Cornell UniversityThe Nature Conservancy

Involving Stakeholders

Involving stakeholders is worth the investmentHunters Helping the Hungry Benefit  © Gene Grodzk

Community members who give input to a process that is fair, representative, and inclusive are far more likely to accept and support decisions about deer management.

Choose a level of effort that works for your community

The right level of effort will vary depending on your community's situation. For example, when defining the problem, community leaders may consult with just a few key people in affected neighborhoods. At the other extreme, a community might invest substantial resources to acquire detailed community-wide insights about stakeholder beliefs and attitudes—such as a formal survey.

Stakeholder engagement benefits all four phases of CBDM

  • Problem Definition: Stakeholder involvement helps community leaders characterize deer-related impacts and understand the range of viewpoints, some of which may be conflicting.

  • Decision-making: Be sure to provide opportunities for face-to-face discussion and two-way communication with stakeholders, who can give input on pros and cons of different deer management options.

  • Implementation: Stakeholder engagement benefits this phase by building positive working relationships between residents, community leaders, and wildlife professionals--and can include activities such as serving on a community's deer community, spreading the word about a deer feeding ban, or even participating in a community hunt. 

  • Evaluation and Adaptation: Engage stakeholders through surveys, online forms, or citizen monitoring as part of assessing how well your deer management program is working.

Common Questions

Clearly identified ground rules for participant behavior and for group decision making are an important initial task for community deliberative processes. Respect and recognition without accusations, blaming, or making personal attacks, as suggested by Forester (2009), are good rules to begin with, coupled with allowing each participant the opportunity to speak without being spoken over.  Some facilitators may even use tools such as “talking sticks” to allow participants the opportunity to speak in small group processes. These ground rules are often agreed upon and suggested by process participants, as well as facilitators. Appendix B of Susskind and Cruikshank (2006) lay out detailed ground rules for both the behavior of participants and for decision making, if you are looking for a more specific and comprehensive list. 

Stakeholder engagement can be accomplished in many ways, so it does not look exactly the same in every community. Some communities get input from public meetings or comments on proposed actions; some collect information using surveys of community residents. Other communities involve stakeholders more directly, using in face-to-face deliberations like focus groups or workshops. Over time communities may gather information using a combination of several approaches. The best approach for engaging people will depend on factors such as: the level of conflict over deer, the number of stakeholders affected, how interested and aware stakeholders are in the deer management issue, how much information decision makers need from stakeholders, as well as any resource limitations your community might have. For more discussion on this, please see Decker et al. 2002.

Formal facilitators can be found by contacting your local state wildlife management agency, which may have citizen participation specialists or other professionals who may perform this role. Your state's Cooperative Extension system may have educators who facilitate public processes, so contacting your local county's Extension office may be a good place to begin. In addition, private consultants may provide facilitation services, as well as local nonprofits or dispute resolution centers. Finally, there may be respected leaders in your own community who, while not formally trained in facilitation, may have the skills necessary to aid in facilitating public meetings or deliberations. Please also visit our resources tab for a list of organizations that may aid in helping you find a facilitator.