio-Economic Assessment Experience:


Sally has directed a wide range of multi-disciplinary assignments across Canada and in over 45 countries around the world.   Her recent experience, from the fall of 2011 through December 2014, included her role as a Community Relations (CR) Manager  for Bankers Petroleum, a large Canadian-based company operating in Albania.  This full-time undertaking addressed the needs and issues of the 22 villages located within the largest on-land oil field in Europe, as well as the training and development of a professional local CR team.  Sally’s roles included integration of CR activities with other parts of the company, and building a Community Investment Strategy and Program that grew to expenditures of $2 million annually on activities such as economic development, social programs and community facility improvements.  The program has been recognized as best practice in relation to the integration of an extractive industry with local communities, based on a progressive effort to generate a participatory approach to needs identification and resolution of issues.


In 2013, Sally directed a project for the World Bank involving a review of its Environmental and Social Safeguards Policies through consultations with Project-Affected Communities.  This very successful assignment involved field investigations of Bank projects in Kenya, Tanzania, Bolivia, Columbia, Philippines and India.  In 2010 Blackstone was chosen, following a global competition, to undertake a review of local stakeholder perceptions in regard to the International Finance Corporation’s Performance Standards, encompassing nine countries worldwide.

Some representative assignments include social assessments for a number of World Bank projects in Eastern Europe and Central Asia (ECA) including Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Serbia and Bulgaria. This post-conflict and post-Soviet Union work was highly sensitive, and encompassed many sectors.
Sally has also overseen major environmental and social assessment projects (ESIAs), including: a 115 km highway in Ecuador; an environmental programming strategy for the 15 Commonwealth Caribbean Countries; waste management and institutional strengthening project for several countries/regions; and urban management strategies, such as the design of a multi-million dollar loan to the Government of Azerbaijan for the provision of housing and social infrastructure for persons displaced by war.
As an applied anthropologist, Sally has long-standing interest and experience in conducting assignments involving indigenous, minority and vulnerable populations.    Among others, she has worked with over 25 First Nations and Inuit communities in Canada, Roma populations throughout Eastern Europe, Mayan communities in Central America, and local villages in many countries.
Tourism Experience:
Sally has directed a large number of multi-disciplinary tourism assignments throughout Canada and in numerous countries around the world, for clients such as the World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, Canadian International Development Agency, national, regional and local governments, and the private sector.   She is the firm’s senior expert responsible for tourism land use planning, product analysis and development, safeguards and best practices, and legislation/policy development.   Her work in over 35 countries, along with adventure travel in some 70 countries, has given her extensive experience in observing “lessons learned” from study of a wide array of tourism products.   Sally’s experience helps to design creative strategies and development plans that are responsive to market demands, natural conditions, institutional realities, local capacities and financial considerations, and are sustainable over the long term.
As an archaeologist and social anthropologist, Sally has strong interests in cultural heritage and its linkages to sustainable tourism.  She acted as Project Director for a large cultural heritage and alternative tourism planning project for two large municipalities in China, which resulted in a major World Bank loan to Ningbo and Shaoxing cities for tourism development.   She has carried out major eco/cultural tourism planning projects throughout the Canadian Arctic over the past 20 years. She worked regularly for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada  as a due diligence reviewer for large scale tourism projects, such as carrying out a comprehensive study of a $12 million dollar river cruise and multi-lodge development in Yukon Territory.  She also was Project Director for the National Ecotourism Plan for Belize, which  resulted in a multi-million dollar loan to the government from the Inter-America Development Bank and has been cited by the Bank as representing “Best Practice” in regard to tourism planning.   Other examples of her work include the development of a tourism plan for the ecologically sensitive Bolivian Pantanal region, where she designed “The World’s Longest Wetland Walkway”, tourism plans for Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Turkey, and developments in many other countries.


Our Socio-Economic Services

  • Situation analysis;
  • Socio-economic impact assessment;
  • Qualitative and quantitative research (i.e., focus groups and workshops; key informant    interviews; case studies; surveys; SPSS);
  • Institutional and capacity analyses;
  • Needs assessments and consensus-building;
  • Asset-based analysis to develop sustainable livelihood solutions;
  • Consultation and stakeholder development;
  • Post-conflict analysis;
  • Economic development and community-based/local initiatives programmes;
  • Indigenous peoples and minorities research;
  • Monitoring and evaluation.

Stakeholder Engagement

Intensive Stakeholder Engagement is incorporated into most assignments we undertake.  Meaningful engagement is crucial in order to ensure that:

  • Key stakeholders’ interests and concerns, particularly those who are most vulnerable, are understood and integrated into decision-making;
  • Decisions are based on an accurate understanding of baseline conditions;
  • Costly delays and disruptions of projects arising from stakeholder dissatisfaction are avoided.


SE need not be expensive or time-consuming.   Our Stakeholder Engagement & Social Assessment methodology utilizes a highly specialized rapid appraisal approach developed over many years to capture vital socio-economic conditions, issues, complexities and opportunities in a cost and time effective way.

We combine several investigative tools and methods, as appropriate, combining both qualitative and quantitative approaches to provide triangulation.  These include, among others:

  • Secondary source materials analysis;
  • Identification of “lessons learned” from other organizations/jurisdictions;
  • Stakeholder mapping;
  • Institutional (organizational) analysis;
  • Key informant interviews across many sectors;
  • Focus groups;
  • Case studies;
  • Workshops and seminars;
  • Facilitation;
  • Targeted quantitative surveys;
  • Human resource capacity evaluations;
  • Monitoring and evaluation.

Our Stakeholder Engagement and Social Assessment assignments have had direct, demonstrable positive impacts on the success of our clients’ programs and projects.

Social Project Experience:

IDB Invest Access to Information Policy Consultations:  (2018)  We conducted consultations in six regions of Latin America (Jamaica, Panama, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Costa Rica) and Washington, DC, to assist IDB Invest gain opinions as to how to finalize its draft Policy.

Albania: Full time Community Relations Managers for Bankers Petroleum (August 2011- through December 2014). S. Davidson and B. Lamb were responsible for developing and overseeing Bankers’ social/community relations team in Fier, Albania. Bankers operated the largest land-based oilfield in Europe for several years, having taken it over from a former state-owned company. The company faced many social and environmental challenges at a vast site inhabited by some 25,000 people and deemed one of the United Nations’ “environmental hot spots” due to the extreme environmental degradation. Our work involved, among many other tasks: building and training a local team of social scientists; ensuring compliance with the standards of Bankers’ lenders, including the International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); conducting SEIAs for various projects (e.g., bridge construction; pipelines; etc.); conducting stakeholder engagement activities in some 20 enclave villages; and developing and implementing a Community Investment programme to benefit local populations.

World Bank (2013): Evaluation of IBRD Safeguard Policies. An assignment to assess stakeholder perceptions of application of the safeguard policies for a range of Bank projects in different sectors in Kenya, Tanzania, Philippines, Bolivia, Columbia.

International Finance Corporation (IFC) (2010): Evaluation of IFC’s Performance Standards for Sustainability and Private Sector Project Reviews in Nine Countries – A major IFC initiative to carry out an evaluation of the agency’s sustainability performance standards as they have been applied to date by private sector companies in India, Indonesia, Guatemala, Turkey, Senegal, Uganda, China, Peru and Nicaragua, and analysis of the impacts of projects on local populations. The research encompassed many sectors including: mining; hydroelectric power; agricultural production; mass transit; agro-chemicals; oil and gas; etc..  Blackstone’s work included an intensive qualitative research programme involving literature reviews, key informant interviews, focus groups with local stakeholders and case studies. The project results were very well received by IFC;

Integrated Community Sustainability Planning – Development of a Guide, Case Studies and Training to Assist Ontario Municipalities to Prepare ICSPs: Project undertaken for the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) to prepare a detailed toolkit that can assist municipalities to determine their sustainability planning needs and develop ICSPs that will move them forward along a path to greater economic, environmental and social sustainability;

Azerbaijan: Design of Grant Programme for War-Affected Youth (World Bank) Project to design grant facility for youths affected by the Armenia-Azerbaijan war, including recreational and cultural facilities in the New Settlements, vocational training/apprenticeships, and cooperative ventures for schools.

Azerbaijan: Social Infrastructure for Internally Displaced Peoples (IDPs) in Urban Areas (ADB) Blackstone led this major project designed to assess the needs of the one million persons displaced as a result of the Armenia-Azerbaijan war and prepare a $10 million loan to develop social infrastructure for these vulnerable populations. The project involved a poverty assessment, participatory needs assessment process, resettlement of IDPs from several school facilities, development of new housing, preparation of an Local Initiatives Facility for community-based grant applications, and capacity-building for municipal government agencies and local groups;

Serbia: Social and Poverty Assessment for Irrigation and Drainage Rehabilitation Project (World Bank and CIDA): Project to assess socio-economic implications of major drainage and irrigation rehabilitation works in Serbia and establish capacity building programme;

Social Assessment for Serbia Property Rights/Cadastre Project, World Bank: An assessment of the potential impact of the Bank’s cadastre project on women and on minorities (Internally displaced persons – IDPs from Kosovo; refugees from Bosnia and Croatia; Roma; ethnic Albanians, Slovaks, Hungarians, etc.);

Social Assessment: Bulgaria Farm Restructuring, World Bank: A social assessment of the effects of farm restructuring since the end of the Soviet Union, on rural populations.

Social Assessment: Moldova Property Rights Reform, World Bank:  A project to assess the extent to which the WB’s project to register urban and rural, residential and commercial properties has produced the originally intended benefits, whether it has created “winners” and “losers”, and how the WB can continue its support of property rights reform in a Phase II of its Cadastre project.

Social Assessment: Bosnia & Herzegovina Road Safety & Management Programme, World Bank:  This SA was well received and its main recommendations are being implemented, including measures to reduce accidents, and adoption of a Protocol for Professional Conduct, addressing transparency and corruption issues within government institutions.

Social Assessment related to Protection of Croatia’s Parks (World Bank): The Bank was assisting the country to protect the important karst formations which are within a system of national parks. After ten years of political turmoil and war, the aim of this project was to document “who is living where and doing what” around and within the parks. In the absence of census data, this difficult project involved extensive consultation with Croats, Serbs, with villagers, government and industry representatives. The report was very well received.

Solid Waste Management Solutions for an Area of Patagonia, Argentina: Project to determine solutions to the socio-economic problems related to waste handling and disposal, and to the issue of “pickers” or “basureros”. Institutional development, environmental education and awareness building programmes were among the key tasks.

Sustainability Planning Toolkit for Ontario’s 400 Municipalities: Blackstone was retained by the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO) to develop a web-basedmanual to guide sustainable development initiatives in Ontario’s 400 municipalities, encompassing community energy initiatives, water management, solid waste management, transportation, etc… [See: http://www.amo.on.ca/AM/Template.cfm?Section=Integrated_Community_Sustainability_Plan&Template=/CM/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=150880]
Sustainable Development Training for Communities in Ontario: Blackstone developed and delivered day-long interactive training sessions on sustainability planning with municipal leaders, which were attended by several hundred people throughout the Province. One of the outcomes have been over two dozen case studies of municipalities that are taking different but very successful approaches to sustainability planning;
Nova Scotia:  Treasure Hunting and Sustainable Management of Marine Heritage Resources: Following extensive consultations with stakeholders, and a comprehensive analysis of legislative and other issues, Blackstone designed a well received sustainable marine heritage management strategy.

Peru Environmental Review. CIDA: Mission to determine Peru’s environmental gaps and priorities and to recommend possible areas for CIDA funding.

Social Impact Assessment (SIA) for a Power Plant and Transmission Corridor: Ecuador (private sector) Responsible for supervising the SIA for a 250 km transmission corridor from the Amazon region to Quito.

Social Impact Assessment, Riberalta, Bolivia (CIDA): The goal was to identify impacts, particularly on women, of a proposed thermal power plant, in this northern part of Bolivia. Child labour issues were also considered.

Institutional Roles and Responsibilities for Privatization of Public Utilities, The Bahamas (IADB) Purpose was to recommend policy and legal/regulatory initiatives that should be undertaken by the GoTB to ensure that privatization of telecommunications, SWM, water and sewer and electricity utilities will not result in adverse environmental impacts.

Socio-economic Impact Assessment, Nankumba Peninsula Development Project, Malawi (CIDA) Assessment of socio-economic and women-in-development issues associated with multi-component development plans for the Nankumba Peninsula and Lake Malawi National Park;

Urban Environmental Management Programmes for the City of Kampala and the City of Jinja, Uganda Responsible for the environmental programming tasks being carried out as part of the Strategic Urban Development Plans for Kampala (for the World Bank) and Jinja (for CIDA), which form part of Uganda’s First Urban Project. The overall projects involve the preparation of Structure Plans for the sustainable development of the two cities to the year 2000, and the preparation of a series of Action Programmes and budgets for specific environmental management initiatives, in tandem with the other sectors under study.

Conserver Values and Practices Study, Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy , Major research assignment to examine attitudes, values and practices associated with conserverism and consumerism, and assess how MOEE might evaluate its programming/policy in light of these issues to promote the concept of a “conserver society” in the province.

Waste Management Practices in the Workplace, Ontario Ministry of Environment and Energy Study to assess how business and institutions are dealing with solid waste management issues;

Assessment of Social/Behavioural Aspects of “3Rs”:  Retained by coalition of intervenor communities to assess social assessment work carried out on behalf of the Ontario Interim Waste Authority with respect to reduction-reuse-recycling initiatives as a viable option to landfill in Ontario.

Socio Economic Assessment and Public Consultation Programming, Nanisivik Arctic Station Initial Environmental Evaluation Project, Baffin Island, Nunavut, Canada Responsible for public consultation programme, tourism and socio economic impact assessment associated with the proposed DND Military Training Centre at the northern end of Baffin Island. Tasks included: door to door surveys and a series of meetings with the Inuit communities at Arctic Bay and Pond Inlet;

Analysis of Agenda 21 and Circumpolar Sustainability Report, for the INUIT CIRCUMPOLAR CONFERENCE Two projects including an assessment of 40 chapters of UNCED Agenda 21 report, to determine relevance and applicability for the Inuit peoples of Canada, Greenland and Russia, and its pertinence for circumpolar sustainability; report on ICC and other activities in the Arctic related to sustainable development.

Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment (CCME) National Task Force on Waste Reduction National Packaging Protocol Senior member of a multi disciplinary group commissioned by Environment Canada and CCME to develop National Packaging Protocol which will, when ratified, provide a “blue print” for reducing packaging waste in Canada by 50% by the year 2000. Specific responsibilities included consultation with governmental, packaging industry and other “stakeholders” in the waste reduction effort, and assessment of consumer attitudes and trends related to packaging waste issues.

Caribbean Regional Environmental Programming Strategy This project was undertaken on behalf of CIDA to prepare a strategy to address the environmental issues confronting 13 Commonwealth Caribbean countries as well as Belize and Guyana. Ms. Davidson’s main role included field research in Barbados, Dominica, Anguilla, Antigua, Montserrat and Belize, and specific project components related to human resource development, heritage resource assessment, women in development and land use planning. Issues addressed during the project include solid and liquid waste disposal, urbanization and land management problems, wildlife to its participation in tourism assignments;

Aruba: Sociao-economic Impact Analysis of a Proposed Major Tourism Expansion:  The Government of Aruba asked the proponent to engage Blackstone to assess the impact on the long-term social, economic and environmental consequences of the development of 5,000 new tourism rooms in a previously undeveloped part of the island.

“Conserver Values Study” and “Conserver Values in the Workplace” (Ontario Ministry of Environment) MOE engaged Blackstone to undertake two major research projects to evaluate conserver and consumer values, attitudes and behaviours, in the context of current and possible future government initiatives leading towards greater sustainability.

Development of Toronto as a Green Tourism Destination (City of Toronto): The purpose was to both determine the feasibility of developing Toronto as a green and “urban ecotourism” destination and to encourage sustainable practices among the City’s many tourism businesses.
OECS Solid Waste Management Solutions Related to Cruise Ship and Land-Based Waste (World Bank)  Blackstone oversaw this project and undertook socio-economic and tourism aspects of this World Bank-funded assignment, including consideration of institutional, legislative, cultural, land use planning, environmental education and awareness-building requirements related to the upgrading of solid waste management facilities on six islands, as well as opportunities for private sector involvement.

Our Tourism Services

Strategic and Master Planning:  Successful tourism industries grow from well thought out and responsive strategies and plans.  We work closely with our clients to determine what their needs are, what decisions they need to make to ensure success, what information they need, and how they can achieve their goals.

Market Demand AnalysisTourism is fundamentally market driven. “If we build it, they will come” – once the status quo approach to tourism development – no longer applies. In today’s highly competitive world, primary market research is essential.   To protect our public and private sector clients’ investments, over the past 20 years Blackstone has developed sophisticated yet cost-effective market research tools:
·     Blackstone’s Tour Operators Perceptions Surveys (TOPS©) include detailed personal interviews with tour operators who are specifically selected for each project, to determine up-to-date market preferences and attitudes towards a particular destination.  As a result, we are able to offer leading-edge analysis of global tourism market trends of direct relevance to our clients;
·    Blackstone’s Tourism Statistical Analysis (TSA) goes beyond government-cited statistics that are often misleading.  Typically, visits by business travelers, people visiting friends and relatives (VFRs), and actual bonafide tourists are aggregated into national visitation statistics. Use of these figures as “tourism statistics” from which to calculate future demand can lead to highly inaccurate projections .  At Blackstone, we undertake detailed research to determine how many actual tourists are selecting destinations or attractions, to provide a sound basis for highly informed decision-making.
Tourism Product Development: Development of tourism products – that combination of elements which define the whole travel experience, including access, services, attractions, programs, etc. – needs to be carried out with an understanding of a complex array of key considerations. These considerations include, for example, differentiation, providing value for the dollar, theming/packaging, and ensuring excellent service.  Lack of attention to any one of these key elements risks failure or realization of sub-optimal results.  We offer a creative, original approach to TPD;
Matching Grants and Revolving Funds: We have prepared detailed operational designs for both matching grants and revolving funds to support community members to obtain the benefits of tourism while offering marketable tourism products and services.
Linkages Studies and Strategies:  Tourism is an industry that is inextricably linked with other sectors, including transportation, other economic sectors, water and sanitation, energy, waste management and others.  We conduct detailed analyses of these linkages and how to strengthen them.
Marketing Strategies:  Tourism marketing today must be multi-dimensional – web-based, involving a strong network of contacts/partners/operators etc., and based on sound market research. Our team includes a highly experienced tourism planner who is also a tour operator and hotel owner, with first-hand experience about what works and what doesn’t “on the ground”;
Economic Impact and Financial Feasibility Analyses: Economic assessments are often a key part of a client’s evaluation related to investments in tourism.  Our economists and hospitality experts have developed economic impact models that have been applied to project income, expenses, return on investment, payback periods, etc..   We have carried out many financial feasibility analyses for the hospitality industry, employing, for example, the detailed Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry (USALI), which is widely considered to be the standard for financial reporting for lodging-industry operators.
Due Diligence: Earning a social license to operate and demonstrating a high level of corporate social responsibility are important to our clients. We are GRI (Global Reporting Initiative)-certified and support ISO 26000 Social Responsibility. We can help our private sector clients, in particular, to fulfill their due diligence and report on achievement of sustainability benchmarks, cost-effectively.