Hello again, dear Friend! And welcome to the second part of our final training! In the previous trainings, we talked about how we can perform stakeholder analysis, how we can prepare stakeholder register, and how we can use it to communicate our proposal to key stakeholders. We also talked about the five key principles of effective communication with and education of stakeholders in terms of our proposal and ecosystem services of the forest. Now, when we have explained the importance of protecting the forest, the threats that the forest faces, and what we propose in terms of protection and action plan to our stakeholders, we need to engage those stakeholders into successful implementation of our proposal.
However, we cannot address all stakeholders with all their needs, can we? Usually we do not have enough resources and time to do all this. Besides, trying to satisfy the needs of all possible stakeholders can end up in a big mess. So, we need to prioritize whom of the stakeholders we need to target and to address first and what specific engagement actions we should propose and implement for each of these stakeholders. For doing this, there is a special tool, the Interest-influence Matrix, that can help us achieve just that.
The Interest-influence Matrix, sometimes also called Interest-power or Power-interest Matrix, is a stakeholder analysis technique that allows us to determine whom of the stakeholders we should focus our attention on and what actions we should perform with these stakeholders: how we should involve and engage these actors into our proposal. So, by using the Interest-influence Matrix we can clearly determine where we should direct our communication and engagement efforts to.
The Interest-influence Matrix, as its name suggests takes two parameters into its working process. One of them is the interest of stakeholders in our forest and the proposed management plan for it. It can be very low, like, they basically do not care about the forest and what we want to do with it, and very high, meaning that these stakeholders may have serious stakes in the forest, and these may influence their wellbeing and welfare. At the same time, another parameter is the influence or power of stakeholders on the success of our proposed management plan. Again, it can be very low, like, people have no influence over what happens to the forest, and very high, indicating that this particular group of stakeholders can either put a stop to the implementation of the project or be a major factor in its success.
Figure 1. Most common setting of the Interest-influence Matrix.
The category of stakeholders with the least interest in our forest and proposal and the lowest influence and power over any decision regarding them can be reserved for the least important people and organisations. With all due respect to them, we should not spend much time and efforts on working with this category of stakeholders, because most of them do not really care about what we do and do not really have any power over decisions and actions that we implement. We just need to monitor these people, to inform them about our progress in protecting and managing the forest, and to see whether anyone could join us and become either more interested in our forest or more powerful in terms of decision-making.
One example of this category of stakeholders is the general public, because, basically, we cannot work with all the people, for example, in a city or country. And many of these people either have not been to our particular forest or do not have any interest in the forest. At the same time, some people may still value the presence of the forest, like we demonstrated with economic valuation techniques, and therefore can be informed about what we are planning to do and what we are doing there. Therefore, they can be “used” as a source of additional influence on stakeholders with more power.
Indeed, some stakeholders may become much more interested in the forest and what we do with it, because they have higher stakes in the quality and state of this forest. They can be either direct or indirect users of the forest and may put significant value on its protection, conservation, and proper sustainable management. These stakeholders need to be carefully monitored and informed about the forest and the proposal on how to manage and protect it. Generally, we should also communicate with them on whether they could become more influential in their attitude and actions with regard to our forest management proposal.
One example of this group of stakeholders can be environmental organisations. Obviously, they are interested in nature conservation, including forest ecosystems, and therefore can be informed about what we do with forests. And we can attract their support when we go towards discussions with more influential decision-makers. Another example can be frequent visitors of the forest, who value the forest ecosystem and its services, especially the recreational ones, and who want these services to be protected, so that these visitors could enjoy them longer. So, they may not be very influential in terms of decision-making and activity in the forest, but they can certainly help us to build up support for the proposal that we want to enact.
The combination of low interest and high influence is the ‘hotspot’ of influencers. These are organisations, companies, individuals, and state authorities, who may have very little interest in our forest and what we do or going to do with it. However, their decision-making power and their status can be either an obstacle to fulfilment of our plan or a true boost in making it a success. Therefore, the strategy here is to, again, carefully monitor these influencers, keep them as close to us as possible, inform them thoroughly about the proposal and the value of the forest, and try to recruit them as our sponsors and partners.
A good example of influencers can be companies, where nature conservation is included in their Corporate Social Responsibility. So, if we demonstrate them the value of the forest and the number of people that are interested in protecting this forest, we may actually recruit these companies, for example, as corporate sponsors or partners for the implementation of our proposal. Another example is, of course, the government, which may not be interested in the forest and may even not know it exists, but it certainly has legislative and decision-making power over what to do with this forest. So, if we demonstrate that sufficient number of voters want this forest to be conserved and managed sustainably, we can ‘recruit’ the government as our most powerful and most influential stakeholder in terms of implementing our proposal.
Finally, the most important group of stakeholders for us is key players. These are people, organisations, companies, and state authorities that have the highest stakes in the forest in question and at the same time have the most powerful voice in decision-making in terms of what to do and how to manage this forest. Certainly, we should work with these key players right from the start, even starting from research and economic valuation of ecosystem services in the forest, and until the end throughout the entire implementation of the forest management proposal. These should be our ‘best friends’ throughout this entire process.
A very good example of a key player is certainly a national forest management authority or a national reserve administration. This is the entity that basically manages all forests, also the targeted forest, in the country, and we can do nothing without its permission and without fulfilling its regulations. So, this national forest management authority should be our main partner in the proposal. We should carefully inform it about what we want to do with the forest even before starting any activity. We should give it sufficient partnership opportunities for it also to have the voice in our planning process and implementation activities. And it should also share the responsibility for the outcomes and the success of the entire proposal.
Thus, with the help of the Interest-influence Matrix, we can process our stakeholder register and map all the groups of stakeholders, to which we should direct our efforts, to dedicate our time, and which to involve and engage into the forest management proposal. Certainly, there are a lot more engagement actions we could do with each one of them, especially with key players. For this, we recommend you to look at the reference list of our course.
This was practically all that we could say regarding forest ecosystem services and how we could work with them to protect our forests and ecosystems and biodiversity in these forests. We hope that you have learnt a lot from this course and you have managed to get some insights for your own activities regarding forests.
We wish you all the best! And, certainly, may the Nature be with you!