Assessing the evidence for stakeholder engagement in biodiversity conservation
Engaging local stakeholders is a central feature of many biodiversity conservation and natural resource management projects globally. Current literature on engagement predominantly focuses on individual case studies or specific geographical contexts, making general conclusions regarding the effect of these efforts on conservation outcomes difficult. We reviewed evidence from the peer-reviewed and grey literatures related to the role of stakeholder engagement (both externally-driven and self-organized engagement) in biodiversity conservation at the local scale using both quantitative and qualitative approaches. We critically appraised and extracted data using mixed methods for case studies (n = 82) and meta-analyses (n = 31) published from 2011 to 2015. We conducted an inductive thematic analysis on background literature references published from 2000 to 2016 (n = 283). The quantitative analysis assessed multiple variables, and yielded no significant results, but suggested a possible relationship between success in producing attitudinal change towards conservation and four engagement factors. Our qualitative analysis identified six dimensions of engagement processes that are critical for successful outcomes when a project is externally-driven, and suggests that understanding of governance and social-cultural context plays an important role in all types of stakeholder engagement efforts. Finally, we reflect on the effectiveness of relying primarily on evidence available from published literature to understand links between conservation and stakeholder engagement, in particular with regard to self-organized engagement.