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.
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.