Perceptions of stakeholder involvement in coastal Georgia policy development
Reinagel, Tyler Patrick
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This study uses existing engagement typologies and stakeholder theories to frame the post-hoc perceptions of public policy stakeholder engagement. Where previous research has focused either on broad, universal policy processes or narrow, project-specific process management, this research uses engagement typologies and theories to identify common themes in the perceptions of engagement in coastal environments. This serves to address needs and interests of a specific environment and population, without focusing on a single, specific process. The result is a framing of the components influencing perceptions of engagement by participants within environmentally sensitive areas. Using Q methodology, 45 respondents (24 self-identified stakeholders, 21 self-identified leaders) completed a subjective sorting of 40 perception-based statements derived from existing literature for quantitative analysis, and participated in a semi-structured interview with elaboration and reflection on specific experiences for qualitative analysis. These instruments focused on personal experiences and reflections on the engagement processes associated with one of five policy processes directly affecting coastal Georgia. Factor analysis of the statements presented six applicable areas, each with distinct impact on how participants perceive the engagement process upon its completion. These influencing factors include the perceptions of (a) process management; (b) empowerment of stakeholders; (c) esteem in which actors hold one another; (d) capacity of stakeholders to influence policy decisions; (e) awareness and knowledge actors have in their informed participation; and (f) equity of actors. In attributing perceptions based on these themes, participants can focus energy on a particular component of the engagement process to improve the quality of the engagement; ensure effectiveness; and enhance the values empowerment, equity, trust, and learning. The management of the engagement process is requisite for this research, and public policy development efforts require a prioritization of prevailing values, necessary competencies, and process objectives. Specifically, the three competencies are aptitude in the practical and environmental sciences; adherence to legal, political, and economic expectations; and understanding the social and cultural dynamics of an affected community (Shen 1975). The balance of these three needs is policy-specific and requires prioritization. The balance is delicate, and decisions about resource allocation can affect the lucidity of the process.