A framework for success: How stakeholder engagement reduces risks and connects community opportunities

Have you been surprised by stakeholder feedback on a project that wasn’t anticipated? Did it impact your schedule or scope? Did it challenge your overall project budget? Maybe your project couldn’t move forward as planned.

Whether it’s community input to make a more informed design decision or setting up a framework for stakeholders to engage on a controversial plan, we creatively design and deliver custom stakeholder engagement plans for your projects and programs.

Danielle Peoples, Project Director, Communications & Stakeholder Engagement at Atwell, has observed a growing demand and interest in developing community benefits for projects across the industry over the past 13 years.

“Communities, individuals, and organizations have important perspectives and experiences to capture in designing the best possible solutions. We know that taking time to research and listen to feedback on potential hurdles or barriers and then developing creative options that can reduce risk, streamline projects, and increase involvement is helping our clients and the communities they’re working within feel more satisfied,” said Peoples.

One of the primary advantages of proactively engaging and understanding the communities we’re working in is risk management. Rather than advancing a project and making significant commitments only to run into an issue late in the process when adjustments are challenging and costly, adapting project planning to allow for input from stakeholders early offers significant benefits:

1. Deepen understanding of the community and its needs

With the technology available today, engagement is more effective than ever before. Whether via social media, visual simulations, virtual or in-person meetings, it is now easier to request and listen to community vision and work to find commonalities to advance project goals.

2. Initiate and strengthen the discussion

Proactive efforts to communicate the project objectives, impact, and timeline allow developers to be in front of challenges and concerns. By working with the community and communicating early and regularly to let them know of the process, we increase the likelihood of engaging supporters and alleviating concerns of potential detractors.

3. Anticipate local, regional, and national requirements and opportunities

Working with Atwell and our national team of experts brings both local knowledge (regulations, permitting, workforce development and minority business benefits) and deep understanding of state and federal requirements (Inflation Reduction Act and Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding) allowing our clients to enhance decision making and access funding that drives innovation while mitigating risk.

The ideal time to start planning stakeholder engagement is at the earliest stages of development of a project. When structured as an integral part of the development process, stakeholder engagement can improve the reputation of the developer and project, mitigate risk by understanding how varied scenarios might play out, and reduce costs of the project overall thanks to options presented as part of the process.

“Doing stakeholder engagement should not be viewed as a singular task to be checked off but as an opportunity to offer innovative community benefits that are a win for the development team and the community. If we treat people like we’d like to be treated, the aim is for their thoughts to be valued inclusively,” said Peoples. “When we offer people the involvement to understand our operational project challenges, they may have solutions we hadn’t even imagined.”

To learn more about communications and stakeholder engagement services and Atwell’s client support, contact Danielle Peoples.

Environmental, Oil & Gas, Power & Energy, Real Estate & Land Development
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