• Adam Barlow

The 4 principles of Stakeholder Engagement for Wildlife Conservation

The following principles are all taken from the Stakeholder Engagement for Wildlife Conservation best practice, which can be downloaded for free from here. You can also sign up to get certified in this key conservation skill here.


Overview

The purpose of the Principles is to provide the project team with a set of fundamental approaches and attitudes to help them carry out their stakeholder engagement activities effectively and ethically. There are 4 principles:


  1. Start early, to encourage the project team to engage stakeholders well in advance of when their participation is needed.

  2. Respect differences, to encourage the project team to engage each stakeholder in a way that acknowledges and appreciates their identity.

  3. Enable involvement, to encourage the project team to create the conditions that will enable all stakeholders to get involved if they wish to do so.

  4. Concentrate on consensus, to encourage the project team to plan and carry out their project in a way that achieves their desired conservation impact, while also helping to fulfill stakeholder needs.


The project team should follow all principles, but it is up to them to decide how to apply each principle to best suit their project.


1. Start early

Purpose

A project may fail if the project team start work before they have established good stakeholder relationships and sufficient stakeholder support for the project. However, it may often take many interactions over several years for the project team and stakeholders to develop the trust and understanding that will enable them to work together effectively. There may, therefore, be a substantial time lag between when the project team select the stakeholders they will engage with and when they will be able to engage with them effectively. The purpose of the Start early principle, therefore, is to encourage the project team to start the stakeholder engagement process well in advance of when stakeholder participation is needed.


Application

To apply the Start early principle, the project team should start the stakeholder engagement process during the Plan phase of their project, and ideally before they have developed their conservation strategy. Guidance on developing a conservation strategy is provided in the connected Strategy Development for Wildlife Conservation best practice.


Before they have developed their conservation strategy, the project team will not be able to identify all stakeholders that they will need to engage with during the project. However, they may still have enough of an understanding of the current situation to be able to identify and select some stakeholders whose engagement will be key to the success of any conservation work. For example, a project team will know that they need to start engaging local community leaders well before they develop plans to expand a marine protected area. The project team can then use their assessment of the relationships between stakeholders and their level of support for the project to help them decide when and how to initiate contact, and when to start developing any Joint plans and Joint Agreements.



2. Respect differences

Purpose

Each stakeholder has their own unique identity, made up of their culture, values, ways of making decisions, rights, knowledge, and relationship. The purpose of the Respect differences principle, therefore, is to encourage the project team to engage each stakeholder in a way that acknowledges and appreciates their identity.


Application

The project team can apply the Respect differences principle by:


  • Personalising communications: Irrespective of the circumstance, the project team should always address and refer to a stakeholder in the way they prefer and avoid any terms that the stakeholder would find offensive. For example, indigenous peoples may take offence at being addressed as a stakeholder, because the term has a strong connection to colonial practices and does not recognise their rights and importance relative to other groups.

  • Using appropriate language: For example, the project team could provide reports on project progress to a government department using the national language of the country in which the project is being carried out.

  • Linking concepts to stakeholder culture: For example, the project team could ask a local community about how they relate to their local wildlife and wild places, rather than forcing them to identify what ecosystem services they provide.

  • Choosing established channels for exchanging information: For example, the project team could give an update on project progress and challenges through a local radio station.

  • Using established decision-making processes: For example, the project team could participate in a village meeting to discuss the project with local community leaders.

  • Integrating stakeholders into the project team: For example, the project team could employ a local fisher as a liaison officer for other local fishers.


3. Enable involvement

Purpose

Some stakeholders may wish to, but be unable to, get involved in the project. For example, an environmental youth group may want to be involved in a workshop to develop a Joint plan (see Clarifying the relationship) but be unable to do so because they do not have the funds to attend. The purpose of the Enable involvement principle is to encourage the project team to help create the conditions that enable all stakeholders to get involved if they wish to do so.


Application

The project team can apply the Enable involvement principle by:


  • Selecting appropriate venues that will be easy for the stakeholders to reach, and that the stakeholders will be comfortable with. For example, the project team could hold a focus group discussion with local fishers at their village hall.

  • Supplying funds to enable stakeholders to get involved who could otherwise not afford to do so. For example, the project team could provide funds to cover food and accommodation for local fisher families to attend a project meeting.

  • Arranging independent facilitation of stakeholder engagement events, to ensure that stakeholder views are recorded and valued. For example, the project team could arrange for an experienced, independent facilitator to design and run multi-stakeholder workshops to develop a Joint plan.

  • Providing opportunities that will enable stakeholders to get involved in planning, funding, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation activities. For example, the project team could train rangers to collect information on fishing by-catch.

  • Creating decision-making structures governance systems for stakeholders that do not have a clear way of making decisions or representing themselves. For example, the project team could work with local fishers to design and create a committee that enables that group to develop and communicate their views.


4. Concentrate on consensus

Purpose

The project team will have a focus on achieving their desired conservation impact for a specific set of biodiversity targets. Stakeholders, meanwhile, may have an interest in helping to conserve some, all, or none of the biodiversity targets. If the project team try to control stakeholders and force them to help achieve the conservation impact the project team desire, they may unintentionally impede project progress, create conflict between stakeholders, and marginalise vulnerable groups such as indigenous peoples. Likewise, some stakeholders may have totally different objectives that are not connected to conservation. If the project team does not help a stakeholder fulfill their own needs, there may be no incentive for that stakeholder to support and get involved in the project. The purpose of the Concentrate on consensus principle, therefore, is to encourage the project team to plan and carry out their project in a way that stakeholders feel will support their own needs as well as those of the project team.


Application

The project team can apply the Concentrate on consensus principle by obtaining informed, voluntary consent for any activities that may negatively affect stakeholder well-being. For example, the project team should obtain the permission of local fisher families before carrying out any activities that would move them from their ancestral lands. To decide which stakeholders such consent is needed from, the project team should carry out an assessment of the potential effects of the project on each stakeholder, and then establish their role with respect to the project.


The project team can also apply this principle by planning to generate positive effects that fulfill stakeholder needs. For example, the project team could build a harbour that could be used by both rangers and fishers to keep their boats safe during storms. Building consensus for the conservation strategy can be carried out through joint planning.

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