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.
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.
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.