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2: Stakeholder Management and Public Participation

Without effective stakeholder management, no major community effort can succeed; with effective stakeholder management, there's little a community can't do. The analysis shifts from whether a community effort will succeed, to how successful it will be, and what the contours and strategies to produce the highest and most good could be when a community of stakeholders decides to accomplish something and marshals resources effectively to that end.

- Scott Wilson Badenoch Jr., Esq., MDR, Founder, BRIGHT


In this chapter, you will understand how to identify the stakeholders necessary for a successful Corridor Project; how to work with stakeholders from various sectors; methods for resolving conflict between stakeholders; and ways to think about facilitation and community-driven planning that focus on establishing relationships and seeking long-term mutual objectives.


Identifying Stakeholders


Managing Stakeholders
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Identifying Stakeholders

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Who are Stakeholders?

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 (Source - Stakeholder Analysis in Environmental and Conservation Planning). 

Example stakeholders in commercial revitalization projects usually include (Source -Seattle Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide):

  • Business owners and merchant groups
  • Residents and homeowner/tenant organizations
  • Local government officials, both elected and appointed
  • Banks/small business lenders
  • Civic and cultural groups
  • Local environmental non-profit 
  • Local private corporations
  • Economic development organizations
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Regional planning entities
  • Community development organizations
  • Property owners and landlord organizations
  • Artists
  • Realtors
  • Shoppers
  • Police
  • Religious institutions
  • Social service agencies
  • Historic preservation organizations
  • Transportation and parking authorities
  • Colleges and universities
  • Architects, contractors, and developers
  • Schools and youth groups

Process of Stakeholder Identification and Analysis

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 (Source - Stakeholder Analysis). 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. 

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 (Source - Stakeholder Analysis in Environmental and Conservation Planning).

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." (Source - MY EAST CAMDEN)

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. (Source - MY EAST CAMDEN).

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 (Source - Stakeholder Analysis in Environmental and Conservation Planning

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.

Additionally, 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.  

Stakeholder Identification Example 

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. (Table below titled: Stakeholder Identification Exercise/Stakeholder Analysis Table for the Watts Branch Corridor in DC).

Map of the Watts Branch Corridor in DC (Source - Anacostia Waterfront Trust EPA AWP Grant Application)

Stakeholder Identification Exercise/Stakeholder Analysis Table for the Watts Branch Corridor in DC (Source - Anacostia Waterfront Trust EPA AWP Grant Application)

Stakeholder Category (non-exhaustive, personal owner; responsible agency; entity owner; non-profit partner etc.)
Primary or Secondary? Influence?
Potential benefits/Pull Factors/Reasons for Participating
Residents of the Target Corridor
Primary
  • Improved health, economic, and social outcomes 
  •  Improved access to goods and services, increased safety, and greater quality of life
Residential Property Owners in the Target Corridor
Primary
  • Improved health, economic, and social outcomes 
  •  Improved access to goods and services, increased safety, and greater quality of life 
  • Remediation of environmental hazards should increase the demand for rental units
Local Government Agencies (DC Department of Energy & Environment, DC Office of Planning, National Park Service, DC Department of Parks and Recreation)
Primary - Critical for initial funding and provision of financial incentives to spur private investment
  • Revitalization increases the city’s tax base
  • Improved social, heath, and environmental outcomes for residents
  • Improved access to goods and services, increased safety, and greater quality of life for residents
Ward 7 Business Partnership & Small Local Businesses (liquor store, gas stations, flower and gift shops, grocery stores, Laundromat, funeral home, markets, tire stores)
Primary - Has experience in spearheading a comprehensive and sustainable method for coordinating and allocating public and private resources to produce commercial revitalization within urban neighborhoods
  • Greater access to capital for physical improvements
  • Improved economic, social, and environmental outcomes for main customers (increased consumer base and greater opportunities to expand) (Source – Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide)
Churches (Progressive National Baptist, Sargent Memorial Presbyterian, Bethel Capital House of Glory, The House of Praise, Holy Christian Missionary Baptist, 2nd New St Lake Baptist Church, St. James Church of Deliverance, Mt. Sinai Primitive Baptist Church, Holy Trinity United Baptist Church, Central Union Baptist Church) & Progressive National Baptist Convention Community Development Corporation (PNBC CDC))
Primary - Can be a potential site for community meetings and a potential resource for outreach as they could mobilize their congregation to participate in the planning process and advertise events. Also, they have experience in developing affordable and mixed-income housing.
  • Improved health, economic, and social outcomes for the church’s main congregation members who live in the corridor
  •  Improved access to goods and services, increased safety, and greater quality of life for main congregation members
  • Remediation of environmental hazards in surrounding areas could help increase the church’s congregation as the area is more appealing and environmentally safe
Schools (Woodson High School, AIton Elementary School)
Primary - Parents of the students attending these schools will care about the social and physical environment their children navigate when traveling between school and home. Similarly, the school’s proximity to environmental hazards should be of concern to the parents and the school – both value improvements to the health and wellbeing of the students
  • Environmental remediation efforts should help the school attract more students and resources
  • Increased green space, environmental remediation/cleanups, green infrastructure development, and renewable energy development in surrounding areas provides potential field trip opportunities where children can learn about environmental sciences, energy, and public health
Local Environmental Non-Profit Organizations (e.g., Groundwork Anacostia River DC)
Primary - Have a strong presence in Ward 7 communities near the Anacostia River. Thus, they can serve as a strong liaising function in community engagement activities/efforts etc.
  • Cleanups and remediation efforts in the Watts Branch area will have knock on benefits for the Anacostia River as a whole
  • Improved health, economic, and social outcomes of the communities they serve
  • Improved access to goods and services, increased safety, and greater quality of life for the communities they serve
Community Oriented Non-Profit (e.g., East River Family Strengthening Collaborative, Inc. (ERFSC) – provides social services, to families, youth, and seniors in Ward 7)
Primary - Can support community capacity building and the development of a community engagement strategy. They can also serve as a meeting space for stakeholder meetings
  • Improved social, heath, and environmental outcomes for the groups they serve
  • Improved access to goods and services, increased safety, and greater quality of life for the groups they serve
  • Work with populations that are particularly vulnerable to environmental hazards
Youth Development Non-Profit Organization (e.g., Kids are People Too Child Development Center)
Primary - Work with populations that are particularly vulnerable to environmental hazards
  • Improved social, heath, and environmental outcomes for the groups they serve
  • Improved access to goods and services, increased safety, and greater quality of life for the groups they serve
Recreation, Senior wellness, and Childcare Service Centers (e.g., Woodson Senior Recreation Center, Deanwood Rehab and Wellness Center, Safe & Sound Child development center, Healthy Babies)
Primary - Work with populations that are particularly vulnerable to environmental hazards
  • Improved social, heath, and environmental outcomes for the groups they serve
  • Improved access to goods and services, increased safety, and greater quality of life for the groups they serve
Financial Institutions (e.g., Citibank - ATM in Watts Branch)
Primary - Banks are a critical source of funding for revitalization efforts and capital improvements for businesses in the corridor
  • Opportunities to provide loans, with lower risk due to government support, to businesses in the corridor 
  • Improved social, heath, and environmental outcomes for nearby residents increases their customer base (people getting loans to start businesses, getting a mortgage etc.) 
  • Remediation and cleanup efforts can lead to increased engagement with their ATM (as the surrounding area becomes safer and cleaner)
Secondary Government Agencies (e.g., Metropolitan Police Department)
Secondary - Although they should care about the environmental and social conditions of the communities they police, it is not guaranteed that they will recognize the connection between those factors and public safety. Having them as allies would be helpful but is not crucial. There is also a chance that community relations with the department are especially strained, making it harder to establish trust and productive discussions during stakeholder meetings
  • Economic revitalization and improvements in social wellbeing helps address some of the root causes of crime
  • Improved access to goods and services, increased safety, and greater quality of life for nearby residents
Peripheral Institutions, Non-Profit Organizations, Schools, etc. (e.g. Kenilworth Parkside Recreation/Recreation Center, Garden of Eden, Kenilworth Elementary School, DC Promise Neighborhood Initiative)
Secondary - Watts Branch is a tributary of the Anacostia River. Thus, remediation efforts should have knock on benefits for the river and any surrounding stakeholder groups
  • Reduced pollution in the Anacostia River should help attract more visitors to the Park and Recreation Center
  • Improved social, heath, and environmental outcomes for people residing near the park and river
Fast Food Chains (McDonald’s, Subway, Wendy’s)
Secondary - Since these are chains they are not vital to the project. However, their location and reliance on customers from or passing through the corridor implicates them as stakeholders
  • Greater access to capital for physical improvements
  • Improved economic, social, and environmental outcomes for main customers (increased consumer base and greater opportunities to expand) (Source - Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide)

Managing Stakeholders

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General Stakeholder Engagement

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 (Source - Louisville Central Rail Corridor Area-Wide Brownfield Plan). 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 (Source - Louisville Central Rail Corridor Area-Wide Brownfield Plan). 

During in-person planning meetings with stakeholders, commit to the following strategies: 

  1. Utilize a skilled, independent facilitator to moderate discussions and reduce unhealthy conflict (Source - Stakeholder Analysis in Environmental and Conservation Planning). Facilitators are valuable if they are able to maintain professional neutrality. Below are a number of ways to find them: 
  • Within the Community: Find someone who is well known and respected in the target community. They must have organizational and facilitative skills. They should also understand the need for neutrality and diplomacy in the execution of a plan. For example, they could be university faculty, church pastors or leadership, high school deans, principals, or faculty, local business leaders, etc. These are people who could display the commitment necessary to see this role through in the long run. 
  • From local or national Dispute Resolution Organizations or Bodies: Organizations like the American Arbitration Association (AAA) have rosters of arbitrators who can be hired. Sometimes they will work for free or at a discounted cost (pro bono). 
  • Law Firms - Some lawyers have dispute resolution licenses. Most law firms have a roster of mediators as part of their staff, some of which also offer pro bono services. Having a lawyer as a facilitator can also provide access to other types of legal expertise that can support the Corridor Project. 
  • Educational Institutions - Universities and large school systems have ombudsmen. These are school-based facilitators and conflict resolution experts. If they are unavailable, such institutions also tend to have programs like clinics or student-led pro bono groups. 
  1. Agree on ground rules for participation. Some examples include (Source - ELI step by step guide): 
  • Developing a system to ensure that everyone gets a chance to speak 
  • Ensuring that only one person talks at time 
  • Sharing recommended time limits per comment 
  • Discouraging the use of expletives to keep the meeting kid-friendly 
  • Ensuring that each group is committed to upholding inclusion and justice in the deliberation process etc. 
  1. When necessary, provide extra resources for capacity development. These often include training workshops or courses to provide the background knowledge skills and tools for more productive engagement (Source - Stakeholder Analysis in Environmental and Conservation Planning).

Engaging with Corporations and Businesses

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.

  1. Some degree of both private and public investment is required for rapid and long lasting revitalization.
  2. Many public grants explicitly call for racial equity while denouncing harmful practices like gentrification. This initial sum of money can leverage private investment and showcase the legitimacy of centralizing equity and justice in development endeavors. 
  3. Some profit-seeking parties have begun institutionalizing values, practices, and action items to rectify the conditions that many environmentally burdened and/or low-to-medium income communities are struggling with.

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:

  1. Contractors who are usually responsible for cleanups and redevelopment. 
  2. Alternative Energy, Water Related, or Green Infrastructure Companies - These companies brand themselves as both sustainable and heavily invested in the public good. It should be relatively easier to partner with them by reaching out to their public engagement staff and emphasizing the opportunities for green infrastructure development in the target corridor.
  3. Banks, Investors, Lenders - These groups value clear and well thought out plans about the revenue bearing end uses of the Corridor Project, like commercial real estate, solar installation, urban forestry and parks, hydropower development, etc. Spend adequate time researching financing options and timelines before approaching them for collaboration (go to Chapter 6). However, keep in mind and emphasize the benefits that the Corridor Project provides them. For example, a bank “might be very interested in the revitalization planning process because it wants to eventually make small business loans to merchants” in the target corridor. Additionally, spend time getting to know their key staff (Source - Seattle Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide). 
  4. Retail and Commercial Operations and Tenants 
  5. Law Firms - Seek out law firms who value community lawyering and offer pro bono services. Community lawyering is a “method of providing legal service, advice, and representation which approaches case work or legal issues with appropriate consideration and an understanding of community values, concerns, ideas or beliefs and their impact on the treatment of the client, the treatment of legal issues, and the final legal solution crafted” (Source - On the Road Back In: Community Lawyering in Indigenous Communities). It entails “the integration of the lawyer into the community the lawyer serves, the use of multifaceted approaches to problem solving, and the investment and empowerment of community members in the lawyering process” (Source - Community lawyering/grassroots). Community Lawyering recognizes the value of community leadership in social movements, strengthening organizational power and enabling more effective means of coalition building. It can take the form of policy advocacy, know-your-rights training, writing and public speaking workshops, fundraising, and even litigated actions on behalf of the community (Source - Community Lawyering: The Role of Lawyers in the Social Justice Movement). 
  6. Real Estate Groups - Many communities justifiably fear realtors coming in and buying out the neighborhood, given years of gentrification and discriminatory practices. Nevertheless, real estate professionals are necessary to successfully execute a Corridor Project. Seek out a local real estate expert (not necessarily a realtor) who understands commercial and residential real estate transactions, specifically the conversion of a property from one owner and use to another.

Below are a few general steps for successful engagement with potential corporate partners: 

  1. Investigate which for-profit entities are most implicated by your Corridor Project’s physical location, targeted end uses, and financing needs.
  2. Identify the entity’s public engagement resources or department - Many of these entities will have departments focused on community liaison or public engagement work. It will be far easier to maintain smooth and consistent communication by starting with employees from these types of departments. They are also more likely to become individual advocates for the Corridor Project. 
  3.  Develop a relationship and rapport with the for-profit entity.
  • Research what the entity's needs and desires are.
  • Identify what benefits your community and the Corridor Project can offer the entity. Avoid portraying any partnerships as philanthropic by emphasizing the community’s value.
  • Gradually build relationships with staff. This is critical to ensuring long-term engagement with the Corridor Project. 
  1. Research the entity’s Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) reports.
  • Get a sense of what the entity’s stated values and principles are. How does it claim to interface with communities in need? How is it measuring its impact on local communities? What employment opportunities does it provide low-income communities? Etc. 
  • CSR reports “portray the relationship between a corporation and society. They seek to improve communications between the corporate world and the broader society within which companies report” (Source - how to read a csr report).
  • The report should outline the company’s “relations to its stakeholders who include employees, customers, communities, suppliers, governments and the environment.” The report extends “the definition of a corporation’s obligations beyond the simple generation of profits for investors to true enrichment of the full range of a corporation’s stakeholders.”
  • The report can take many different forms – "some are no more than a few paragraphs in a company’s annual financial reports. Others are stand-alone reports that can run 100 pages or more. Others appear on company websites.” Example CSR Report - Capital One CSR Report
  • Relevant CSR issues for the community and environment (Source - how to read a csr report) include: giving and volunteerism, community investment and partnerships, and community advisory panels. These panels empower communities to provide feedback and suggestions. If a company is already amplifying and responding to the concerns of community members, then it will be easy to leverage that forum into a strategic partnership. On the other hand, if a company has been inadequate in this realm, then the community can pressure them to improve and better realize the stated principles of CSR by supporting their Corridor Project. Environmental issues include: energy efficiency and climate change, wastes and toxic emissions, life cycle design, industry specific concerns, water, cleanup liabilities, fines and spills, and green procurement policies
  1. Research relevant local, state, and federal government financing options like tax credits, municipal bonds, and other incentives.
  • Tax Credits - These financial tools can make it easier for private companies to fund urban redevelopment. Examples include Investment Tax Credits, Production Tax Credits, New Market Tax Credits, and Low Income Housing Tax Credits (read more here). 
  • Municipal Bonds - These bonds are “debt securities issued by a state or municipality or county to finance public service projects using capital markets rather than public funds. The bonds are often exempt from federal taxes, as well as most state and local taxes.” Examples include Industrial Revenue Bonds, Green Bonds, Tax Increment Financing, Payments in Lieu of Taxes, and Property Assessed Clean Energy (read more here).
  • Local incentives - These usually encompass grants, rebates, and other types of local incentives to “offset project costs and deepen cooperation between municipal governments and private sector.” These are unique to your municipality, but examples in DC include Solar Renewable Energy Credits, Site Acquisition Funding Initiative, EnergySmart Initiatives, Riversmart Washington (incentives for green infrastructure), and the Supermarket Tax Credit (read more here).

Engaging with Municipal and Local Governments

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 (Source - Seattle Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide).

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” (Source - Seattle Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide).  

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:

  1. Determine how your municipality is structured and what other authorities you may need to collaborate with. Additionally, consider the following questions: Is your city's mayor-council system strong or weak? Or is it a council-manager system? Who is the mayor and who is on the city council? What are their goals? Are there any departments or government employees that would make particularly good allies for your goals?
  2. Use local government websites to determine which offices are best suited to support the project. Pick one or two departments, research their past and present projects, and decide which best suits the project's needs. In Washington D.C. relevant authorities could include one or more of the following: Office of the City Administrator, Mayor's Office of Community Relations and Services, Office of Community Affairs, Department of Energy & Environment, Department of Housing and Community Development, Office of Human Rights, Department of Parks and Recreation, Department of Public Works, Department of Small and Local Business Development, Department of Transportation, Office of Zoning.
  3. Reach out to the governing body and convince them that it is in the public's best interest to redevelop its low-income corridors and promote environmental revitalization and multi-faceted community improvement. Ensure that outreach is carefully crafted and appropriately worded. If done in person or over the phone, be sure to either practice your pitch and/or have a script. Ideally, the governing body will then draft a resolution stating the intent of the project. 
  • If all goes well, the governing body will set a public hearing, based upon its resolution of intent, to create a Corridor Improvement Authority, or some similar type of body. A Corridor Improvement Authority is a form of economic development that allows "the use of tax-increment financing to make capital improvements within an established commercial development" (Source - Economic Development Tools). Tax-increment financing is the "process through which companies are subsidized by refunding or diverting a portion of their taxes to incentivize them to help finance development in an area" (Source - Tax-Increment Financing
  • The hearing must be publicized via a notice. This can be through a publication, mailed to residents, included in a listserv, posted in info booths, through flyers, etc.
  • The public hearing usually includes discussions of funding, proposed actions, resident feedback, and proposed dates. The set up and design should mimic those of the public meeting described in the community organizing section.
  • Within 60 days of the public hearing, the governing body may adopt by resolution the creation of the Corridor Improvement Authority and designate boundaries of the development area.
  • The resolution must be published at least once in the local newspaper and filed with the Secretary of State. 
  • If applicable, the governing body of the municipality that has created an authority may enter into an agreement with an adjoining municipality that also has created an authority to jointly operate and administer those authorities under an “interlocal” agreement.

Community Organizing/Engagement

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 (Source - People Power from the Grassroots):

  • Immediacy amplifies the benefits participants would gain from victory and/or the harms they would suffer from inaction. This makes the issue urgent and fosters a more motivating atmosphere. 
  • Specificity applies to both the problem and solution. Both of these must be localized and particular enough to ensure that participants are not overwhelmed with too broad of an issue.
  • A realizable issue is one that the community, with coalition building and greater institutional support, has the capacity to realistically influence and solve.

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.

Intersectionality and Social Permaculture

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" (Source - Mapping the Margins). Fernando Tormos, from Johns Hopkins University, broadly defines it as the idea "that disadvantage is conditioned by multiple interacting systems of oppression" (Source - How social movements build power through intersectionality). 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 "distinct lived experiences have important policy implications that tend to be left unattended" (Source - How social movements build power through intersectionality). 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" (Source - Permaculture news). The framework is rooted in “an indigenous science of working in partnership and reciprocity with the land and cycles of nature” (Source - The Indigenous Science of Permaculture). 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" (Source - Foundation for Intentional Community). 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: subchapter X). 

Further information on the principles of community organizing can be found here, here, here, and here. Or, see the Resources section at the end of the Chapter.

Managing Stakeholder Meetings

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 (Source - Seattle Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide): 

  • What type of customers will the corridor try to serve/attract?
  • Why will people want to visit and continue to visit the corridor?
  • What will be people’s perception of the corridor?
  • What kinds of businesses are appropriate to attract?
  • What kinds of businesses are not appropriate?
  • What types of products and services will be available here?
  • What will make the corridor unique from neighboring retail corridors?
  • What will it look like?
  • What hours/days will the district be open and active?

After answering the above questions, follow these steps to develop a community vision (Source - Seattle Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide): 

  1. Conduct a Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) Analysis during one of the early stakeholder meetings.
  • Strengths - What are your community’s assets? E.g., growing residential population, food oriented businesses etc. 
  • Weaknesses - What about your community detracts “from consumer interest and/or merchant success?” E.g., lack of parking, physical disrepair, safety concerns, environmental hazards, etc. 
  • Opportunities - These are the conditions, factors, and characteristics that are favorable to the successful implementation of the Corridor Project. E.g., “planned public infrastructure upgrades; neighborhood demographic shifts; or the availability of affordable real estate.”
  • Threats - These are the conditions, factors, and characteristics that are unfavorable to the successful implementation of the Corridor Project. E.g., “declining population, absentee property owners, or a planned shopping mall within the trade area, but outside of your commercial district.”
  1. Conduct the Community Identity Exercise (Source - Seattle Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide).
  • Use this exercise to “collect ideas about such things as what the area is currently known for, what images people relate to the district, and what people value about other commercial corridors.”
  • “To facilitate the exercise, give people 10 to 15 minutes to fill out the Community Identity Exercise form on paper and then allow 15 to 20 minutes for a brief discussion about differing perceptions of the district. The facilitators should collect the written surveys and also take notes, ideally in a large format so that the audience can view them.”
  1. Brainstorm what the corridor will be like in 10 years (Source - Seattle Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide).
  • “At a community meeting, ask the stakeholders to imagine and describe the district as they see it 10 years in the future. Present the questions below to the group as prompts for generating ideas. Encourage participants
to share what they think will be unique and interesting about the district.”
  • Ask the following questions: Who will be the district’s main customers? Where will these customers come from? What will draw them to this district? What kinds of businesses will be in the district? What will make the district unique from neighboring retail districts? What will the district look like?
  • “While these activities should not be written in the vision statement, they should be collected and maintained for use in developing a strategic action plan.”
  1. Identify a targeted consumer niche (Source - Seattle Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide).
  • “A district niche is a specialized market segment, defined by either the product/service category or by a specific consumer market segment.”
  • Consider the following questions:  Do you want a district with retail outlets which primarily serve local residents or which attract consumers and visitors from throughout the city? 
Do you want to serve specific segments of the population such as youth, the elderly, or college students? 
Do you want to be a district which is a regional destination for tourists? 
Do you want to be known as a district which provides comparison shopping for a specific product such as art, antiques, or cultural food/products?
  1. Draft written vision statements in a small group (Source - Seattle Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide).
  • “Vision statements are difficult to write and many successful programs have no formal vision statement, even though they do have a common vision driving their strategy. However, clear written vision statements can be useful and the process of crafting a vision statement can itself serve as an excellent visioning exercise.”
  • Example vision statements can be found on page 27 in Seattle Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide.

Communication Style

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.



Dispute Resolution


Resources
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Dispute Resolution

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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 (Source - A Community Guide to Using Alternative Dispute Resolution to Secure Environmental Justice). Below are the four different types of Alternative Dispute Resolution. 

  1. Negotiation – Negotiation grants parties the most control over the process and solution to their issue. It can involve the participation of a neutral facilitator but mostly relies on the two parties reaching a compromise through guided conversation. Most Alternative Dispute Resolution starts off with negotiation and will only shift to other types if parties repeatedly fail to meet eye to eye (Source - https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/alternative_dispute_resolution ).
  2. Mediation – Mediation calls for stronger participation by a neutral facilitator who has formal training in mediating negotiations. Although the mediator can help the parties reach a settlement or agreement, their recommendations are never binding. This method is most useful when, despite emotional conflicts, “parties have a relationship they want to preserve” (Source - https://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/alternative_dispute_resolution). 
  3. Arbitration – A more formal and trial-like process where the parties mutually nominate “one or several individuals to make a decision about the dispute after receiving evidence and hearing arguments.” This process grants parties much less control than negotiation or mediation as the arbitrator is given authority, although their decisions can either be binding or non-binding (Source - https://www.americanbar.org/groups/dispute_resolution/resources/DisputeResolutionProcesses/). 
  4. Neutral evaluation – This process is similar to arbitration in that each party presents their case to a neutral “evaluator” who is usually an expert in the disputed matter. However, the evaluator merely offers their opinion on the relative merits and shortcomings of each party’s case and what a reasonable resolution would be. Parties then usually rely on this information as they continue negotiating. Neutral evaluation is most valuable in cases with very complex technical issues at hand. However, it’s best to avoid this method if there are emotional or personal barriers to resolution (Source - https://www.courts.ca.gov/3074.htm).

Resources

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Best Practices from Previous Area-Wide Plan Grant Winners

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.

  1. Conduct informative, inclusive, and engaging neighborhood workshops early on in the planning process: 
  • Provide the public with meaningful opportunities to gain knowledge on the issue and shape project design and goals (educational workshops and sessions teaching them about brownfields, environmental remediation, different types of pollution, different types of end uses, etc.). Use these to begin sourcing ideas about the appropriate type of development, preferred locations, and planning strategies based on brownfield cleanup strategies. Use mapping exercises and visual preference surveys to help stakeholders visualize where they want to see specific developments. Provide visual examples of what new end uses would look like. 
  • Highlight topics/issues to cover in neighborhood stakeholder meetings. E.g., safety concerns, traffic, pedestrian connectivity, compatibility of existing uses, etc. 
  • Have stakeholders participate in a collective SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis, tracking comments and consolidating them into specific visions for the project.
  • Use a charrette format for public planning meetings. This 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.
  1. Outreach:
  • Have sign in sheets at public meetings (collect email info). 
  • Use listservs, phone calls, and email invites. 
  • Ensure that any fliers, websites, emails etc. are in multiple languages that adequate represent your community’s lingual makeup.
  • Collaborate with local churches, schools, and local organizations. These, along with public spaces like parks, can also provide venues for meetings and events.
  1. Establish an advisory/steering committee
  • Create an advisory or steering committee of representative stakeholders from the community, local property owners, nearby educational institutions, churches, small businesses, and non-profits/organizations to act as a collective liaison with the local government and larger corporate actors.
  • After initial meetings with local government officials, identify and ask for specific officials to serve on the committee (public officials should be regularly attending larger public meetings).
  • Ensure that this committee meets regularly and separately outside of broader stakeholder meetings (at least once a month). However, you must make these meetings open to the public, publicize meeting minutes on a website, present meeting summaries at broader stakeholder meetings, and encourage non-committee stakeholders to influence advisory committee meeting agendas and goals. 
  • Plan a timeline of updates/progress presentations for the advisory committee to provide to the public as the Corridor Project continues.
  • At various stages throughout the project and following its completion, garner feedback through feedback forms, surveys, and interviews.  
  • Compile project goals, progress, feedback, meeting minutes, etc. on a website that also accepts and tracks public comments.

Resources

  1. Stakeholder Analysis in Environmental and Conservation Planning - Donna Volger 
  2. East Camden AWP Document 
  3. Louisville Central Rail Corridor - Area-Wide Brownfield Plan 
  4. Step-by-Step Guide to Integrating Community Input into Green Infrastructure Projects - Environmental Law Institute
  5. Community Organizing: People Power from the Grassroots
  6. Fertile Ground: Women Organizing at the Intersection of Environmental Justice and Reproductive Justice - Kristen Zimmerman and Vera Miao
  7. BRIGHT Program Community Insight: an Engagement Framework in a Multi-Stakeholder, Multi-Sector Context for BRIGHT Corridors (Ingenious Relations)
  8. Seattle Commercial Revitalization Planning Guide 
  9. A Community Guide to Using Alternative Dispute Resolution to Secure Environmental Justice by the Environmental Law Institute
  10. Ten Tips for Putting Intersectionality into Practice
  11. How Social Movements Build Power Through Intersectionality