5 Tips for Engaging Stakeholders in your Watershed
In our recent interview with Kate Greenberg of the National Young Farmers Coalition, we talked about engaging agricultural stakeholders in watershed protection and restoration. Maybe you’re looking to engage with farmers in your community, or another stakeholder group. We asked our friends at Future 500, a nonprofit specializing in stakeholder engagement, for some pointers on bringing new viewpoints to the table. See below for their top tips on how effective stakeholder engagement can help you build support for healthy headwaters coalitions in your community. You can find even more tips on their blog.
Watershed coalitions, just like stakeholder groups, are made up of people. Unfortunately, stakeholders often perceive each other inaccurately. There are the wild-eyed treehuggers or the faceless bureaucrats. Breaking down the barriers between people who actually have much in common is often the hardest part. Making time for conversations outside of business and/or conflict situations is the single most important first step.
- INFORMAL > FORMAL
Especially in the first stages of stakeholder outreach, agencies and organizations like to set up formal engagement processes. These do provide value, but can be very time intensive. The most valuable relationships are often built through informal engagement. This can be over a casual cup of coffee or one-on-one call.
- BE PROACTIVE, NOT REACTIVE
Crises, like a fire in the local watershed, are often catalysts for a flurry of activity and activism for watershed protection. While we all hope disaster won’t strike, being prepared with an outreach strategy, instead of scrambling to take advantage of people’s attention to the subject, is a great idea.
- LISTENING > TALKING
A long-winded presentation (been in one lately?) isn’t usually the smartest approach, unless the stakeholders have specifically requested it. Often stakeholders just want a platform to air their concerns and feel they are genuinely being heard. A 70 (listening) – 30 (talking) approach is the golden rule.
- START WITH AREAS OF COMMON GROUND
Everyone, from the farmer, to the urban water user to the corporate CEO, depends to some degree on a clean, healthy, reliable water source. Establish common ground around these topics before tackling areas of conflict.
What are some of the ways you engage with your stakeholders? Comment below and let us know what’s working for you!
Kristiana Teige Witherill
July 22, 2015