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Stakeholder Participation and Engagement: Fostering a Community of Interest
DLIST-Benguela is an information sharing programme, comprising an online platform, distancelearning courses, and a social networking programme in southwestern Africa. This is a region in a rapid state of transition, with changes in land ownership, socio-economic challenges resulting from dwindling mining, and environmental pressures, in a context of a fragile environment and debilitating poverty. The overall aim of DLIST-Benguela is to increase access of local communities to information that is critical to environmental management and sustainable livelihood creation. One of the main challenges faced by DLIST (and by participatory development in the broader sense) is to reach and engage a representative group of stakeholders. The first lesson we learnt was that stakeholder engagement benefits from an integrated approach. This interactive (online) communication approach required active facilitation. While there are individual lessons to be shared from the project, the key learning from DLIST relates to what was earlier called “social capital”, or trust. The objective, rather than simply disseminating information to an “audience”, is to build an enduring “community of interest”. This approach is specifically designed for multi-stakeholder engagement (in different sectors of society, different countries) and hence can beapplied in other LMEs or transboundary regions.
Rean van der Merwe