Stakeholder dynamics, perceptions and representation in a regional coastal partnership
Effective stakeholder participation is increasingly seen as an essential part of improving marine and coastal management. Coastal partnerships are a well-established informal method for enabling stakeholder participation in coastal management. However, how well they perform this role has been little explored. The North West Coastal Forum is a UK regional coastal partnership, interacting with stakeholders from across local, regional, national and international spatial scales. At the time of this research, the Forum had been in place for 14 years and, with its excellent record keeping, provided a valuable case study of the effectiveness of coastal partnerships to engage with and represent stakeholders over time. This study both analysed Forum records and conducted an electronic survey of Forum members. The diversity of stakeholders that participate in the Forum and how that has changed over time was examined. Forum members’ perception of the purpose of the Forum and their level of satisfaction with Forum performance was also investigated. In addition, we explored members’ values and how they aligned with the organisations they were representing. Results indicated that, whilst many sectors have been represented on the Management Board and at Forum events, there are some which dominated, particularly Local Authorities, and others, such as extractive industries, which were under-represented. Overall, survey respondents’ perceptions of the Forum purpose aligned with its stated purpose very well. Respondents were also supportive of the performance of the Forum: 56% considered the Forum to have delivered on initial expectations “well” or “very well” and only 4% “poorly”. Respondents’ personal values tended towards pro-environmentalism and were broadly in line with the perceived values of their own host organisations, suggesting that stakeholder representatives can be effective conduits. This study indicates that coastal partnerships can be viewed by stakeholders as an effective means for facilitating stakeholder engagement. As such, coastal management efforts should encourage the development and ideally provide long term support for coastal partnership initiatives. However, this study also suggests that active recruitment is needed to encourage a full range of stakeholders to participate and thus enable coastal partnerships to more fully contribute to integrated coastal zone management.
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