Engaging with stakeholders

The Association for Water and Rural Development (AWARD) recently began an important stakeholder engagement process to better understand the people and practices operating in the Olifants river basin. The work forms part of the USAID: RESILIM ‘O’ programme and will be carried out in 7 clusters within the basin.

The first Vsteep meeting held in Hoedspruit in June 2014.

The first Vsteep meeting held in Hoedspruit in June 2014.

This programme is designed to reduce vulnerability by building improved transboundary governance and management of the Olifants Catchment to enhance the resilience of its people and ecosystems through systemic and social learning approaches.

It calls on people and organisations working in the water and biodiversity sectors, community members, traditional authorities, farmers, the mining sector, research institutions, local and national government and other interested and affected parties to be part of a process to develop a more resilient river basin.

“At AWARD, we see stakeholder engagement as something much broader than just ensuring that people participate in important discussions,” says Dr. Charles Chikunda. “We want to actively engage people in a process that helps them better understand their own practices and how these can contribute to building a more resilient system.”

The first step in what will be an ongoing process is to begin building a comprehensive picture of the areas where AWARD is working on RESILIM O. “We use a tool called VSTEEP. This is simply a process that brings people together to unpack the values that they hold as well as looking at the social, technological, political, ecological and economic factors at play in an area,” explains Dr. Chikunda.

The process is designed to help people to begin to see how they fit into the bigger picture and to provide new ways of looking at their context by incorporating diverse perspectives.

“The idea is that we’ll start to see different value systems emerging and at the same time, people will begin to see the values that guide their own decision making and practices.”

The first contextual profiling of the Olifants through VSTEEP was held in Hoedspruit earlier this month, with more to follow in other clusters in the months to come. While attendees will be invited to these events as the dates are finalised, AWARD welcomes any individual or group that wants to be part of this process and asks them to email charles@award.org.za for more information.

VSTEEP will be followed by several other steps to engage stakeholders, including individual interviews, focus groups and by working through existing forums. Continued engagement of stakeholders will be made public over the coming months through media and our website

You can join our community on facebook: www.facebook.com/awardSA and visit www.award.org.za for more information.