Engage Local Allies and Opponents

Community-based conservation is an inclusive endeavor that requires ongoing and strategic engagement of diverse interest groups, including the opposition. Every step in the process, including meetings and events, is an opportunity to build or weaken relationships and support, so it is essential to continually ensure the right people are included at the right times.

Ask yourselves, “is this a meeting where we should include members of the opposition so that we can understand the issues and work toward mutual respect and collaborative solutions? Is this the time for diverse perspectives to brainstorm opportunities or the time for clear focus from people who support this project?” Get clear on your objectives and then make sure you have the right people in the room to meet them.
— Kim Hum, Hawaiʻi

Almost everyone has a story of an important process, meeting, or event where a critical person or organization was unintentionally left out. These oversights often require relationship repair or even damage control to get back on track, and can be avoided by thoughtful and strategic review of the invitation list before any meeting or event, with input from others with more experience and different perspectives.

It really is a process of trying to identify in advance not just the thought leaders and champions, but who’s going to have an opinion. Who is going to be viewed as important, and who is likely to oppose.
— Mark Fox, Hawaiʻi

In any type of gathering that involves VIPs, pay careful attention to appropriate introductions and protocols. Consider details such as who is coming, who might best introduce them, where it would be wise to seat them, and the appropriate order for them to speak. Getting these details right requires close attention to the cultural norms of the place and people with whom you are working.  It is also key to establishing and deepening good relationships between people and organizations.

Listening to and learning from people who don’t share your goals is also advantageous, especially when it provokes re-evaluation that strengthens your position. Understanding the opposition is particularly beneficial as it may reveal a surprising compromise or unexpected partnership. It is also essential to finding common ground and to effectively countering arguments that may otherwise derail conservation priorities. At times, the opposition may present false dichotomies, provide bad information, or attempt to pit factions against each other. It is absolutely necessary to provide factual and compelling arguments when rebuttals are required.

The strategy for dealing with opposition was always to find out the nature of it, whether there was a counterargument they can make that was aligned with their place, rather than the tactics of how to make that opposition go away or fail. By inviting in contrary viewpoints, the Kaʻūpūlehu Marine Life Advisory Committee were really able to hone their own.
— Chad Wiggins, Hawaiʻi Island

  Agree on Goals and Roles

Agree on Goals and Roles

  Formalize Partnership Agreements

Formalize Partnership Agreements

  Build a Diverse Team

Build a Diverse Team

  Plan Collaboratively

Plan Collaboratively

  Think Ridge to Reef

Think Ridge to Reef

  Engage Local Allies and Opponents

Engage Local Allies and Opponents