The value of meaningful stakeholder engagement

Public participation involves you! This was the theme of last week’s article. Public participation is integral to the operations of the Environmental Protection Agency, and as we had learnt last week, this can take various approaches. This week, we want to focus on the value of stakeholder engagement, a critical approach to public participation.

What is stakeholder engagement?
This is the process by which companies communicate and get to know their stakeholders. By getting to know them, companies are able to better understand what their stakeholders want; when they want it; how engaged they are; and, more so, how the companies’ plans and actions will affect both long- and short-term goals of stakeholders.
In the environmental arena, stakeholder engagement is an important ingredient for successful project delivery. However, it is often regarded as a fringe activity, or one that can be outsourced to business-as-usual functionaries. Project managers depend on people to respond to the outputs and benefits that they deliver. People will respond only if they are engaged. Stakeholder engagement includes ways to attract and involve individuals, groups, and organisations which may be affected by a project, or may affect the project. Engagements can take many different forms, including print media, television and radio programmes, virtual platforms, physical engagement, focused group meetings, public scoping and disclosure meetings, one-on-one consultation etc.

How does Stakeholder Engagement
differ from Public Participation?
Stakeholder Engagement is the practice of influencing a variety of outcomes through consultation, communication, negotiation, compromise, and relationship building, thus making an arrangement for stakeholders to be present and involved. On the other hand, Public Participation allows individuals, groups and organisations’ involvement as optional. In other words, stakeholder engagement is more thorough and intentional.

The importance of stakeholder engagement
The successful completion of a project usually depends on how the stakeholders view it. Their requirements, expectations, perceptions, personal agendas and concerns will influence the project, shape what success looks like, and impact the outcomes that are to be achieved.
Meaningful stakeholder engagement is an essential part of professional project management. It not only applies to projects, but even when you are starting a business, the feasibility study is important; connecting with your potential partners, suppliers and customers would help to determine the success of failure of your business. Stakeholder engagement provides for several benefits, including:

1. Clear communication and education;
2. Effective decision making;
3. Building trust and capacity;
4. Economic and cost-efficient management;
5. Risk management; and
6. Accountability.

Join us next week as we examine stakeholder engagement and the Environmental Protection Act.

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