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

Identifying stakeholders to participate in stakeholder processes is challenging. Decker et al. 2002 suggest a number of routes to go to find stakeholder participants. First, you might consider consult experts, i.e. those who seem already to know much about your deer management problem. They may be in a good position to suggest others. If you are looking for representatives from specific groups, the best approach may be to have those groups select their own representatives to participate. You may also snowball sample stakeholders; once you have identified a few stakeholders, you can ask them to help you find others. You might also advertise for volunteers, or keep the process open to anyone who might want to join.

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. 

There are a variety of ways that different communities’ may involve community members in the deer management decision-making process. Some communities may implement a survey of residents; hold public meetings or workshops; recruit citizens to sit on a deer-management decision-making body; solicit feedback through a municipal website; or involve citizens in the monitoring of deer impacts. A good place to start is to contact your local elected municipal leader’s office to find out about these opportunities. Many communities may also include this information on their municipal website.