Stakeholder Engagement—at a Distance
Bringing together diverse stakeholders is never simple, and doing so during a global public health crisis presents additional challenges. However, for the USAID–funded Economics of Natural Capital in East Africa project (Natural Capital), identifying creative approaches to solve complex problems is standard procedure. The project is tasked with documenting and elevating the current and perceived value of natural capital to strengthen management of four conservation landscapes in East Africa. Natural capital includes the resources and services that nature provides, from forests and fish to carbon storage. Project staff are working with partners to assess the value of these landscapes, which span international boundaries across six countries, and to help stakeholders at the community, national, and regional level use the project’s findings to inform management and policy decisions.
In late August, the Natural Capital team hosted the first of five virtual stakeholder engagement sessions, bringing together 54 participants from Tanzania and Kenya to better understand perceptions of regional natural resources. To prepare for this session, Environmental Incentives and the East African Community (EAC) secretariat, developed a meeting strategy to help each participant actively engage in the virtual environment. Replicating the vibrant atmosphere of in-person stakeholder meetings required some innovation, including procuring internet bundles for participants in remote areas and employing World Café style breakouts. When the sessions began, stakeholders from across the region tuned in and contributed to a lively discussion on the perceptions of conservation and development in the key transboundary landscapes.