Thoughtful and inclusive stakeholder management forms the basis of every successful corridor project. Stakeholders must commit to ongoing collaboration and compromise, prioritizing decisions that counter gentrification and uplift communities that have historically borne the brunt of environmental pollution and divestment. Although this can be difficult, due to converging interests and disparate lived experiences, it ensures that the long, complex, and costly process of brownfield remediation produces the most beneficial and equitable outcomes.
- Selah Goodson Bell, Co-Author, Co-Editor, BRIGHT
Stakeholders are the people, communities, entities, and organizations affected by an activity and able to influence the impact of said activity. As a result, it is critical that they are included in any decision making process.
1. Identify and categorize stakeholders
Stakeholders can often be categorized as primary or secondary, depending on their relevance and proximity to the project.
Primary stakeholders tend to be directly implicated by the project, willing to invest time and energy into planning and implementation, and will most likely stay in contact throughout the project. They are usually the group most reliant on the resources or services that a project focuses on, making them more vulnerable than other stakeholders. Some examples include property owners within the corridor, individuals or entities within the corridor, and the agencies relevant to development.
Secondary stakeholders, on the other hand, have less at stake and are often voluntary participants. Usually, they are not essential to the ultimate fulfillment of the project’s mission. If they are seriously opposed to the values and goals of the primary stakeholders, the project could move forward without them. Some examples include chain retail businesses, indirectly related government entities, etc.
Keep in mind that more public participation in a Corridor Project isn't always better. If the net of stakeholders is cast too wide, you could easily waste time negotiating with parties who lack a legitimate interest in the plan. Similarly, be cautious of some voluntary stakeholders, as opposed to primary stakeholders, who may be less vested in a positive outcome or reaching consensus.
Table 1: Example stakeholders in commercial revitalization projects:
2. Assess the viewpoint of each stakeholder (impacts, rights, risks, and responsibilities)
Distinguish between the respective benefits and harms (impacts) stakeholders face if the project proceeds. To complement this, identify each group's rights, risks, and responsibilities. Rights can include human rights, one's right to extractable resources, one's right to land tenure, etc. Risks, on the other hand, can include loss of reputation, economic loss, loss of cultural integrity, etc. Finally, responsibilities refer to one's role in planning and executing the project.
Most stakeholder information can be collected through a mix of quantitative and qualitative research. Quantitative research provides a map of demographic and environmental data, developing the foundation of a community's potential needs, and a basis for the social impact of a Corridor Project. This is then complemented with richer and more insightful information collected via in-person focus groups, informal and in-depth interviews, open-ended surveys, and other technologically assisted research techniques.
For example, a recent Corridor Project in East Camden, New Jersey hired city residents to conduct door to door surveys on what it was like to live in the target corridor. Their survey results indicated that: "Residents like living in East Camden, primarily due to strong neighborhood ties and proximity to family and friends, and are hopeful for the future of the neighborhood. However, survey results also indicated that residents [were] concerned about issues like crime, safety, quality of the public realm, and quality of public services."
Additionally, the East Camden Corridor Project collected demographic data about the area. Relevant metrics included population, race and ethnicity, homeownership rate, median household income, poverty rate, high school graduation rate, employment rate, vehicle ownership etc.
The use of qualitative and quantitative data is also relevant to the structure of environmental laws. Most state and federal laws focus more on quantitative metrics, such as the volume of a particular discharge or amount of pollutant released. Unfortunately, this quantitative data can often be divorced from more qualitative assessments of ecological wellbeing, overlooking a more holistic view of a community's quality of life. Keep this in mind and recognize the type of data and information that your state's environmental laws most value.
Finally, gather and analyze community specific data before committing to any Corridor Project strategies as this ensures the most representative form of public participation from the outset of the project.
3. Analyze each stakeholder’s history and values
You must be especially considerate of the history and values of a Corridor Project’s marginalized stakeholders. Recognize their lived experiences as well as their present and past relationship to relevant institutions. Most importantly, tailor impact considerations to redress historical harms and forms of discrimination. Then, anticipate the level of influence and support (either for or against) that each group will have regarding a project or initiative. Similarly, consider strategies to gain support of stakeholders likely to oppose action.
In 2010, the city of Cleveland was awarded a grant for their Area-Wide Plan through the Brownfield Area-Wide Planning Pilot Program. The Ohio Department of Transportation decided to redevelop the are known as the "Forgotten Triangle" to help alleviate traffic congestion, create job opportunities, and revitalize the area. Additionally, the Forgotten Triangle was an environmental justice (EJ) community; a majority of the area's population was low-income and minority, and the residents disproportionately suffered from poor air quality, food insecurity, and a lack of clean and safe green spaces. Even though the Area-Wide Plan would directly impact these residents, the steering committee, which was responsible for planning the redevelopment project, lacked an engagement of these local residents. The residents were not notified of early planning stages, did not participate in the first five meetings, and later only five residents out of a 225-acre area were added to the steering committee.
The Cleveland Corridor Project demonstrated how crucial it is for Area-Wide Planning to engage residential, mandatory stakeholders, especially within EJ communities, to prevent disparate impacts on the residents, and ensure that the residents have a voice in the development of their communities.
Please note that stakeholder identification is intimately tied to the process of identifying and mapping the corridor itself (go to Chapter 3). These processes should inform each other and be done hand-in-hand as property owners, renters, communities, etc. at the margins of blighted areas could easily be effected by a Corridor Project.
In 2016, the BRIGHT program supported the Anacostia Waterfront Trust’s Area-Wide Brownfield Plan in the Watts Branch Area. The plan was awarded grant money from the EPA to implement revitalization efforts along the Watts Branch corridor in Ward 7 of the District of Columbia. Below is a map of the various stakeholders and potential brownfields throughout the corridor. With this information, we have created a draft stakeholder analysis table distinguishing between primary and secondary stakeholders in the corridor.
Before in-person planning meetings with stakeholders, develop and gradually implement educational sessions for various stakeholder groups. These can take the form of interactive workshops, panels, lectures, etc. This is critical as stakeholders must gain an adequate understanding of brownfields, environmental contamination (causes, health implications, and remedies), and current green infrastructure efforts in neighboring corridors.
For example, the Area-Wide Plan for Louisville's Central Rail Corridor conducted a year-long public involvement process in collaboration with the University of Louisville’s Center for Environmental Policy and Management, or CEPM. Between April and August of 2014, CEPM held monthly events introducing the corridor planning project and informing stakeholders about brownfields and their various impacts.
Following these sessions, CEPM administered multiple interactive sessions where stakeholders were able to list their community priorities and provide feedback on the developing corridor map. Prioritized issues were sorted into the following categories: employment and economic development; community; corridors and streets; brownfield redevelopment; and health and safety.
During in-person planning meetings with stakeholders, commit to the following strategies:
Many communities, especially those that are majority low-income and of color, have very tense and apprehensive relationships with large corporations, businesses, and other profit-seeking stakeholders. Historically, such stakeholder groups have been complicit in upholding systemic racism and excluding these communities from the resources and capital necessary for equitable economic development.
In certain instances, past efforts at revitalizing the areas these communities inhabit have led to gentrification. When community members lack decision-making authority and influence, corporate stakeholders can economically develop an area in a way that displaces most low-to-medium income residents. This harmful practice raises property taxes, housing prices, and retail prices without providing targeted affordable housing and employment opportunities to the longtime residents of the corridor. By valuing profits over people, gentrification perpetuates years of neglect, divestment, and systemic racism that created the conditions warranting revitalization in the first place.
While skepticism of profit-seeking parties is well justified, a number of factors suggest that their inclusion is both necessary and promising.
As you pursue a mutually beneficial relationship with profit-seeking stakeholders, treat them as critical allies in the pursuit of a just and prosperous future. To achieve this, recognize that your community boasts valuable assets and remind them that there are plenty of alternative parties you can turn to.
This competition can also be leveraged to find corporate stakeholders who are best able to actualize the community’s vision of what it should be. Professional facilitators can play a valuable role in this process. Their ability to ease tensions can make communication a lot easier for both parties.
The different types of corporate stakeholders can include:
Below are a few general steps for successful engagement with potential corporate partners:
Local government agencies are critical stakeholders in any community revitalization or development effort. This is especially true in low-income communities that have been plagued by divestment, white flight, and blight as local governments offer essential services, public goods, and operating funds. This financial and political support goes a long way in the long-term implementation of a Corridor Project.
It is also useful to build lasting relationships with public officials, so that you can have an ally on the inside, or internal agency champion, who can help the project overcome bureaucratic barriers. Target “key staff from such departments as the Police, Public Works and Planning, as well as the Mayor’s or City Manager’s office.”
Attending government events, inviting officials and staff to community events, and generally treating agency members as a part of the community all go a long way in developing this relationship. Facilitators also play a valuable role in helping stakeholders navigate through their past grievances with certain government agencies and/or officials. Recognize that personnel changes. Even if your community has rightful frustrations, you must be willing to engage with the agency in a constructive way.
Below are some general steps for successful engagement with local government:
Community organizing is predicated on redefining and expanding people's ideas of self, ultimately building up their capacity for sustained collective action. This action calls on each individual to recognize, and be reminded of, the significant impact of their personal contribution.
Community organizing broadens people’s sense of self interest, inspiring them to work for the sake of their peers. Effective community organizing calls for conduct and action that are dynamic and earnest at all scales. The work doesn't stop; organizers must be willing to continuously confront new issues and expand their membership.
To continue, participants must agree on a definition of each issue that is immediate, specific, and realizable.
To illustrate appropriate community engagement, the Mt. Ephraim Choice Neighborhood Transformation Plan began its planning process by transparently creating a dialogue with primary stakeholders to facilitate a community-driven process for revitalizing the project area. Here, the planning process garnered significant community support because the planning team engaged and collaborated with residents, local churches and nonprofits, local government administration, and other primary stakeholders early in the planning process.
During this early engagement, the team was able to administer needs assessments and resident surveys to get the residents' opinions and ideas on the needs and aspirations of the community. It set up public meetings and visioning workshops to generate ideas for the Transformation Plan, and it created Task Force working groups to develop data-driven strategies for implementing the Transformation Plan. The Mt. Ephraim Choice Neighborhood Transformation Plan demonstrates how to attract support for Area-Wide Planning through community organizing and coalition building.
Before continuing, consider the ways in which intersectionality will be applied to the stakeholder analysis. Coined by lawyer, professor, and Critical Race Theory scholar Kimberlé Crenshaw, intersectionality embraces the "need to account for multiple grounds of identity when considering how the social world is constructed." Fernando Tormos, from Johns Hopkins University, broadly defines it as the idea "that disadvantage is conditioned by multiple interacting systems of oppression." Intersectionality is crucial to any social movement seeking redress for the harms experienced by marginalized communities.
Crenshaw contends that identity politics frequently "conflates or ignores intra-group differences." This disregards the uniquely compounded systems of oppression and discrimination that some of the country's most marginalized people face.
For example, the collective experiences of queer women of color navigating homophobia, sexism, and racism must be recognized as distinct from those of heterosexual white women or men of color. This does not call for the homogenization of all experiences of queer women of color, but rather acknowledges what makes those experiences unique from those of other marginalized groups. This recognition must be followed by the legitimate inclusion of this marginalized group's experiences into the broader community's culture and politics.
A marginalized group’s collection of "distinct lived experiences have important policy implications that tend to be left unattended." Thus, it is important for community organizing to "build on the leadership and insight of [such] groups, ensure their inclusion," and center their perspectives. A commitment to upholding intersectionality ensures that the interests of all stakeholders will be legitimately and justly represented. Concrete strategies for putting this into practice can be found here.
Another critical component of community organizing is the principle of social permaculture. Permaculture refers to the "conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems." The framework is rooted in “an indigenous science of working in partnership and reciprocity with the land and cycles of nature.” The framework also considers how multiple entities interact with one another to make up a well-functioning whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. Social permaculture applies this thinking to human communities, designing "social structures that favor beneficial patterns of human behavior."
By cultivating conditions that favor empowering relationships, social permaculture can imbue longevity, inclusion, and ambition into community organizing. Read more on the principles of social permaculture here and here. Additionally, explore the ways in which permaculture connects to the end uses of corridor project development in Chapter 4 (go to Chapter 4).
Conflict is inevitable in any joint community effort. In many ways, conflict can be a healthy sign that a wide variety of perspectives and opinions are being included. In this sense, conflict and public participation go hand in hand. Yet when unchecked, such conflict will serve as a lasting and potentially expensive obstacle to progress. As a result, successful stakeholder management often requires the use of Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR).
Alternative Dispute Resolution is a method of resolving conflict by avoiding litigation. It calls for direct negotiation with the stakeholder group most able to address the issue in question. The method is mutually beneficial and far less confrontational, offering communities the chance to find some form of compromise instead of engaging in potential zero sum games with opponents who often yield far greater resources and political capital. Below are the four different types of Alternative Dispute Resolution.
When planning meetings, consider starting with a charrette process. Volger describes this as a 3-to-4-day collaborative process where stakeholders cycle in and out as their schedules allow, sharing their comments with a team of community leaders and independent facilitators who create successive iterations of a project design based on said comments.
After that, a more traditional meeting can be planned with members and representatives of all stakeholder groups present and participating. Community leaders can be identified through pre-meeting research and outreach with established community networks. They will be key for meeting attendance, meeting participation, and long-term implementation of the project.
Devote enough time and resources to marketing and advertising the meeting. Go door-to-door handing out flyers; identify and collaborate with members and leaders of community centers to share information through word of mouth; post the meeting information in a listserv; engage in call banking; advertise in the local newspaper; post on social media; add the meeting to community calendars; post notices at churches, stores, community centers, etc.; and post large signs outside the venue on the day of the meeting.
More information on what to include in notices, how to pick a venue, and what specific features make for a successful meeting can be found here.
The community and full group of stakeholders must also discuss and formulate a shared vision of what the community is trying to become. In other words, what is the corridor’s economic and cultural niche? In developing this vision, stakeholders should collectively answer the following questions:
After answering the above questions, follow these steps to develop a community vision:
Note that the way in which you communicate with each stakeholder group will differ. It is important to communicate with each stakeholder in a way that they can both understand and be motivated by. This liaising function of stakeholder management calls for the synthesis of the needs and perspectives of all parties to find a deal that works for everyone. Critically, communications must always come from a place of diplomacy and good faith cooperation. It is also helpful to build sincere personal relationships with each stakeholder, maintaining genuine and consistent engagement.
Below is a list of best practices from a variety of Area-Wide Planning Projects that received EPA grants for Brownfield Revitalization in 2010 and 2013. Keep in mind that these should guide rather than fully determine the strategies adopted by your specific project.