A Community Engagement Strategy for Negotiating a Package of Community Benefits

Proposal Evaluation


A package of givebacks is evaluated for its value to the community and agreed to in this stage.

The goal of this stage is to finalize the package of givebacks. The process is arrived at in three steps:

  • Project staff is assigned to research the costs and answer the question of who will pay.
  • This information is shared with the group.
  • The group responds to this information with careful deliberations to determine which items to omit and which to preserve for the final package.

The process usually involves some gentle questioning by the facilitator, sometimes asked off-line, to each proponent of a particular giveback. For example, “If we do X, Y, Z, are we getting close?” Or, “If we end up with X, Y, Z, how does that feel?”

The facilitator needs to consider everything that has been said and assess whether all the participants (especially those who have not met with the facilitator off-line) can see something of value to them in the final package.

During the meetings, the facilitator (from the sponsoring organization) takes responsibility for pointing out the various risks and realities associated with each proposal that the group is taking seriously. Most community groups will pay attention to those external pressures and make efforts to incorporate those deadlines and demands into the substance of their recommendations.

If the project goes forward — even without community endorsement — so too should the givebacks.

  • List all potential givebacks at the meeting or meetings.
  • Between sessions, have professional staff attach price tags to potential givebacks.
  • Between sessions, have professional staff review the feasibility of implementing potential givebacks.
  • Unreasonable givebacks need to be dealt with reasonably.
    In the course of discussing givebacks, participants may raise unrealistic, even ridiculous demands. The key is not simply to reject an idea for a giveback, but to handle it honestly. Offer reasons for why it might be a stretch, or reasons for why it might otherwise be unsuccessful. The facilitator should also make this offer to the group: “If that’s what you want me to push for, I will.” It’s critical that the facilitator actually be willing to do this, because giving the community as much control of the process as possible allows it to maintain its integrity.
  • The group needs to be reminded that givebacks are not tied to support for the project.
    It is critical to keep reminding the group that the givebacks are not in return for saying “yes” to the project; they are to address the burden that the community is being asked to bear. Givebacks are not a payoff. If they were, few communities would engage in the process. Givebacks are a way for communities to have a say in their own future.

When the community was initially asked what kind of givebacks should be considered on the Campbell Industrial Park power plant project, the initial list included everything from a reliever road for the Waianae Coast, to a new hospital, a rate discount for area residents, photovoltaic panels on every school roof, and an education program on sustainable living practices. Each of these was researched and priced out and then brought back to the group.

Some were dismissed by the group as inappropriate to these discussions (the reliever road, for example); some as unnecessary (the new hospital, given the existence of Waianae Coast Comprehensive Center); or appropriate, but too expensive (photovoltaic panels at each school). Other proposed givebacks remained as possibilities and became the foundation for the final package of givebacks.

Related Examples

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