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Dogs & People – Mastering Stakeholder Engagement for Sustainable Impacts

120 participants from over 15 countries participated in the Dogs&People workshop on the 3rd December, The University of Melbourne.  Photo: Aashima Auplish

AMRRIC knows that good stakeholder engagement is essential; in our line of work, building and maintaining good relationships with a wide variety of stakeholders is critical to success. So when participants from 2015’s AMRRIC, Vets Beyond Borders and The University of Melbourne co-hosted workshop – Monitoring and Evaluation in Dog Population Management Programs – suggested stakeholder engagement as a topic for exploration at future events, we were only too pleased to oblige.

Co-hosted by AMRRIC, Vets Beyond Borders and The University of Melbourne Faculty of Veterinary and Agricultural Sciences, the Dogs & People – Mastering Stakeholder Engagement for Sustainable Impact Pre-OneHealth EcoHealth Congress Workshop was held on the 3rd of December at The University of Melbourne Parkville.

We were overwhelmed with interest in the event, and on the day reached venue capacity to host 120 enthusiastic and experienced participants from Australia and overseas (Indonesia, India, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Laos, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, Scotland and Switzerland). In true alignment with One Health’s trans-disciplinary focus, participants represented a diversity of disciplines including veterinary, human medicine, environmental health, epidemiology, education, anthropology and even geology. With such a broad array of experience represented in the room, fascinating and insightful discussions ensued.

A suggested stakeholder engagement process set a framework for the day and asked participants to:

  1. consider their purpose for engagement;

  2. identify who they are/should be engaging, including the levels of interest and influence of their stakeholders;

  3. determine how to best achieve effective and inclusive engagement, and;

  4. evaluate the success (or otherwise) of their engagement process.

Local and international speakers with vast experience in dog population management and related fields then presented case studies to explore ground-level, collaborative and high-level stakeholder engagement. Key lessons from the ground-level engagement session included taking the time to listen and yarn with people in order to build relationships, that communication is a continuous circular process (not a one way street), Pretty & Hine’s typology of participation, the importance of understanding the cultural history and stakeholder dynamics before attempting to implement a program, and the “P’s” of effective engagement i.e. people, participation, partnership and persistence. In the exploring collaboration session, presenters emphasized the need to build platforms of trust, for stakeholders to be able to have fun together, that hard conversations are never easy but still essential, and that collaborators should be open to unexpected and diverse perspectives. Lessons from the session on high-level engagement highlighted the need to identify where goals of differing stakeholders intersect, the importance of a One Health approach where best practice is identified and mapped in an effort to allocate defined roles, the role of NGOs in assisting governments to tackle wicked problems, and the need to focus on outcomes and collect better evidence to attract political interest.

For AMRRIC, particular presentation highlights included the anthropologist’s perspective provided by Associate Professor Robyn Alders and Dr Brigitte Bagnol, Professor Sarah Cleveland’s insights developed from extensive international dog population management experience, and the central role of stakeholder engagement in high-level broad-scale initiatives such as the World Health Organisation’s efforts to tackle zoonotic neglected tropical diseases (presented by Dr Bernadette Abela-Ridder) and the OIE’s stray dog initiative (presented by Dr Mark Schipp, Vice President of the OIE General Assembly and Chief Veterinary Officer for Australia).

AMRRIC is extremely grateful to the wide range of highly qualified speakers who so willingly and openly shared their lessons learnt from a broad array of stakeholder engagement experiences. Despite the geographical, cultural and financial diversity of case studies presented, common challenges were clearly evident and many of the participants identified with these challenges from personal experience. The realisation that these challenges were common, but that innovation and persistence can mitigate them, aided in promoting and engendering a collegial atmosphere and strong network among participants. Responses from the workshop evaluation further attest the value of the workshop, with participants claiming boosted morale and eagerness to implement lessons learnt.

Given the success of this workshop, AMRRIC, Vets Beyond Borders and The University of Melbourne hope to collaborate again in the future to continue to strengthen the dogs & people network and collective knowledge.

Search #dogspeople2016 on twitter for a recap of the day; further detail about the workshop can be found at:

http://fvas.bespoke.unimelb.edu.au/news-and-events/dogs-and-people-2016-mastering-stakeholder-engagement-for-sustainable-impacts

A big thankyou to Andrea Britton and Mark Stevenson for their ongoing collaboration, to all of the speakers for their willingness to share, and to the participants for their enthusiasm and support.

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