Towards Effective Stakeholder Engagement

by Akanksha Laroiya, Md. Asif Raza

There is an increasing expectation from urban infrastructure programmes to be adaptable (to the local conditions), sustainable (to have a long-term impact) and acceptable (to the beneficiaries who will ‘use’ the infrastructure). 

The CITIIS programme, following the principles of integration, innovation and sustainability, has a strong focus on effective stakeholder engagement. This has manifested in a custom ‘Stakeholder Engagement Plan’ for each of its 12 cities during the planning phase (known as Maturation Phase) of their projects. These plans are holistic and interdisciplinary, bringing together state- and city-level government officials, representatives from the Project Management Unit (PMU) based at NIUA, international mentors and domestic experts, the city SPV, and citizens. With their collective knowledge, each city’s Stakeholder Engagement Plan focuses on how project goals might be linked to policy and implementation innovations, ultimately leading to sustainable behavioural change in the way citizens interact with city spaces. 

For this, a mapping of all the stakeholders was undertaken in each city. This mapping was then leveraged to create a framework to engage and integrate stakeholders for the various phases of the program. CITIIS not only serves as a platform to initiate a dialogue for project impact by interacting with Advisory Forums but also undertaking one-to-one meeting with beneficiaries, NGOs, local citizens, banking and financial entities, local leadership, business and political associations, and print and electronic media. The core philosophy of the CITIIS programand one that is imbued by all the 12 citiesis to consult such stakeholders, learn from them, keep them informed, acknowledge their concerns as well as provide feedback on how their inputs might be incorporated in their city’s project.

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, these Stakeholder Engagement Plans have been adapted to include more online and telephonic interactions, alongside awareness generation primarily being done through electronic and digital media.

One such example is the city of Hubbali-Dharwad. The Hubballi-Dharwad Smart City Limited (HDSCL) hosted a citizen engagement campaign in partnership with Red FM 93.5, a popular FM channel. This campaign was aired on the channel every morning from 07:00-11:00 a.m. during 16th to 21st July, 2020 to know the perception and aspirations of the citizens for their ‘Green Mobility Corridor’ project (the redevelopment of Unkal Nala). It played an important role ensuring community participation, reaching even grassroots level as the opinions of those citizens who had shared their views on air. These opinions were heard not only by the project team but also by their fellow local citizens in total anonymity, thus ensuring their privacy. The campaign was successful in empowering communities to publicly talk about local issues even as useful suggestions on design interventions proved to be a ‘value-add’ for the project.

During November 2020, Puducherry Smart City Development Limited (PSCDL) CITIIS team visited the Dhobi Khana Complex at Ramalinga Nagar of Vaithikuppam to identify the needs of the community members. In December 2020, the PSCDL team began undertaking detailed field surveys and stakeholder consultations at the low-income settlements in the Solai Nagar (South), MS Agragaram, a proposed project site at Kuruchikuppam and Mottaithoppu. These stakeholder consultations will identify the challenges and needs of the resident communities. Simultaneously, socio-economic surveys were undertaken in the same community to ensure geographical and demographic distribution of the respondents from the community. The consultation process included individual interviews, focused groupe discussions and joint sessions with community leaders. These processes are expected to aid the team for designing interventions for a positive impact in the lives of the resident communities.

These examples are only two of many such brilliant initiatives undertaken in the CITIIS program where integration of ideas from local citizens and collaborative discussions proved to be beneficial in finalising a project for its long-term sustainability. In both cases, the increased involvement of the citizens and other stakeholders, and the inclusive decision-making process will ensure an increased sense of ownership for the infrastructure created.

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