Recently I received an invitation from a fellow islander to a meeting to discuss the proposed expansion of the local oyster farm. This individual was very concerned about the impact this business would have on the island and had, in fact, asked me to sign a petition against it. I politely declined sharing that I would like to go to the meeting first so that I could make an informed decision.

Both the owner of the oyster farm and the Fish and Game Warden were at the meeting. It began with the Fish and Game Warden laying out all the steps the owner had already taken to ensure the viability of the project. The owner then shared details of the business operation itself before explaining the proposed expansion. Both individuals then took their time to ensure they understood the questions being posed to them before responding.

At one point in the meeting, an alternative location was suggested. Both the owner and the Fish and Game Warden promised that they would evaluate the efficacy of this spot. At the end of the meeting, the owner shared that he had joined the community’s Facebook page and offered his contact information in case anyone wanted to speak afterward. He then invited everyone on a tour of the operation. Over the next hour and a half, the owner walked those of us who joined the tour step-by-step through the business of oyster farming. Throughout the tour, he took the time to answer questions and entertain suggestions.

He could have followed the “letter of the law.” Going through the formal approval processes is arduous enough. Instead, he recognized that the island residents -while holding no formal power- are important stakeholders to engage. I was impressed with his due diligence in working to ensure that each resident felt they had the opportunity to express their concerns and that those concerns were heard and taken seriously.

Taking the time to create a thorough stakeholder map and consider how to engage with each of these constituencies may seem like a waste of effort until, of course, one of those constituencies becomes an impediment to your plan.