Tool 11 – Social Baseline Study

A baseline survey is a large undertaking and often requires a sizeable team of surveyors; therefore this work is often outsourced to independent parties.  A baseline study should commence at the start of a project and its aim is to provide a greater understanding of local communities, including their social and economic environments. A baseline study will flag concerns regarding a project and also show the potential positive and negative impacts that a project can create.

A social baseline study helps prevent many issues including: underestimating project risks, impacts to communities and failure to contribute to social and economic development.

Step Guide


Create social profile – engage researchers to locate available data in co-operation with local officials and community leaders


Acquire further information – primary data is likely to expand as a project develops. Large projects may conduct a social baseline as part of their exploration activities and again when the project reaches feasibility


Design a quantitative and qualitative survey utilising experienced social scientists and local tertiary institutes or research organisations


Profile the community ensuring coverage of vulnerable groups and minorities. Be sure to incorporate stakeholder feedback


Use the completed social and economic baseline study  for conducting a Social Impact and Opportunities Assessment (p133) and for monitoring and evaluation (p191) activities


Share study with stakeholders

Factors a baseline study investigates

The investigation (p127) shows:

  • demographic factors
  • socio-economic factors
  • social organisation
  • economic organisation
  • socio-political context
  • historical context
  • needs and values
  • human rights context
  • health context
  • institutions

Community, Economics, Environment, Ethical Business, Management, Rehabilitation

Example of a social baseline study table of contents

This particular baseline study is a far larger undertaking than would be attempted by many mining projects, but indicates the wide range of information that can be included.



Centre for Social Responsibility in Mining, Leading Practice Strategies for Addressing the
Social Impacts of Resource Developments, University of Queensland, 2009.

IFC, Good Practice Note: Addressing the Social Dimensions of Private Sector Projects, Washington DC, 2003.

World Bank, Social Analysis Sourcebook: Incorporating Social Dimensions into Bank-
Supported Projects, Washington DC, 2003, Chapter 4: Social assessment, and
Chapter 5: The way forward, section on Good practice in social analysis.

Example of gender sensitive baseline.