Cornell UniversityThe Nature Conservancy

Community Leaders

Community Leaders Lakeland Chamber of Commerce (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)Formal and informal leaders initiate community discussion about deer management, provide structure and resources for local decision-making processes, and provide the leadership necessary to sustain community-based deer management efforts despite challenges such as limited resources and navigating stormy political waters. 

Involvement of elected leaders, such as town officials, is important because it legitimizes efforts to address local deer management issues. Informal leaders who volunteer to participate in decision making also are crucial for effective collaborative processes. These individuals often are known and well-respected by some members of the community, make personal connections with people, and therefore exert influence and lend credibility to grassroots citizen initiatives. Community leaders: 

  • foster essential working relationships (e.g., partnerships and informal networks)
  • create decision-making processes with sufficient credibility among stakeholders
  • secure resources (financial, technical, legal, facilitative) needed as all stages of community-based deer management
  • serve as a conduit between residents and local government
  • set a general timeline for the CBDM decision-making process
  • elected leaders may need to initiate any legal changes necessary for deer management, e.g., discharge ordinances
  • during implementation, elected leaders may need to apply for damage permits or obtain permission for access from landowners within the community  

Responsibilities

Phase 1: Problem Definition

  • Elected leaders support stakeholder engagement by helping to identify an engagement process facilitator, a venue for group meetings, and by participating in discussions of which stakeholders to involve in a process.
  • Elected leaders engage informal community leaders to become part of discussions about deer and deer management in the community.
  • Informal leaders may frequently be the ones to bring the need to address a deer management problem to the attention of elected leaders.
  • Elected leaders are often the ones to convene the decision-making body, e.g., the deer committee, and therefore legitimize the process.
  • Informal and elected leaders may help secure expertise and other resources necessary for community discussions and problem definition.
  • Elected and informal leaders may supervise efforts to make community residents aware that discussions about local deer and deer management are taking place.

Phase 2: Decision-making

  • Elected or informal leaders help secure expertise necessary for informed community discussions about various management alternatives.
  • Elected leaders supervise efforts to inform community members of decisions. Informal leaders use their communication networks to increase community awareness of decisions (informative communication).

Phase 3: Implementation

  • Elected leaders supervise efforts to keep community members informed about program implementation (informative communication).
  • Elected leaders secure resources needed to implement decisions.
  • Elected leaders lead or oversee management plan creation and implementation.

Phase 4: Evaluation and Adaptation

  • Elected and informal leaders support community efforts to discuss outcomes of evaluation and assessment.
  • Elected and informal leaders lead or oversee monitoring and assessment activities.
  • Elected leaders supervise efforts to keep community members informed about program revision and continuation (informative communication).
  • Elected leaders secure resources needed to monitor effects and consequences of decision implementation.

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.

There's no right amount of information your community needs to know in order to move forward. As described in the best practices described on this site, it's important to understand the nature of the deer management problem in your community, and to bring in content experts as needed. Education and learning is an important part of the CBDM process. However, it is possible for a community to experience "paralysis by analysis", feeling like there is still too much to learn before a decision can be made. But, at some point, your community will have to move forward. Do your due diligence regarding education and learning, make a decision, and when you reach the evaluation stage of the process, be willing to reassess your decision given any new information your community has learned. 

The best practices outlined on this site have provided you with some actions that can help create a context that fosters success (stakeholder involvement,  informative communication, education and learning). Also, keep in mind that "success" may be hard to define, and setting goals that you are able to monitor and evaluate is an important component for tracking progress. Decker et al (2004) also suggest the following components of a successful process:

  • A structured process for making community decisions that includes multiple, diverse perspectives
  • Shared understandings about desired goals and a desire for achieving generally acceptable solutions
  • An understanding that this will be an ongoing process. CBDM is not usually a one-off task and often requires a long time-horizon
  • A commitment to evaluation of the decision-making process and the subsequent management program is also critical so adjustments and modifications to a program can be made as needed

Browsing our library of cases may be helpful to you in finding communities that may be similar to your own, in order to get a sense of how those communities’ processes progressed. However, keep in mind that what worked in one community, no matter how similar it seems to your own, is not guaranteed to work in yours.