Stakeholder Engagement in Natural Resources

A Guide to Concepts, Tools, and Strategies



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About this Project

About this guidebook

This Guidebook is designed to help those seeking to develop a community-led, stakeholder-engaged approach to addressing issues in natural resource and community settings.  Whether you are a practitioner, researcher, or agency or organizational leader, it is intended to provide you with a user-friendly empirical and practical grounding in the development, implementation, and evaluation of stakeholder engagement initiatives.

Stakeholder engagement

While there are numerous definitions in the practice and research literature, at its core stakeholder engagement refers to the processes that enable stakeholders’ involvement in making decisions.  We think of engagement as an integrated, proactive, reciprocal, capacity-building, deliberation-based and relationship-building approach to participation and decision-making. While the strategies employed to achieve these ends will vary, we consider these principles foundational. In practice, this means our intention is to build new and/or enhance existing relationships and foster/enhance dialogue among and within individuals and groups with diverse experiences and perspectives related a common issue.

What Drives Us

Stakeholder Engagement

Community-led stakeholder engagement holds considerable potential for effectively addressing natural resources challenges and building the long-term capacity and relationships needed for sustainable management and problem-solving. Undertaking stakeholder engagement initiatives requires purposeful design, implementation, strategies, and assessment if they are to be successful. With support from USDA-NIFA, the Water for Agriculture project embarked on a five-year integrated, multidisciplinary, engagement and research project to enhance the empirical and conceptual basis for understanding when, how, and under what conditions engagement initiatives are most likely to be successful.  This guidebook is designed to provide you with a summary of the concepts, considerations, and tools you will need to approach your collaborative natural resource management in new and productive ways.

guidebook & tools

Designed for Your Needs



Explore some of the central concepts of stakeholder engagement, access information and tools to share with your students, and investigate critical research questions, metrics, and evaluation considerations of effective engagement.

Extension Professionals

Learn the strategies, tools, concepts, and considerations you need to effectively engage stakeholders and communities and explore the metrics and strategies you need to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of your engagement efforts.

Front-line Practitioners

Agency professionals, local governments, and non-profit leaders will all find user-friendly, accessible guidance, tools, and worksheets to use in their engagement efforts with stakeholders and constituents.

This website was developed by Penn State University and the USDA-supported Water for Agriculture project in collaboration with Southwest Decisions Resources

To cite this guidebook – either the online or print versions: Whitmer, Walt, and Lisa B. Clark, Stakeholder Engagement in Natural Resource Management. Penn State University. 2022. If citing a specific page of the online guidebook, please include the URL.

The Water for Agriculture project is a collaboration between Penn State University, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Arizona State University, and USDA-Agricultural Research Service. The project is supported by the Agriculture and Food Initiative (AFRI) Water for Agriculture grant no. 2017-68007-26584 / project accession no. 1013079 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

For a complete list of publications that resulted from this project, click here.