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October 19, 2009

When participants serve others, who is the stakeholder?

At last week's "Building Extension's Public Value" workshop for University of Wyoming (see: cowboy) Cooperative Extension Service (CES), one group drafted a public value message for their land reclamation Extension program. The program provides research-based education on how to reclaim rangeland that has been disturbed by energy extraction. You can read about it here.

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As I understand it (and members of UW CES Sustainable Management of Rangeland Resources initiative team will correct me), program participants might include landowners--including energy companies--or reclamation professionals, who do the reclaiming work on the part of landowners. The question arose: Who are the participants, and who are the stakeholders for this program? In particular, when the program participant is the person doing the work to reclaim the land, but s/he is working on behalf of a private landowner, should we direct a public value message to the landowner?

We might think of the private owner of disturbed land as a stakeholder, provided s/he doesn't participate in the educational program. After all, s/he clearly has a stake in the reclamation professional being able to do a good job of restoring the land to its original--or new--use.

In my view, however, the private landowner is not a stakeholder in the public value sense: s/he directly benefits from the program through being able to hire a trained--maybe certified--reclamation professional, possibly at a lower cost than if CES had not contributed to that training. The landowner may even enjoy increased land values.

I think the public value message may be more effectively directed to others--aside from program trainees and the private landowners they work for--who have a stake in the land being restored. Of course, if the disturbed land is public land, the stakeholders are all the residents of Wyoming. At the conference, the group suggested hunters (specifically grouse, I recall), people concerned with biodiversity, and those who value an open viewscape.

What do you think? Who are the stakeholders for a program that trains a group of professionals to perform a service for a family or a business?