Community engagement and human rights are important but hard to manage. Half of the investors surveyed in sub-Saharan Africa say they have experienced a costly dispute with local communities.

Regulators and CSOs are putting more and more pressure on businesses to improve standards and impact, increasing reputational exposure. Examples include European due diligence regulations, the Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (SFDR) and CSO campaigns around land grabs and forced labour.

Businesses that are ready for it can take this opportunity to improve their reputation. Investments in community engagement pay back by a factor of two or three in terms of risk avoided. Nonetheless, many businesses are not getting value for money on human rights support and do not get the local insight that they really need.

Ensemble helps businesses to understand what they need and to develop a business case for investing in support.

We then deliver capacity enhancement, specialist expertise and guidance on best practices via a simple and personal process. In general, businesses we work with require support in at least one of three areas:

  • 1. Understanding what they need: Given their specific operations, supply chains or investments, what is needed with regard to human rights compliance and community engagement? What is the business case for changing the approach? Ensemble can help businesses to determine what help is needed and how to get it.
  • 2. Accessing good, reliable support: Expertise in human rights is scarce and asking for help on highly sensitive issues can be hard. Ensemble maintains strong local networks with the best service providers, trainers, and a talent pool.
  • 3. Ensuring value for money: Ensemble acts as a central entity delivering quality assurance and consistency across its excellent local resources.


Ensemble in action: Assuring investee compliance with procurement and ESG standards

An investor in multiple agribusinesses throughout Africa requires all its investees to be compliant with international standards in managing environmental and social impacts, which include strict standards for procurement of service providers. Although the investor had an existing network of service providers, they often had trouble finding providers with the specialist expertise and local connections required by their investees.

Ensemble helped the investor fill the gap in recruiting local service providers for one of their investees. By offering Terms of References via Ensemble, the investee received a number of strong proposals to fulfil the work that met the investor’s standards for procurement processes.

The investee hired highly qualified service providers for specialized projects that required both a range of technical expertise and an in-depth understanding of the local context in a matter of weeks – a task that often takes months. Working with Ensemble and its expert Support team provided further assurance to both investor and investee that the projects and providers would be in compliance with best practice and international standards.


The answers below respond to some of the most frequently asked questions from Ensemble’s collection of feedback from one-on-one interviews, webinars, and surveys with current and prospective users.

What is Ensemble?

Ensemble is an online service that connects companies and investors with experts in the community engagement and social risk management central to success in these contexts, and exists to make responsible business cheaper, easier, and more successful. Ensemble provides independent guidance, training, and a hub for procuring vetted, high quality consultants on the ground in emerging markets.

Ensemble promotes international best practices for investments in land and land-related projects. Ensemble helps land-related investments protect and respect the land rights of women and men in affected communities and meet best practice standards for environmental and social responsibility. In facilitating connections between businesses, local people, and the service providers who know those people best, Ensemble helps prevent the disputes and delays which all-too-often cause problems for people and project alike.

Who are “businesses” and “service providers” on Ensemble?

On Ensemble, a business is any entity that procures services via the platform. A service provider is the entity being hired to deliver a project. We understand this can be a little confusing – some “businesses” will be consultancies or NGOs looking for local implementation support; some “service providers” will be consultancies that operate as for-profit businesses. Service providers include international, national, and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and civil society organizations (CSOs), research institutions, academics, consultants, and private consultancies.

What problem does Ensemble address?

Businesses often struggle to identify, evaluate and form strong relationships with local service providers, primarily due to a deficit of trust and capacity on both sides. Local NGOs – who can be the most effective providers of services like stakeholder engagement, social impact assessment, and dispute resolution – are particularly unlikely to work with a business without support and reassurance.

Ensemble helps to connect businesses with the best kind of service provider for their needs, with a particular focus on local support. Our experience shows that local service providers can provide high quality services at a low price, making responsible investment more efficient. Where local people know and trust a service provider, it can be much easier and cheaper for a business to develop and maintain social license to operate.

By working with responsible businesses, local service providers can help to deliver more responsible investments with better local impacts that are more equitably distributed. In short, they can help to ensure that local voices are heard in the way land-based projects are developed and run.

How are projects developed and posted? What if the project involves confidential information? Businesses can develop and post Terms of References (ToRs) for specific projects and activities and receive proposals from service providers on Ensemble. The platform provides different options for distribution of ToRs:

  • ・ ENSEMBLE Open, where a business can post a ToR and any service providers that are registered on Ensemble can view the ToR and submit a proposal; and
  • ・ ENSEMBLE Match, where Ensemble will invite a small group of service providers, selected based on location, expertise and project needs, to review a ToR and submit a proposal. As part of ENSEMBLE Match, businesses and service providers have the option to enter into a non-disclosure agreement prior to a service provider reviewing a ToR in order to prepare a proposal for activities requiring the disclosure of confidential information.

How do businesses benefit from Ensemble?

Businesses ultimately benefit from the financial, reputational and operational improvements to their projects resulting from the partnerships that Ensemble facilitates. Ensemble helps businesses procure essential skills and expertise for their projects by connecting them with local providers of services who can help them build social license in the projects. This social license is instrumental to project success, and without it companies and investors are exposed to significant risks.

Ensemble streamlines the process of finding and contracting with high-quality local expert assistance, driving down transaction costs and increasing the chances of successful contract completion. However, the real value of Ensemble lies with its potential to improve stakeholder relationships and inject trust into local dialogues. By facilitating productive relationships between business and service providers, the resulting cooperation with local peoples can be based on the best evidence for building social license.

How do service providers benefit from Ensemble?

Ensemble is particularly focused on attracting and supporting qualified national and local providers: in our experience this is where there is the biggest need for facilitation between businesses and service providers.

To help national and local service providers, such as NGOs and CSOs, be better positioned to participate in projects on Ensemble, Ensemble offers:

  • ・ Direct support to service providers in explaining how their respective skillsets and experiences can help businesses achieve more responsible investments in land and supply chains.
  • ・ Training on international best practices for land-related projects. Ensemble is also developing additional training resources for discrete skill areas, such as qualitative research methods and social and participatory mapping and consultative work; land and livelihood assessment methods; and supporting companies to establish social management systems, including writing procedures for companies on responsible performance on land and natural resource issues.
  • ・ Assistance with designing work plans and strategies to implement projects aligned with international best practices.
  • ・ Assistance in connecting local service providers to national or international groups.

Service providers who register on Ensemble are never obligated to submit proposals for projects. Registering gives service providers the opportunity to view and be matched with projects that may fit their interests and skillsets. A service provider can then decide to create a proposal to compete for a project. For CSOs and NGOs, registering on Ensemble may offer another pathway to support missions to protect the rights and resources of communities by providing constructive advice to companies on how to improve practice.

What are the main benefits of being on Ensemble?

Registration provides access to training and support services, access to direct networking opportunities, and the ability to participate in ENSEMBLE Projects.

  • ・ Access to ENSEMBLE projects: Registered users can connect to service providers or projects that can help you reach your goals. For businesses, this means being able to develop Terms of Reference and hire a service provider. For service providers, this means being able to locate available projects and submit proposals. We make this mandatory because we need to be able to assess and perform due diligence on all of our users. This helps us to maintain a platform populated by highly capable organizations (and individuals) with expressed good intent.
  • ・ Access to training and support services: You must be registered to access ENSEMBLE support services. For many businesses, we imagine the most attractive part of this is being able to access a world-class team of experts (Ensemble Support Team) on an ad hoc basis during the pilot phase, including support in drafting Terms of References (ToRs) which are aligned with corporate needs and informed by international best practices. For many service providers, we understand that access to free training and capacity building is compelling
  • ・ Access to direct networking opportunities: You must be registered to browse the User Directory that gives access to Ensemble network. Ensemble is, as the name suggests, a platform to bring together existing networks to facilitate better communication between them (rather than to replace them in any way). As of early 2020, the network of Ensemble includes its 71 users and the organizations developing it (TMP Systems, Landesa, Pelum Tanzania and Pelum Uganda). We are interested in ways that Ensemble could support networking outside the process of connecting businesses and service providers. Please contact us if you would be interested in events (initially virtual) or services provided by the site that support this kind of relationship building and communication.

What sectors does Ensemble work in?

Currently, Ensemble facilitates services relating to projects and supply chains in the agriculture, forestry, renewable energy, mining and infrastructure sectors. Within these areas, Ensemble will consider any project that requires help in improving the social license to operate through better engagement with local communities, improvements to livelihoods or impacts on land. Ensemble is not currently working in the oil and gas sector.

What types of projects are facilitated on Ensemble?

Typically, businesses create a Terms of Reference for a project requiring expert assistance on a range of issues related to investments and projects that impact land and natural resources. For example, a project might involve:

  • ・ Identifying existing uses and rights to land identified for prospective investment, including informal rights and the rights of vulnerable groups;
  • ・ Assessing potential impacts of proposed investment activities on land uses and livelihoods.
  • ・ Holding consultations with local communities to understand grievances and issues of encroachment; or
  • ・ Training outgrowers to improve productivity and get certification.

Ensemble team can offer support to businesses in defining and developing these projects. Find a list of all current skills areas offered on Ensemble here. The common thread in these services is that they both require trust to implement and help a business to develop trust among local people.

Where does Ensemble operate?

Ensemble currently operates in sub-Saharan Africa, with partners providing local hubs in Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana. Over 2021 we plan to expand operations to cover all sub-Saharan Africa, followed by a global expansion in 2022. We are also following demand as we expand – if you are based in an area not currently covered by Ensemble but would like to use the platform, please contact us to discuss possible solutions.

Can you apply for jobs in countries other than where you are based?

Yes, you can. While Ensemble promotes local providers, as long as you have the skills, it is up to the business or procurer to select whoever they think is best suited for the project/role advertised.

Are there any opportunities on the site now?

Yes. You can find potential projects on our Opportunities page. We are also in discussion with a number of businesses and investors in sub-Saharan Africa who are interested in undertaking projects through the platform and connecting with effective service providers.

Are there costs for subscription to Ensemble?

During the pilot process, there are no subscription fees associated with Ensemble, nor is there a charge for any matching, support or training services. Participating in the pilot therefore offers a number of benefits without any financial commitment. Although there are no fees associated with using Ensemble, if a business prepares a Terms of Reference (ToR) and hires a service provider to conduct a project, the business will pay the service provider the negotiated price.

Ensemble pilot is funded by the UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO)up until March 2022 , at which point it will launch as an entity that is able to support itself over the long-term. We are working with the FCDO to explore business models that can support Ensemble in the long-term and ensure that a large and diverse group of users can benefit from the platform. These business models will be tested with users through a consultation process so we would be very interested in talking to anyone who has specific views on this issue (you can contact us here).

We know that even small financial barriers could easily prevent some of the best service providers, e.g. small local groups, from participating. In keeping with ENSEMBLE’s mission focus, having these groups as a part of Ensemble is highly desirable and all of the business models under consideration are aimed at minimizing these potential barriers to participation.

What if service provider is a non-profit – what arrangements are there for service providers who are not allowed to make a profit?

Ensemble is designed with these kinds of organizations in mind and we understand the constraints faced by non-profits in many countries. Non-profit organizations are able to register and submit proposals just like any other Service Provider. Ensemble support team can advise on ways to structure contracts so that charges for services allow non-profit organizations to receive payments in line with national regulations.

What about co-ops or informal community organizations which are not legally registered, can they participate in Ensemble as well?

Yes, Ensemble is designed to allow these organizations to participate. They can either register on the website themselves – as no official documents are required as part of the registration process –or, they can work in partnership with an existing organization for a particular project. This also applies to community organizations.

What if a user is inactive on the platform for an extended period of time?

There is no penalty for either businesses or service providers if they are inactive for an extended period of time on the platform.

Who is able to see my information?

Registered users are able to view information that comprises your public profile. This information includes things that are helpful in understanding potential partners but which are not commercially sensitive, such as company website URL, head office location, countries of operation and the number of staff. We do not share any contact information here.

The information you provide in your private profile can only be viewed by Ensemble Support Team. We use this information to assist us with due diligence and matching, and will never share any user data with third parties. The way we manage personal data is compliant with the most rigorous standards of data protection in our case, being based in the UK, General Data Protection Regulation of the European Union.

What happens to my data once I share it on the platform?

We recognise that the data you provide us with is extremely sensitive and valuable to your operations, so we take this very seriously. The data you provide on the platform will never be sold or shared with parties beyond this site. Ensemble Support Team, like you, will have access to the full set of data you provide, which will help them to find good partnerships and identify ways to improve capacity. Other ENSEMBLE users will only see the public information you provided. If you would like further information, please see our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

Does Ensemble have any expectations for its users?

Ensemble requires all users to register and build profiles. As part of this process, users must agree to the ENSEMBLE Principles of Conduct, which require businesses and service providers to act fairly, equitably, and transparently. We expect all users to participate in projects to the best of their abilities and to abide by the Principles of Conduct.

Is the platform looking at safeguarding community land rights as a primary goal or creating an enabling environment for land and investments in agriculture and extractives? How do the principles of social license relate to this?

Ensemble aims to create an enabling environment for responsible investment in land. Responsible investments, by definition, must safeguard community land rights. So this is a top priority for Ensemble along with supporting equitable and sustainable economic development that reduces marginalization and improves livelihoods. These goals are aligned, in our experience.

All users must abide by the ENSEMBLE Principles of Conduct, which outline the international best practices that users are expected to uphold regardless of the country. At a high level, these standards call for businesses to act with due diligence to avoid infringing on the human rights and legitimate tenure rights of others. National laws and regulations are viewed as floors, rather than ceilings.

Which organizations are developing Ensemble?

Landesa, TMP Systems, Pelum and Proforest form Ensemble Support Team that is operating Ensemble and providing expert advice to our users. Ensemble has received funding from the UK government to support the project during the pilot phase.

  • ・ Landesa is a global nonprofit organization working to develop sustainable and gender-sensitive laws, policies and programs that strengthen land rights for millions of the world’s poorest men and women. Landesa helps implement these laws, policies and best practices across countries, companies and communities, translating intentions into pragmatic actions
  • ・ TMP Systems is a network that solves complex environmental and social problems using expertise in finance, technology and political economy. TMP develops and deploys systems that improve decision-making processes and outcomes related to public and private investments in emerging and frontier markets. The network works with a wide range of clients, from private equity funds to development assistance organizations.
  • ・ Pelum Uganda are both supporting the implementation of Ensemble. Pelum Uganda are part of a 12-country strong association of civil society organizations in Eastern, Central and Southern Africa working to improve the livelihoods of small-scale farmers and the sustainability of rural communities, through the fostering of ecological land use management.
  • ・ Proforest are providing technical support in the implementation of Ensemble in our phase II expansion into West Africa. Proforest are a global organisation working in more than 30 countries, supporting companies, governments, civil society and other organisations in the responsible production and sourcing of agricultural and forest commodities.

We have tried to develop Ensemble through an inclusive process that includes the networks of each of the organizations behind it. This includes working with colleagues with significant international expertise on tenure issues like Earthworm, Proforest, the Forest People’s Program (FPP), ODI and the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).

These organizations have all provided feedback at many stages of Ensemble’s development and we hope to include them in our offer of training and future webinars. Importantly they have also helped us to promote Ensemble among their own networks, which include many local NGOs that are otherwise hard to access or overlooked by conventional methods.

The project team are also drawing on our own networks wherever possible, with Pelum and Proforest’s networks of local NGOs and land experts providing critical local connections. These are reinforced by Landesa’s relationships with local and international NGOs in many key countries. TMP contributes connections with international NGOs as well as with consultancies, responsible investors and technology providers. So our network is already quite broad but we hope that we are just getting started.

As Ensemble expands into other geographies, we expect Ensemble Support Team to further grow. If you are interested in exploring how you or your network could help improve Ensemble or expand its impact, please contact us.