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We distill complex frameworks for stakeholder engagement into 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, thereby providing a functional and approachable platform with which to consider engagement processes. Aside from introducing and developing the Five-Feature Framework, we apply the framework as a measure to evaluate the empirical case study literature involving stakeholder engagement 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, which confirms 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.

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This document was originally published by Ecology and Society in Ecology and Society. Copyright restrictions may apply. doi: 10.5751/ES-08830-210438