Engaging stakeholders in biodiversity discussions: everything placed on the table

Thematic Brief banner centeredTopic
Formal, stakeholder engagement plans that include organised stakeholder “events” are often a requirement within not only EU funded and national funded research projects, but also within a wide variety of forum situations including, for example, public hearings or working with landscape planning. Different interest groups have a share and/or interests in the particular issues and need to be listened to. Because of the diversity of the stakeholder groups it is a challenge to identify, for each scale and decision context, what the different arguments are that are being used by the different groups. As a result of the experiences gained within the BESAFE project we suggest a list of prerequisites for success when organising a particular event or series of events to specifically engage stakeholders. These prerequisites are:

  • Identify clearly what you want from your stakeholders, what is your aim. Your stakeholders should also be clearly identified – it is not a ‘wish list’ nor a ‘shopping list’ but rather a ‘must have’ list.
  • Communicate clearly not only your aim to the stakeholders prior to the stakeholder event but also communicate clearly how you want to achieve your aim.
  • Give stakeholders enough time prior to the stakeholder event to prepare themselves
  • Set up the stakeholder event in such way that all arguments and views are placed on the table and all stakeholders have the opportunity to be heard.
  • Reserve a time at the start of the event to give an introduction that provides enough information about the issue/project. But avoid extending this information beyond the aims of the event. Keep in mind what the stakeholders need to know to reach the aim.
  • Be aware of the total amount of time available and allow enough, but appropriate time for the different sessions. Also make sure that there is enough skill available to translate unclear statements/views/arguments into clear ones (e.g. engage professional faciliators). Get a confirmation that all parties have understood what has been said. A summary of the results of a stakeholder event should become available shortly after the event and communicated back to the stakeholders.
  • Make sure you communicate clearly what is expected of the stakeholders after the event, in the next stage(s).
  • There should be an infrastructure available to include the views/arguments of stakeholders who are not able to participate but may want to provide input after the stakeholder event.

Just as effective communication and clear instructions are important for the work at a construction site to be efficient, using effective and clearly targeted arguments enables stakeholders to communicate their views and objectives efficiently. However, such dialogue exchange among stakeholders is only a useful process if all parties are heard and given enough time to reach a joint understanding of the issue(s) at hand, what each interest group stands for, and which position each one has. This joint understanding may then be used to identify areas of consensus, including policy decisions that all parties can respect.

Lessons learned

  • It should be clear at all stages what is expected from the stakeholders and this needs to be communicated beforehand, giving stakeholders enough time to prepare.
  • In case certain stakeholders or representatives from stakeholder groups are not able to attend physically at a stakeholder event, there should be an infrastructure or opportunity available to allow stakeholders to provide input after the stakeholder event.
  • A summary of the results of a stakeholder event should become available shortly after the event and communicated back to the stakeholders. It should however be clarified beforehand what the next steps are going to be, if there is an intention to keep them involved in later stages or if you intend to keep them only informed about later stages.

Looking for more information on effective arguments for biodiversity?

For more BESAFE results, including separate briefs focusing on other case studies and various aspects of argumentation, see http://www.besafe.pensoft.net [ref BESAFE toolkit].

This brief is a result of research carried out under the BESAFE project. This brief was written by Jiska van Dijk and Yennie Bredin at NINA (www.nina.no).

The BESAFE project is an interdisciplinary research project funded under the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme, contract number: 282743.

http://www.besafe.pensoft.net/| jiska.van.dijk@nina.no