Communities & Stakeholders
When regeneration professionals and politicians talk about ‘The Community’ they usually mean people who live in that locality; when they talk about ‘Stakeholders’ they are often referring to a different, geographically disperse group of people who have significant financial or other interests in the area. But do the Community and the Stakeholders talk to each other?
Depending on who you talk to, regeneration is led (or at least informed) by Communities or Stakeholders.
Let us put aside for now whether either of these groups, if such they be, are in reality leaders of regeneration; what we first need to ask is, are Communities the same as Stakeholders? In my book the answer is, No.
Communities are generally held to be bound by fences, real or metaphorical. In terms of regeneration this usually means they have a geographical, if not always sociological, footprint or identity within the physical area being regenerated. Stakeholders however may be found anywhere.
Sometimes it’s useful during the consultations which must precede major developments to seek the views of The Community. This means that a number of ‘local’ people are ‘consulted’, though perhaps on an agenda set by non-locals.
There again, Stakeholders may be consulted, often in a more formal way. These tend to be the people who have serious financial or other formal interests in the area under consideration. In the back of some parties’ minds, Stakeholders are sometimes perceived as likely to be more formally articulate in their approach, and perhaps to have a wider view of the possibilities, challenges or whatever.
In both instances, those who conduct the consultation will probably be professionals from outside the area to be regenerated; and they will probably have expectations based around their own educational and social backgrounds about what Communities and Stakeholders respectively can realistically bring to the process. But the big question could be, have the Communities and the Stakeholders actually communicated with each other? Whose job is it to ensure this happens? And should (or could) those who conduct consultations on regeneration developments help here?