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Wetlands project? Start here

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This is an all-day event divided into four learning tasks -- two before lunch, two after lunch.

Materials to have on hand:

  • tables
  • chairs
  • large chart paper
  • markers
  • nametags
  • big post-its (perhaps 5x8”)
  • large index cards (perhaps 5x8”)
  • stapled printouts of Gretchen’s case studies, enough sets for each table
  • a camera for the facilitator to take pictures

General room setup: tables that each seat 4-6 people, enough tables for the group

General note on time keeping: During the event, the facilitator should state the clock time the task should be completed by, versus the “stopwatch” times listed in this guide.

Have a plan for lunch, snacks, and beverages.


1: Who’s in the room?

(Learning Task 1: Inductive. Time: 45 minutes depending on #s of participants)

Detailed room setup: In the center of each table, place as many nametags and markers as seats, and three large pieces of blank paper labelled “Stories”, “Concerns”, “Visions” On an empty wall, create three large headers that can be read from across the room: “Stories”, “Concerns”, “Visions”

1A: Introductions at your table:

(20 minutes)

As things get started and people are putting on nametags, take an individual moment to focus inwardly on your recollections of being in the environment.

  • If this workshop is happening outside on site, stand still for a moment and “see, smell, remember…”
  • Addressing the group, tell your name and where you’re from.
  • Share a memory of your experience with [wetlands] in three phrases or sentences.
    • Once you are done, take a moment to choose a single word / phrase that captures your story and write it on a large post-it, and stick it on the “Stories” paper in the middle of the table.
  • Describe out loud your concern that has brought you here.
    • Once you are done, take a moment to write a single word / phrase that captures your concern on a large post-it, and stick it on the “Concern” paper in the middle of the table.
  • Describe out loud your vision that has brought you here.
    • Once you are done, take a moment to write a single word / phrase that captures your vision on a large post-it, and stick it on the “VIsion” paper in the middle of the table.

1B: Introductions among tables:

(20 minutes)

Everyone go up and place your post-its on the wall under the appropriate heading: “Stories”, “Concerns”, “Visions”. Once these post-its are up, take a few minutes collectively to notice similar types of concerns, and make groupings of common themes. Feel free to ungroup as needed! Also note, not all post-its need to be grouped!

Time permitting, stay near the wall and discuss as a group our range of lived experiences and what’s at stake with [wetlands].

A motivated notetaker from the group might add post-its to the walls to capture information emerging from the discussion. As a preview to Learning Task #4, the facilitator might prompt the group to ask “Who’s not in the room?”, and what the concerns of those stakeholders might be. At a natural break in conversation, the facilitator will call for a 5 minute break before regrouping at the tables. The facilitator will photograph the wall.

-- END Learning Task 1 -- (5 minute break)


2: Step by step: how might we inform our concerns about wetlands?

(Learning Task 2: Input. Time: 60 minutes)

Detailed room setup: Refresh the tables by removing the old paper. Place a dozen blank index cards and a set of case studies on each table. Using additional blank index cards, write each of the following eight steps (you can change these and/or add your own steps!). Create enough full sets of cards for each table to have one, then spread them out on each table in no particular order:

  • Frame an environmental concern as an “askable” question
  • Connect to a peer-to-peer research community
  • Consider what type of data would be able to answer your question
  • Familiarize yourself with available research equipment
  • Decide what type of equipment is needed
  • Go outside to collect data
  • Review your results and consider revising field methods
  • Process and analyze data into a presentation
  • Advocate using data for your locally held goals

2A: At your tables, and then visiting other tables:

(20 minutes)

Look back to the wall with all the concerns. As a group, choose one type of concern to work with. Look to the index cards and place the steps in an order that you think might help address your concern. When done, if you like you can stand up and walk around to see how the other tables have ordered their steps, then return to your table.

2B: At your tables:

(20 minutes)

Read through the booklet of short case studies provided to read where these steps were extracted from -- consider taking turns reading out loud from the case study booklet. Notice what steps (in what order) were used by others facing similar environmental concerns.

-- END Learning Task 2 -- (LUNCH)


3: Comparing with other research projects

(Learning Task 3: implementation. Time: 45 minutes) Detailed room setup: no changes needed

3A: At your tables, and then everyone in the room:

(20 minutes)

As a table, compare the steps in the case studies to the steps in your hypothetical study. Identify the similarities and differences.

Depending on the size of the group, there may be time for all tables to share these critical observations in an all-room conversation.

3B: At your tables:

(20 minutes)

Modify the original steps by:

  • Ask yourselves, what’s missing? and write new cards to fill the gaps.
  • Ask yourselves, what is not useful? and put aside those cards.
  • Highlight where a step is unclear, a later workshop in this series will provide resources.

-- END Learning Task 3 -- (5 minute break)


4: Making this real by broadening involvement

Informed by Community Toolbox: Stakeholder checklist CC-BY-SA 3.0

(Learning Task 4: integration. Time: 45 minutes) Detailed room setup: on each table, make sure there are still enough post-its and a fresh piece of big paper.

4A: At your tables:

(15 minutes)

To prepare to bring this exercise into the real world, consider who else needs to be asking these questions along with us.

Read this from the Community Tool Box on the advantages of including a wide representation of stakeholders, AKA a person, group or organization with an interest in an issue or project:

  • It puts more ideas on the table than would be the case if the development and implementation of the effort were confined to a single organization or to a small group of like-minded people.
  • It includes varied perspectives from all sectors and elements of the community affected, thus giving a clearer picture of the community context and potential pitfalls and assets.
  • It gains buy-in and support for the effort from all stakeholders by making them an integral part of its development, planning, implementation, and evaluation. It becomes their effort, and they’ll do their best to make it work.
  • It’s fair to everyone. All stakeholders can have a say in the development of an effort that may seriously affect them.
  • It saves you from being blindsided by concerns you didn’t know about. If everyone has a seat at the table, concerns can be aired and resolved before they become stumbling blocks. Even if they can’t be resolved, they won’t come as surprises that derail the effort just when you thought everything was going well.
  • It strengthens your position if there’s opposition. Having all stakeholders on board makes a huge difference in terms of political and moral clout.
  • It creates bridging social capital for the community. Social capital is the web of acquaintances, friendships, family ties, favors, obligations, and other social currency that can be used to cement relationships and strengthen community. Bridging social capital, which creates connections among diverse groups that might not otherwise interact, is perhaps the most valuable kind. It makes possible a community without barriers of class or economics, where people from all walks of life can know and value one another. A participatory process, often including everyone from welfare recipients to bank officers and physicians, can help to create just this sort of situation.
  • It increases the credibility of your organization. Involving and attending to the concerns of all stakeholders establishes your organization as fair, ethical, and transparent, and makes it more likely that others will work with you in other circumstances.
  • It increases the chances for the success of your effort. For all of the above reasons, identifying stakeholders and responding to their concerns makes it far more likely that your effort will have both the community support it needs and the appropriate focus to be effective.

4B: At your tables:

(15 minutes)

At your table, each person take some post-its and write down potential stakeholders in this project. These can be individuals, agencies, organizations, etc.

Some examples are:

  • Residents of a particular geographic area – a neighborhood, an urban floodplain, etc.
  • People experiencing or at risk for a particular problem or condition – flooding, displacement, mold from excess dampness in the home, etc.
  • People involved or participants in a particular organization or institution – students at a school, volunteers/staff at an environmental stewardship organization, etc.
  • Institutions in the area: businesses, churches, or environmental organizations themselves
  • People whose behavior affects the environment in question – people who recreate nearby, hunters/fishermen, youth, miscreants, etc.
  • Policy makers and agencies that are the targets of advocacy efforts.

After 5 minutes, share your notes with the table, and think about how to make sense of these. There are different ways of so-called “stakeholder analysis”, some more complex than others. For our purposes simply categorizing as “primary” and “secondary” may be useful.

  • Primary: who is directly impacted by this project/issue
  • Secondary: who has some interest in this project/issue Categorize the group’s ideas of stakeholders as primary or secondary.

Facilitator: this workshop ends here, however the following information is provided to continue this process in the real world.

4C: Back in the real world after this workshop ends:

Congrats! You have completed the in-person portion of this workshop. The following information is provided as a roadmap of sorts for you to continue developing stakeholders around asking environmental questions in the real world.

  • Collect categories and names from informants in the community (if they’re not available to be part of a brainstorming session), particularly members of a population or residents of a geographic area of concern.
  • Consult with organizations that either are or have been involved in similar efforts, or that work with the population or in the area of concern.
  • Get more ideas from stakeholders as you identify them.
  • If appropriate, advertise. You can use some combination of the media – often free, through various community service arrangements – community meetings, community and organizational newsletters, social media, targeted emails, announcements by leaders at meetings and religious gatherings, and word of mouth to get the word out. You may find people who consider themselves stakeholders whom you haven’t thought about.

As your project continues, remember: You don’t have to – and in fact shouldn’t – guess what stakeholder interests are. Ask them what’s important to them. If there are stakeholders that aren’t willing to be involved, try to talk to them anyway. If that isn’t possible, try to find out their concerns from others who are likely to know. Most stakeholders will be more than willing to tell you how they feel about a potential or ongoing effort, what their concerns are, and what needs to be done or to change to address those concerns. Finally, allow stakeholder concerns to influence the questions you ask and the advocacy directions that result from your research.

-- END Learning Task 4 -- (End of day)