Throughout ENVS 295 we have closely studied many aspects of engagement, including specific ways to focus engagement with the aim to make it more successful. One of the critical steps to better engagement practices is to focus on labeling and including stakeholders (known as the “Who”) who may otherwise be ignored in traditional scenarios (Luyet 2012). These stakeholders, sometimes referred to as the unexotic underclass, are rarely included in any discussions and thus their voices are rarely ever heard and any vital input they may have goes ignored (Namemeka 2013). By taking efforts to make sure these voices are included at the table, problems can be better addressed and high quality solutions can be discovered for everyone involved, not just those who are most powerful.
There are a number of steps one can take to address issues of stakeholder identification. One such step is the process of snowballing, or asking stakeholders already involved to list other potential stakeholders who are not currently involved. Stakeholders on these lists are then contacted and given the opportunity to participate, as well as generate their own list of other stakeholders that they would like to see participate. This process is then continued until an adequate number of stakeholders are reached for the size and intention of the specific engagement project (Luyet 2012).
After doing research and interviewing the Hood River Forest Collaborative, it became apparent that they are going through many of these common struggles of stakeholder identification and inclusion. Andrew Spaeth, Collaborative Facilitator and our interviewee, mentioned that even though the monthly meetings are open to everyone they struggle to get people to attend if it is not part of their job requirements. As such, we feel that it is important for them to complete a snowballing process of the people already participation in order to identify stakeholders who are impacted by the Collaboratives decisions and thus would be important to include in their decision making process.
Additionally, after discussing with Andrew, we determined it was also important to professionalize and maintain their social media presence. This would allow stakeholders who may be interested but may not have direct ties with other members already participating and opportunity to receive information about the Collaborative, their process, and their meeting times and locations.
Beyond these changes, it is also important to look at structural factors that may determine the involvement of stakeholders with the Collaborative. With monthly, roughly 3 hour meetings at the Hood River Ranger Station, it is likely that there are a number of stakeholders who wish to participate but are unable to attend due to distance and/or other time commitments. This may be especially true for voices belonging to the unexotic underclass, who often have demanding job hours and important commitments in their homes. In addition, some community members may feel like they do not have the necessary expertise to contribute to the discussions that the Collaborative has. As such, our group -with input from Andrew- has determined a series of public speaker events has the opportunity to provide community stakeholders with events that have a lower time commitment, unique topics that may drive greater interest than meetings, and a baseline of knowledge for everyone involved to build from in order to reduce feelings of a lack of expertise. More information on this can be found in our How post
Luyet, Vincent, Rodolphe Schlaepfer, Marc B. Parlange, and Alexandre Buttler. 2012. “A Framework to Implement Stakeholder Participation in Environmental Projects.” Journal of Environmental Management 111 (November): 213–19. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2012.06.026.
Nnaemeka, C.Z. 2013. “The Unexotic Underclass.” New Geography (June). https://www.newgeography.com/content/003767-the-unexotic-underclass