What We've Found
There are two overriding reasons to identify and involve stakeholders in a planning process. One is that from stakeholders, you can get values-based information: find out what is important to whom and why it is important. This needs to be taken under consideration along with factual information obtained from studies, data, and resource experts. Second, we find the end result is more likely to have broad-based approval because, if stakeholders are involved throughout the process, the final recommendations represent compromises among potentially conflicting objectives.Just the Facts
Business people, elected officials, landowners, residents, conservation groups, recreation groups, historical and cultural groups, and other individuals and organizations who have an invested interest or involvement in what happens to a resource are all stakeholders. They will either benefit or suffer from what is being proposed. In the case of elected officials, the project impacts their constituents.
A hypothetical example of two stakeholders is a bicycle group and landowners. If the project proposes adding or widening bike lanes, that may benefit a bicycle group but be perceived as a detriment to landowners who may lose more land for the added lane width. By identifying and including both of these stakeholders in the process, there is an opportunity to better understand the community’s needs and diffuse potential proponents of a project.
It is valuable to keep stakeholders involved whether informally or by asking them to participate on a task force, advisory group, or steering committee. Never assume an individual’s or group’s position, whether positive or negative, based on past affiliations, political standings, or other activities.How To Do It1. Make a list
Look at key resources, issues, current and potential users, businesses, traffic patterns and anything else that will be affected by the planning process. Then list people and organizations that have a related interest and/or current involvement. This can include neighborhood, civic and cultural groups in the project area, neighborhood associations, local planning and zoning offices, trucking companies and historic preservation groups. Also remember to list affected elected officials: mayors, county council members, borough supervisors, municipal leaders, state legislators, governors, and U.S. representatives and senators. Make special note of key players, and be sure to include those who may oppose the project as well as those who are likely to support it. Check the list with other people to get their input.2. Create a strategy
Decide ahead of time what you want from each of the people and organizations. Is it to keep them informed and seek their support? Do you want them to appear or speak at a special event? Do you want access to their mailing lists? Do you need their support for funding or want them to participate on a task force? Identify who will make each contact, when, and if, or how often, there will be follow up. 3. Prepare to meet
Make appointments to meet with individuals or key contacts within an office or organization. You may only have a few minutes to speak, so prepare in advance short statements that address important issues. This includes information about your project, what you want from them, and how involvement may benefit them. Leave behind flyers
, or brochures that explain the project in more depth. 4. Keep in touch
In addition to any group mailings
, personal letters and phone calls
will keep the project on the front burner. This is especially true for elected officials.