Summary & Purpose

This paper distills complex frameworks for stakeholder engagement to five main principles that scientists and natural resource managers can use in planning stakeholder engagement efforts. Many natural resource management professionals, including practitioners and scholars, increasingly recognize the need for and potential benefits of engaging stakeholders in complex decision-making processes, yet the implementation of these efforts varies wildly, reflecting great methodological and conceptual diversity. Given the dynamic and diverse natural resource management contexts in which engagement occurs and the often significant stakes involved in making decisions about natural resources, we argue that stakeholder engagement would benefit from a theoretical framework that is both agile and robust. To this end, five essential elements of stakeholder engagement are evaluated and organized to form the Five-Feature Framework, providing a functional and approachable platform with which to consider engagement processes. Aside from introducing and developing the Five-Feature Framework, this paper applies the framework as a measure to evaluate the empirical case-study literature involving SE in natural resource management in an effort to better understand the obstacles facing robust and genuine engagement in natural resource management. Our results suggest that the most basic principles of engagement are often absent from stakeholder engagement projects, confirming the need for a functional framework. The Five-Feature Framework can be used to plan flexible, adaptable, and rigorous engagement projects in a variety of contexts and with teams that have varying backgrounds and experience. By virtue of its simplicity and functionality, the framework demystifies stakeholder engagement in order to help natural resource professionals build opportunities for collaborative decision-making and integrate citizen values and knowledge into complex management issues.

Date of Publication or Submission



Funding Citation

This publication was made possible by the NSF Idaho EPSCoR Program and by the National Science Foundation under award number IIA-1301792.

Data Source Credits

Literature references are credited in the data record.

Single Dataset or Series?

Single Dataset

Data Format

*.xlsx, *.csv, *.pdf

Data Attributes

Initial online searches for journals included multiple combinations of the terms “environment,” “natural resources,” “management,” and “policy.” Searches focused on journals that publish a wide variety of natural resource management cases rather than focusing on one resource area only (such as water resource management). From this list, we further focused our search by identifying the journals that returned results after searching for the both the terms ‘stakeholder’ and ‘engagement’, restricted only by date parameters embedded in the search engines themselves. This narrowed the list of journals to five, representing a total of 1,321 articles. The list of articles was further refined by looking specifically for the coupled phrase “stakeholder engagement,” as it is now recognized as a specialized term denoting a specific concept. The total number of articles returned from the combined “stakeholder engagement” search is 170 (see Table 1). Lastly, the data was reduced by eliminating articles that do not focus specifically on applied stakeholder engagement. These included articles that focused on theoretical conceptualization of SE (rather than application) or that mentioned “stakeholder engagement” only in passing or in a bibliography. The final number of case studies examined in the natural resource management literature that meaningfully discussed the practice of stakeholder engagement is 79. Each of the 79 articles was evaluated with a simple, manual coding process of noting when one of the five essential features of SE was present. It is important to note that the articles were rated only on whether some mention of one of the five features was made by assigning a score of 1 or 0 (1 for present, 0 for absent), which does not evaluate the quality of the feature in relation to the engagement. To ensure inter-rater reliability, a random sample of 50 articles from the initial 170 articles was chosen and reviewed independently by both authors, either rejecting the article due to it not being a case study or coding the article with regards to the Five-Feature Framework. The original dataset is composed of four (4) worksheets in an Excel 2010 *.xlsx workbook format. Each of the four worksheets has been exported to a comma separated value *.csv file. In addition, the Excel workbook has been exported to Portable Document Format, *.pdf, so that the charts and graphs can be easily viewed. A project poster presented at the October 29, 2015 Idaho EPSCoR meeting is included.

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