Far from building consensus, stakeholder engagement can generate conflicts and has the potential of stalling development. It is important, therefore, to identify the pitfalls and limitations of stakeholder engagement so that remedial measures can be included in the planning and implementation processes from the start. Pitfalls will differ in varying socioeconomic, cultural and political settings and include the following:
- High expectations leading to disappointment if the process is terminated prematurely or implemented unsatisfactorily;
- The complexities of involving all stakeholders may render the process unwieldy and costly;
- Insufficient involvement of the real decision makers leading to sub-optimal results;
- The process is time consuming and requires long-term commitment. A prolonged process may cause people to lose interest after a while. In such situations, more often than not the only people who remain are those who are opposed to the process;
- Lack of financial and human resources and the high costs of bringing together many stakeholders over a large geographical area may delay or prematurely terminate the process;
- People tend to discuss various options only in terms of content without addressing their economic viability.
It therefore is crucial to identify the potential pitfalls of a given situation, design the process carefully, set a reasonable but definitive time frame in consultation with the stakeholders to ensure that consensus is reached and activities are implemented within a set time frame.
For more information, please refer to “Organizing Community Participation for Flood Management”, Section 3.2.