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

There are many kinds of experts you might consult throughout your community’s CBDM process. Different experts have different kinds of expertise, including expertise implementing the types of management alternatives a community is considering, expertise on state wildlife management laws and policies, and expertise on process management and public involvement. Some wildlife experts may work for or have worked for a government agency or organization, have university credentials, or be a certified wildlife biologist. It may also be helpful to get a sense of what kinds of experiences the expert you are considering has had with respect to deer management. Your community may benefit from consulting more than one expert for different phases.

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.

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.