What It Is, and How to Protect Your Work From It
Questions that are symptomatic of this dishonest stakeholder tactic often come up in our courses on the Systematic Development of Informed Consent. That’s why we decided it was worth dedicating an entire brownbag session to tools for identifying Dirty Tactic 22-23-6, understanding what it is and why it is used, and most importantly, how to protect yourself and your work from it.
How Many Times Have You Asked Yourself. . .
“How should we deal with people (sometimes not just individuals, but representatives of public agencies . . . even sister agencies!) who refuse to participate in our planning process, even though our plans clearly are going to affect them, and we – therefore — try to involve them?
“Is it safe to assume that these people truly are not interested and won’t all of a sudden – late in the process – show up and insist on being involved?
“If that happens, and they want to get involved when – frankly – it’s too late, can we legitimately say: ‘Hey, you had your chance; . . . it was your choice not to get involved when we invited everyone; now it’s too late.’?”
“What’s the best way for us to deal with stakeholders who use this sort-of as a dirty trick or a dirty tactic, . . . i.e. the dirty trick of:
- First refusing to get involved,
- Then, accusing us of ‘excluding’ them when they – too late in the process – insist on getting involved after all?”
Expect this Tactic to be Used Against You
You shouldn’t be surprised when – sooner or later — some of your stakeholders won’t give input early during the problem-solving / decision-making process. Yet, near the end of that process — they then complain that what you’re proposing fails to take their concerns into account. This can happen a couple of different ways… Sometimes stakeholders purposely stay out of the process so that: 1. You can’t “co-opt” them . . . into going along with your proposal. 2. And so that they can accuse you of not having involved them. In these cases they are truly using it as a dirty trick. We call this particular dirty trick CP Principle #22. (There are lots of other dirty tricks creative stakeholders have invented, and you’ve got to be ready for them.)
When It’s Not Intended as a Dirty Trick
But, it’s not always intended as a dirty trick; even though – to you – it still may feel like a dirty trick. That’s the case when stakeholders just didn’t catch on that your work really will affect them. But when they eventually do catch on – late in the process – and they are upset that they were inadvertently left out of participating. Either way – whether it is a dirty trick or whether it isn’t intended as a dirty trick – you and your colleagues usually are blamed. Not only are you blamed, it also makes the public-at-large – i.e. the people who are just bystanders to this drama – suspicious of your motives. At best, it puts you on the defensive. At worst, it looks like your public involvement program was a plot to exclude one or more of the impacted stakeholders.
This Can Damage Your Work, Your Agency, and Your Mission
Whether this is an intended dirty tactic by a stakeholder, or a genuine accident that someone was overlooked or disinterested, it’s damaging to your agency. You’ve got enough problems, you don’t need this. Regardless of the reason, this sequence of events allows that stakeholder to make utterly unfair accusations against you and your public involvement program. Although used as a dirty tactic, it has become well known, the accusations that its users make have a surprising amount of traction with the public-at-large and with political decision-makers. It’s a torpedo that keeps sinking a lot of proposals. That’s why you must not let any of your stakeholders get away with using this tactic on you, whether it occurs intentionally or by accident.
What the Brownbag Session Will Cover
We will discuss the three Citizen Participation Principles (CP Principals #22, #23, and #6) that shed light on: Why, when used as a dirty trick, this approach works so well, How to minimize it from happening as an accident (i.e. where a stakeholder is inadvertently left out of the process), What you can do to minimize the chances that a stakeholder of yours will use it intentionally, And, what you can do if one of them does manage to use it against you . . . in spite of your efforts to minimize the chances of that happening.
Learn How to Protect Yourself from this Tactic
It turns out that this is one dirty trick you can totally immunize your work against. Once you understand the finer points of CP Principles #22, #23, and #6, you can render this dirty trick harmless. Stakeholders will find it useless to use it against you. We only wish all public involvement challenges were as solvable as this one! Register Now!