Well-structured stakeholder engagement process leaves conservation nonprofit with rich data and supportive stakeholder network
Having successfully implemented an extensive, long-term greenways plan during its first decade of existence, the organization wanted to map its strategic direction and objectives for the next ten years. The organization’s first comprehensive evaluation and prioritization of conservation and preservation opportunities in its eight-county region, the task was potentially overwhelming, requiring extensive research and conversations with hundreds of stakeholders. The degree of difficulty was heightened further by the organization’s non-advocacy approach to conservation, which necessitated a structured, businesslike approach to both environmental scanning and stakeholder engagement.
Clarus designed and executed a methodical process for gathering information on conservation opportunities and soliciting input on priorities from stakeholders throughout the region. The stakeholder engagement process was structured to help the organization raise consciousness of its mission and build a network of knowledgeable supporters that can be accessed as needed in the future.
After gaining a thorough understanding of the organization’s four key conservation criteria, Clarus began by identifying key stakeholder groups to provide information and support decisions related to the organization’s objectives. These groups included university academic departments, environmental organizations, government agencies, private businesses, faith-based institutions, recreational groups and associations, membership-based organizations, neighborhood-based organizations and private citizens. Populating these groups with actual names and contact information—a process informed by a trademark Clarus strength, the ability to make connections between seemingly disparate groups—an extensive database of the organization’s key stakeholders was compiled.
With stakeholders identified, Clarus designed, scheduled and facilitated more than 20 public meetings throughout the eight-county region, targeting specific stakeholder groups. Clarus contacted stakeholders individually to request their attendance at a meeting or meetings in their immediate community. The meetings were uniformly well-attended, with Clarus leading attendees through small-group breakout sessions where participants worked together to reach consensus on conservation priorities, review related ongoing initiatives, and identify additional organizations and individuals to be engaged in the planning process. Attendees also spent time working with maps detailing the regions land areas and waterways, with individuals physically marking their desired priority areas for conservation.
The stakeholder meetings resulted in a wealth of raw data to support the organization’s planning process. Clarus analyzed all feedback obtained in the meetings and synthesized the data into a concise but substantive report to the organization’s leadership, in a format that could be easily understood and acted upon.
Through the stakeholder engagement process designed and facilitated by Clarus, the organization gathered input from more than 300 community, academic, business, environmental advocacy, and government leaders. These insights fed directly into the organization’s development of a 10-year plan to meet individual and collective conservation needs of the communities it serves.
In addition, the process opened an important dialogue between the organization and key stakeholders, which the organization has continued to nurture. The stakeholder meetings allowed the organization to cement its reputation within the region as a businesslike, action-driven environmental nonprofit that respects the interests of citizens, businesses, and public entities alike.
The success of the conservation planning effort led the organization to re-engage Clarus to lead a stakeholder engagement process in connection with a region-wide greenways initiative.