What would be the best way to involve local communities in strategic planning?

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This is in answer to the following question. Would be great to get others' advice as well.

Question: According to you, what would be the best way to involve local communities in strategy planning? And specifically on planning the work?As part of our human-tiger conflict mitigation project conducted in the periphery of Bardia NP in Nepal, we are preparing consultations with local authorities and community heads to involve them in strategy planning. According to you, what would be the best way to involve wildlife victims? and other villagers?

 Answer: I would suggest with light consultations - e.g. 121 informal chats - and then progressively develop more involved consultations - e.g. moving on to focus group discussions and then potentially multi-stakeholder workshop(s). I think the level of involvement and the means to engage with them should take into consideration how they are currently being affected by the situation and how they would be potentially be affected (positively or negatively) by the conservation work. Likewise considering to what degree they will be involved in the conservation work - will they be passive or actively involved/affected? This slow progression of involvement from light to more involved will then help build the essential trust you need between the team and stakeholders, and will enable you to understand better to what degree they should be involved. For any stakeholder (wildlife victims/other villages) the opening engagement (i think) should always be about learning from them and giving them the opportunity to talk about their challenges and ideas. It is only after trust is developed that you can then move on to have mutually beneficial interactions and develop solutions. When you get to developing solutions I would strongly recommend emphasising/bringing out what each group can do differently - otherwise you will just come out with a long list of what each stakeholder wants the government to do - which they probably won't ever do. Also I think it is very important in those initial chats with each stakeholder in turn to understand their relationships with other stakeholders - otherwise you can organise a big strategy workshop that turns into a slanging match between stakeholder groups that hate each other (i have ran one of those before). If there are such grievances you need to either engage with them separately or build a positive relationship between them before thinking about joint engagement activities. Hope those notes help.

Adam Barlow

Executive Director, WildTeam UK

I help run a UK charity that builds the capacity of conservationists to plan, implement, monitor, and report on their work. I also have a fair bit of experience in tiger and sea turtle conservation.
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