By Aurelia Aceves, Senior Manager
Public Works Partners believes in developing solutions that integrate the perspectives of all groups that stand to benefit from implementation. One of the bedrocks of our foundational and proven methodology, Process with Purpose, is to engage key stakeholders. Inclusivity is woven into our DNA.
We define stakeholders as individuals or groups who could be impacted by a proposed project, program, or solution. These individuals or groups can include program participants, nonprofit and government program administrators, executive leadership, board members, neighborhood residents, and local business owners to name a few. Our approach for engaging stakeholders combines traditional methods with design thinking strategies to create an environment where attendees can freely share their perspectives and opinions and fuel idea generation. In all of our stakeholder conversations, we strive to reach stakeholder groups in their communities and at a level the establishes trust with them.
Public Works Stakeholder Engagement Approach
Once we collect stakeholder feedback, we implement an analysis plan, looking closely at our findings to identify overarching insights. Increasingly, we turn to programs like Dedoose to systematically organize and review stakeholder feedback. Ultimately, refining our solutions with these insights increases the likelihood of successful implementation.
Experience has helped our team identify some best practices around stakeholder engagement, which we use to deliver high-quality stakeholder engagements and actionable recommendations that matter to our clients. Our best practices include:
Understanding that Stakeholder Engagement Is Contextual
- No two stakeholder groups are the same, and differences should be mapped out to inform engagement strategy development
Establishing Ongoing Communication
- Share information about the project with stakeholders before, during, and after the engagement; this is a great way to build buy-in, increase trust and develop relationships, minimize uncertainty, and ensure stakeholders are engaged
Exercising Empathy and Compromise
- Map out stakeholder priorities prior to meetings and assess how these relate to the project and how they should be navigated throughout the engagement
- Seek to understand underlying issues and assess whether the project plan needs to change or if there is a better way to work together
Establishing What Success Looks Like
- Identify how stakeholders perceive success in the context of the project, and manage these expectations throughout the project by referring back to their perspective
- Map out the desired outcomes of all stakeholders and show them where their priorities fall in the BIG PICTURE
Below are two examples of our stakeholder engagement efforts. For other examples of our recent projects check-out the “Our Clients” section of our website.
The Client: Long Island City Partnership (LICP)
The Project: The Long Island City Partnership (LICP) engaged Public Works to study the challenges local businesses and cultural organizations face in light of the neighborhood’s real estate transformation. Public Works created and analyzed a survey delivered to over 6,000 Long Island City businesses, and facilitated focus groups and interviews with local stakeholders to dig deep into the survey findings and understand the neighborhood’s trajectory.
The Results: Public Works produced an analysis that revealed stakeholders’ central challenges—including property affordability, land use conflicts, and inadequate local transportation. Also, Public Works helped LICP create its first-ever comprehensive plan, targeting specific policy levers relevant to LIC and its local stakeholders—including enhanced business support services, incentives, and real estate and land use policies.
The Client: NYC Economic Development Corporation
The Project: Public Works Partners helped jump-start the process for reactivating the South Brooklyn Marine Terminal, a dormant, city-owned industrial site on the South Brooklyn waterfront, by facilitating a task force of Sunset Park business owners and community representatives. We facilitated monthly task force meetings to help the group, which started with divergent viewpoints, to identify goals for the terminal.
The Results: Stakeholders reached an agreement on community goals for job quality, infrastructure investments, and environmental impact, leading to the release of a NYC Economic Development Corporation request for proposals – less than six months after the task force convened – that includes the task force’s consensus-driven goals.