Engaging stakeholders early in the process with open and trustworthy communication will help a project succeed.

Over our four part Building Consensus blog series, we will explore the unique requirements of consensus building in initial project planning, siting, permitting, and construction phases of a project.

In this post, we reiterate the importance communicating with your stakeholders in the planning and siting phase, if not earlier.

A project requiring public permits is by definition going to be public, and without talking to the public, it is impossible to anticipate all of the concerns of the community that will “host” the project. By seeking and obtaining stakeholder input early in the planning process, project developers will gain an understanding of community questions, concerns and suggestions and help avoid surprises and major opposition during the permitting phase. True stakeholder involvement at the outset also helps build a positive, transparent and mutually respectful working relationship.

Consensus Building 2

 

  1. Ask, “Who are the stakeholders?”

The stakeholders are the people who are invested or impacted by the project. Reach out to and engage in two-way communication with a diverse group of interested parties to understand anti-development concerns and to educate stakeholders about the benefits.

If unfamiliar with the city or town in which the proposed project would be sited, reach out to the leaders, influencers and others that work and live in the community, including:

  • Town officials
  • Local law firms
  • Engineering firm
  • Business and civic organizations
  • Community leaders
  1. Listen up

Giving stakeholders everything they ask for may very well not be possible, but actively listening to them is of vital importance. Respect and acknowledge their concerns, even if you disagree, and when appropriate, go back and study the situation further. Provide stakeholders with information that helps them understand your decisions, especially when they are contrary to the wishes of our stakeholders. Acknowledge where the project will or may have negative impacts and when possible, make an adjustment or accommodation to the plan. It’s human nature to focus on the negatives more than the positives, so be ready to address them head on and offer the community tangible benefits that they will value.

  1. Use available tools for two-way communication and education

A dedicated website, web-based applications and social media presence can help project planners and managers communicate important information about the benefits of proposed project (e.g., jobs and taxes) and, equally important, the negative impacts (e.g., construction noise and traffic). Remember, information flows two-ways. Educate stakeholders, learn from them and post the information in places that are convenient to your stakeholders.

  1. Meet with working groups

Regular meetings with representatives from your stakeholder groups will give you consistent and effective updates through the planning, siting, permitting and building phases. They can act as a sounding board and help the developers learn about each constituency’s issues.

  1. Gain trust

Transparency and openness build trust. Developers must engage the community early and often, and have the patience when neighbors need to vent about previous negative experiences with your company or other developers before moving forward with the project at hand. A bad process not only detracts from the project, but once accused of a lack of transparency, the opposition circles and getting that first shovel in the ground becomes much more difficult.

 

Read further examples on these steps in  Building Consensus for Your Project, Part 2.

 

31st December 2014        Holiday Giving         No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to eleven nonprofits in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During the month of December, each team member will be blogging about his or her chosen nonprofit. For his gift, Kevin chose Horace Mann Educational Associates.

I am proud to volunteer for and support HMEA, a nonprofit agency serving nearly 4,000 people with Autism and developmental disabilities in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

According the Centers for Disease Control, incidence of autism has been rising over the past 20 years and is now estimated to be 1 in 68 children. It is conservatively estimated that 75,000 people are diagnosed with autism in Massachusetts alone.

The cost of providing care for a person with autism in the U.S. is an estimated $1.4 million over their lifetime, according to a study funded by advocacy group Autism Speaks. For those with autism who are impacted with intellectual disabilities (with an IQ of 70 or less) — nearly half of the autistic population — the cost jumps to $2.3 million. On average autism costs a family $60,000 a year. Nationally, expenditure on autism treatment is estimated at 160 billion dollars and is expected to increase five-fold to 800 billion by 2030.

A recent report from the Massachusetts Autism Commission determined that tremendous gaps in services and supports exist and that there is a critical need to develop a comprehensive approach that will respond to the needs of this burgeoning autism population.

Fortunately, HMEA is working to close some of these gaps. They provide an Autism Resource Center for families, a school for students ages 9 to 22, assistive technology services,  home-based childrens’ servicesday programs where adults with developmental disabilities can learn work/life skills and receive job training and employment, residential and shared living programs, and so much more.

Earlier this year, HMEA held an autism summit that convened local, regional and state leaders to discuss the impact of autism on communities in Massachusetts. HMEA is also developing a new model program called, Students for Higher – Rising up for Autism, to train college students as behavioral therapists and respite providers for children with autism.

Despite the multiple funding sources available to Massachusetts families today, there is a critical shortage of skilled therapy and respite workers needed to meet the care needs of children and families with autism. As a result, many families are on a six-month waiting list for in-home services. The goal of the Students for Higher program is to significantly reduce the number of families of children (and adults) with autism who are desperately waiting for in-home therapy services and respite in Central Massachusetts.

To learn more about HMEA and the many valuable services and supports they provide to people with autism and developmental disabilities, visit www.hmea.org.

30th December 2014        Holiday Giving         No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to eleven nonprofits in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During the month of December, each team member will be blogging about his or her chosen nonprofit. For his gift, Greg chose Mid Coast Food Prevention Program.

The Mid Coast Hunger Prevention Program’s (MCHPP) mission is to provide hungry people with access to healthy food, work to improve the quality of their lives by partnering with others, and serve them in a manner that recognizes their dignity.

They provide food assistance to over 1,200 Maine families in need each year. In addition, they provide programs to help build skills to live self-sufficient and healthy lifestyles. The Soup Kitchen feeds an average of 120 people per day, serving fresh meals restaurant style, so people do not have to wait in line for their meal. One way that MCHPP is unique is their dedication providing services to their “clients” in a manner that respects the dignity of those they are serving.

MCHPP also maintains a Food Pantry that provides fresh fruits and vegetables, personal care items, deli choices and other food items to income eligible families every 2 weeks. In past years, they have served over 1000 households.

I support MCHPP because it feeds the spirit, as well as the body, and because it makes a real difference in Maine.

To learn more about this cause, please click here. 

 

30th December 2014        Holiday Giving     ,     No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to eleven nonprofits in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During the month of December, each team member will be blogging about his or her chosen nonprofit. For her gift, Heather chose "e" inc.

“e” inc. has been one of my favorite local Boston organizations for many years.  This wonderful organization provides children and adults with a scientific understanding of the earth’s natural biomes, resources and systems which when combined with hands-on experiments, observation and field work, helps us understand our current and future environmental challenges.

Led by the dynamic, brilliant and energetic, Dr. Ricky Stern, the e-inc. team of educators inspires environmental change in urban neighborhoods through their school year and summer programs. Their latest endeavor is to build a LEED-certified Environment Science Discovery & Action Museum in Boston that will not only help visitors explore the planet, but also teach them how they can protect it in their daily lives.

We need more organizations like “e”-inc. that are building communities of engaged, caring and motivated young (and older) people committed to taking action to ensure a sustainable planet.

To learn more, or to make a donation, please click here! 

 

22nd December 2014        Holiday Giving         No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to eleven nonprofits in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During the month of December, each team member will be blogging about his or her chosen nonprofit. For her gift, Jillian chose UUUM’s Renewal House.

Renewal House is a small domestic violence shelter in the Boston area, but the services they offer go beyond just a safe place to sleep. Through its programs and services, Renewal House builds a supportive community for victims.

Renewal House is a shelter based on the principles of restorative justice, the understanding that everyone involved experiences hurt when domestic violence occurs and a focus on forgiveness. According to the National Domestic Violence Hotline, domestic violence between partners affects nearly 12 million women and men in the United States each year. This number includes incidents between same sex couples, and grows larger when we count the number of children affected. As one of the few shelters in this area that has the ability to host families, Renewal House allows adults affected by domestic violence to secure safe housing for themselves and their children.

Recognizing the signs of abuse and deciding to leave an abusive relationship comes with many struggles including loss of financial and emotional support. For those living in the shelter, a supportive community emerges through group therapy and support forums, art therapy, and community outings with former residents, advocates, and volunteers. In addition, advocates at the shelter work with residents to find safe housing, secure necessary services such as healthcare, and assist with job searches. Other resources include English as a Second Language, computer skills and citizenship classes. In the larger community, Renewal House works to end domestic violence by offering conflict resolution classes and general education on the warning signs of abuse.

As a former volunteer at Renewal House, I’ve witnessed first-hand the dedication of advocates and volunteers and the impact they make. To help support their most recent development, a partnership with a transition house for victims of domestic violence, I’ve chosen Renewal House for my holiday donation.

To make a donation to benefit Renewal House, please click here and designate your donation to "Renewal House."

22nd December 2014        Holiday Giving     ,     No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to eleven nonprofits in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During the month of December, each team member will be blogging about his or her chosen nonprofit. For his gift, Erik chose Food Allergy Research & Education. Food Allergy Research & Education (FAimgresRE) is dedicated to finding a cure for food allergies and keeping those with allergies safe and included. Growing up, I loved eating peanut butter. I ate a peanut butter and jelly sandwich pretty much every day and Reese’s were my favorite candy. One day, I started to feel a sore throat after finishing my sandwich.When I noticed that this was happening more and more,  my parents took me for an allergy test. Sure enough, I had developed an allergy to peanut butter. While my allergies have yet to strengthen to the point where I am at risk for a severe reaction to peanuts, many are not so lucky. 15 million Americans have food allergies, and many are at risk for serious life-threatening reactions. 1 in 13 children in America are affected. And it’s not just peanuts, since most foods are capable of causing a reaction. However, 90% of food-related allergic reactions come from peanuts, tree nuts, milk, egg, wheat, soy, fish and shellfish. The danger is complicated by the fact that many food companies manufacture their foods on the same machinery as common food allergens, so people who are at-risk struggle to safely eat foods that we take for granted. For almost two decades, FARE has been the world’s largest private funding source for food allergy research. They help fund research to discover new cures and develop treatments. They also provide families with information such as newsletters, workshops and conferences so they can help people manage living with these allergens. To donate to this cause, please click here.

11th December 2014        Holiday Giving         No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to eleven nonprofits in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During the month of December, each team member will be blogging about his or her chosen nonprofit. For her gift, Sophie chose Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network.

imgresSince Glinda first taught Dorothy that a click of her heels and a little repetition were all that she needed to return to Kansas, the phrase “there’s no place like home” has remained poignant in the American consciousness. But what if you didn’t have a home to return to? The numbers of homeless in America have continued to rise. In the Washington D.C. metro area alone there are roughly 7,000 people who do not have a reliable place to sleep at night. Yet, walking home alone at night and seeing bus stop after bus stop filled with sleeping bags and huddled bodies has had more of an impact on me than any number could. This led me to become interested in working to end homelessness in the capital area.

I discovered Arlington Street People’s Assistance Network (A-SPAN) and was impressed by their programs. Their street outreach service includes volunteers going into parks, underpasses and other abandoned areas to meet with the homeless and deliver clothing, blankets, meals and personal hygiene supplies. Outreach workers also encourage them to visit the Opportunity Place where they have access to a range of services. A-SPAN also sets up an Emergency Winter Shelter where single adults can go during the winter months to spend the night and avoid freezing temperatures. When the Winter Shelter is not available, they help people find shelters and access to medical and employment services.

Having a stable home and a reliable place to sleep at night is a fundamental human need, and it is my hope that through donations and volunteers we can increase the number of shelters and the network of healthcare and employment opportunities for the homeless.

To donate to A-SPAN, please click here.

10th December 2014        Holiday Giving     , ,     No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to eleven nonprofits in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During the month of December, each team member will be blogging about his or her chosen nonprofit. For his gift, Jon chose Heifer International.

Heifer InternationalFor 70 years, Heifer International’s mission has been to end world hunger and poverty. In more than 125 countries, Heifer partners with communities to bring sustainable agriculture and commerce to areas stricken by poverty. Families are provided with training and the resources, whether seeds or livestock to help secure a stable food supply and a reliable income. Agriculture products such as milks, eggs and honey are then traded or sold in the market.

Heifer’s core model is Passing the Gift. When families have successfully established their projects or completed training, and have become self-sufficient, they pass along their knowledge or become donors themselves. In the case of livestock, a family passes on the first female offspring to another family, who subsequently will share the fruits of their labor with others.

Heifer believes in providing its partners with the resources, tools and knowledge to become self-sufficient over the long-term. The nonprofit educates its partners to use best practices that benefit the health and welfare of livestock, improve the environment, and foster the equal participation of both women and men in building a better world.

I have chosen Heifer International in order to support their mission of lifting families out of poverty and fighting to end world hunger. Click here to donate to Heifer International.

 

9th December 2014        Holiday Giving     ,     No comments yet

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to eleven nonprofits in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During the month of December, each team member will be blogging about his or her chosen nonprofit. For her gift, Lindsay chose DC Greens.

DC GreensWhen I moved to D.C. three years ago, I was surprised to learn the city has some of the highest inequality rates in the country.  Many longtime D.C. families are struggling with rising housing costs, stagnant wages, a higher cost of living, and increasingly, food insecurity. Studies suggest one in eight district residents can’t find affordable, healthy food in their neighborhoods.

While there are no easy solutions to these problems, many local organizations are tackling the multidimensional causes of poverty in cooperative, creative ways. One of these groups is DC Greens, a local non-profit founded in 2009 that works to improve food justice in the city.

With garden training programs for teachers and students, D.C Greens instills values of sustainability while making healthy foodways more accessible to residents. The School Garden Markets program, for instance, helps students at six schools build their own community gardens, where they grow and sell their own vegetables for profit. Last year, students made a collective $4,200 that they will reinvest in their gardens.

D.C. Greens also reaches out to marginalized communities. Partnering with a local health clinic, the Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program provided grants to 25 families so they could buy fresh fruit and vegetables. At their Farmer’s Market, DC Greens also matches federal aid benefits such as SNAP and WIC to ensure all families have access to healthy diets.

At the intersection of education, sustainability and poverty reduction, DC Greens is doing some amazing work to improve the lives of families across the District. I can’t think of a better organization that deserves this recognition, and I wish it all the success as it continues to grow!

To donate to this cause, please click here.

3rd December 2014        Holiday Giving     1 comment

The Conover + Gould team will be donating to eleven nonprofits in the spirit of giving back during the holiday season. During the month of December, each team member will be blogging about his or her chosen nonprofit. For her gift, Rebecca chose Yoga Activist.

I chose Yoga Activist, a nonprofit organization based in DC that seeks to promote yoga outreach around the country. Many studies have indicated that yoga has wonderful health benefits, from reducing blood pressure and facilitating weight loss to combatting anxiety. Practicing regularly can be empowering, and doing so with others builds community.

Yet, yoga classes often do not serve diverse populations. The cost and location of yoga classes sometimes means that many cannot take advantage of the benefits that yoga offers. Yoga Activist was founded as a way to combat this inequality by helping to make yoga – and its benefits – accessible to more people, with special emphasis on underserved communities.

Yoga Activist offers by-donation teacher trainings to individuals who are interested in volunteering to teach in these communities. They curate diverse online educational resources for volunteer teachers that help them learn more about the specific needs their students may have. For example, those struggling with posttraumatic stress disorder may have different sensitivities than the homeless. Very young students in schools will have different mobility and attention spans than those in elderly housing facilities. Yoga Activist seeks to serve all of these communities and more. They also act as a liaison for social service organizations looking to introduce yoga into their programs.

I have the privilege of working for Yoga Activist’s sister organization, Yoga District. This separate but linked collective of studios shares many of Yoga Activist’s goals. They strive to meet people where they are, by opening neighborhood studios and offering affordable yoga with sliding scale payment options for those in need. Belonging to this community has been rewarding for me. I hope that this gift will make this experience possible for others.

To donate to this organization, you can click here.