6639241c8617d40009ddd4e1 Mug Paul Erickson

Stakeholder Involvement in Planning and Design

June 5, 2024

Involving stakeholders is essential for successful facilities planning and design—especially when managing various diverse groups, cultural expectations, and special interests. Determine who the stakeholders are, why they need to be involved, what they bring to the process, and how to manage their involvement.

Who and Why…

Who are the stakeholders? For a long-range facilities plan (LRFP), a bond referendum, and facility design, stakeholders may include parents, students, school board members, businesses, governmental agencies, and school district staff. Why engage stakeholders? Obtaining diverse representation is essential for achieving comprehensive solutions and enthusiasm for a project. Their involvement may provide insights about educational vision and standards, facilities conditions and needs, and community-use opportunities. They can serve as messengers to constituents to voice support for the cause. They can enhance decision-making by taking part in focus groups, or forming liaisons with community organizations or governmental agencies.

What…

What value do stakeholders bring to the process? For the LRFP, a facilities community task force may be formed to provide insights and come up with solutions that not only support student learning, but also meet community needs, support program flexibility, maintain a building’s useful life and fit within financial parameters.

A bond referendum becomes energized through community support. Community stakeholders serve on a campaign committee. The committee creates branding and consistent messaging to the public; it provides key information to the community, initiates communications, and facilitates interaction with news media.

For a facility design, a committee is formed with stakeholders – and they seek to meet learning needs, building operational requirements, and community expectations. Also, architects and engineers connect with focus groups for design decisions, organizations for potential community use, and government agencies for joint-use opportunities.

Managing Involvement

Stakeholder involvement occurs on multiple platforms via traditional and digital communication strategies. Interactive media makes it possible for more to participate – those who don’t attend public meetings may “like” or “share” a post or respond to electronic surveys.

For an LRFP, forming a community task force gives stakeholders opportunities to be heard. Its responsibilities may include evaluating facilities data (e.g., space utilization, facilities equity, occupancy standards, building capacities), analyzing and prioritizing user needs, aligning facilities to support curricula and exploring long-range facilities designs.

Choose key communicators from the community for the task force; emphasize collaboration; choose members for a balance of expertise; cooperate by reching a consensus rather than voting. Group consensus occurs when, after exploration and analysis, each member honestly says, “I understand your point of view, believe that you understand mine, and whether or not I prefer this decision I support it because it was arrived at openly through transparent dialogue and is the best solution according to the group at this time.”

Empower task force stakeholders to share. Encourage them to lean toward action – avoid analysis-paralysis and over-thinking.

For a bond campaign after LRFP work, lead community stakeholders to reflect on what should be included in a proposal through a community survey. Form a community-based campaign committee to engage stakeholders. Presentations, open houses, local publications, websites, and events are vehicles for voter engagement.

For facility design, form a committee with focus groups for stakeholder engagement. This format emphasizes collaboration and sharing information. Responsibilities may include collecting data from tours of similar projects, critiquing design concepts, selecting materials and systems, and receiving building construction updates. Architects and engineers use REVIT-BIM technology so that stakeholders may experience three-dimensional visualizations of designs. This technology also enables facilities personnel to engage in managing facility maintenance, furniture selection, life-safety plans, and mechanical/electrical controls.          

Opportunities for stakeholder involvement occur throughout planning and design processes. Adopt these ideas for engagement to achieve a successful outcome on your next LRFP, bond referendum, and building design.

About the Author

Paul Erickson

Paul Erickson, AIA/NCARB/REFP, executive officer and partner, is past president of ATSR Planners/Architects/Engineers. He has 45 years of experience in school planning, design, and construction. Erickson can be reached at [email protected].

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