Identify Committed Influential Community Leaders

Community partners come in all shapes and sizes, but they are not all created equal. Take time to understand which individuals, such as local elders or leaders, are most respected and trusted in the community. Then find out about the issues they care about. Seek them as allies as you move forward.

Also align yourself with groups with influence and sway that are not always included in decision-making processes, such as women, youth, fisherman, and churches. Fishermen are deeply knowledgable about marine resources, know when something is wrong, and often guide marine resource decisions on islands throughout the Pacific. They are frequently the strongest allies and spokespeople for needed change. Alternatively, they might be opponents to change if they are not engaged in finding solutions. Enlist them, and other groups with sway, at the start of any discussions. In this way, through their influence, you can build mutual understanding and shared goals among the broadest group of stakeholders.

The more important part to get right from the onset is the relationships. Take time to make those relationships. Invest in going out there and spending some time and talking to people. The relationships In Palau, the fishermen are the first ones to give the signal that something is wrong. They actually lead conservation action. After working with them and the chiefs and villagers to address fishing concerns, we put a bul—traditional closure—on some key spawning sites so fish had time to reproduce and grow.
— Noah Idechong, Palau

Ultimately, success depends on a small handful of capable people committed for the long haul. Look for passionate, inclusive, and influential leaders. People who have witnessed the depletion of resources over time or disproportionate depletion between highly and densely populated areas are often the most passionate advocates for needed change. Those who possess the ability to operate in both Western and traditional cultures can also be particularly effective and compelling conservation leaders, allies, and spokespeople. 

There is a lady in Nanwap who drives the whole project. She wants to make sure she can continue fishing, and she wants the same thing for her children. She’s not a traditional leader, she’s just a passionate lady who won’t let anybody give up. She’s really brought the community in to lead the process and they’re doing very well.
— Willy Kostka, Micronesia

  Ensure You are Welcome

Ensure You are Welcome

  Be Clear on What You Bring - And What You Don't

Be Clear on What You Bring - And What You Don't

  Nurture   Relationships and Partnerships

Nurture Relationships and Partnerships

  Identify Committed Influential Community Leaders

Identify Committed Influential Community Leaders

  Establish a Shared Vision

Establish a Shared Vision

  Work Within the Communities Timeframe

Work Within the Communities Timeframe