Stakeholder Involvement and Public Outreach Strategies Identified from Watershed Councils in Oregon
Watershed councils in Oregon have been created and developed for collaborative watershed management since the 1990s. Although a lot of research has been conducted to examine the conceptual framework and practical experience of watershed councils, there have been fewer investigations of the outreach and education strategies used by watershed councils. The goal of this study is to identify the range of outreach strategies that have been used by watershed collaboratives and discuss how these strategies relate with councils focused at the organizational level compared to those focused at the action level. OWEB grant applications provide the major source of data for examining a sample of eighteen among more than ninety watershed councils in Oregon. The study results reveal that watershed councils' outreach strategies include direct involvement and public outreach. The planning of outreach is incorporated into mission statements, organizational governance, board member representatives and recruitment, decision-making processes, meetings, community events, watershed events, invitation and tracking, and outcome measures. Action and organizational groups use similar public outreach approaches but adopt different direct involvement strategies. Action councils rely more on direct involvement from participants in the community, while organizational councils are more likely to use partnerships to achieve their involvement goals. Three themes emerged from this research. Organizational councils need to create "in-group" awareness and connectivity to their watershed communities since these councils lack a sense of place-based identification. Social networks are important for action councils' outreach and education, but organizational groups depend more on interorganizational networks. Lastly, multiple levels of public participation are realized in the implementation of outreach strategies by watershed councils in Oregon.