What We've FoundDefinition
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
1. 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
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,
brochures that explain the project in more depth.
4. Keep in
In addition to any group mailings,
personal letters and phone
calls will keep the project on the front burner. This is especially true for
A person who has
something to gain or lose by the outcomes of a planning process or
- You want to build consensus among people who have different viewpoints.
- You are building a strong, inclusive public involvement campaign.
- You are trying to draw a lot of attention to a project and its value in the
Forget It If...
You cannot find anyone who has an invested interest in
the project or the process.
Timing is Everything
Identify stakeholders early, even before a project is
publicly launched. Reconsider the list as the process continues and more is
understood about the community and the project scope.
with Elected Officials
Elected officials want to know what is going
on in their districts, towns, counties, and states, and they want to hear from
their constituents. That is why it is important to share information about a
project. Contacting elected officials may also be the only way to access public
funds or in-kind government agency assistance. Be sure to keep the officials
informed, especially of any controversies or public opposition, and invite them
to participate in events, ribbon cuttings, awards, signing ceremonies, etc.