In this article we talk about why Aboriginal Engagement isn't Stakeholder Engagement. The term stakeholder is a commonly used business and government term that should be avoided at all costs when working with Aboriginal Peoples. It is frequently used in corporate and government stakeholder engagement activities and while the sentiment to develop meaningful relationships that encourage communication is correct, use of the term “stakeholder” when meeting with Aboriginal leaders and community members will likely derail your best intentions.
The reason? If the “Rod and Gun Club” (a stakeholder) doesn’t like what you are proposing to do they can lobby their MP or MLA to try to effect changes. They can also engage in negative media campaigns and in rare cases resort to civil disobedience.
If an Aboriginal community doesn't like what you are proposing to do they can also lobby their MP or MLA to try to effect changes as well as engage in negative media campaigns and in rare cases resort to civil disobedience.
This is where the similarities of Aboriginal Engagement and Stakeholder Engagement end.
Aboriginal Peoples have the ability to launch legal action to protect their constitutionally protected rights putting projects in immediate jeopardy and forcing proponents and governments to conduct additional engagement. This is why Aboriginal Engagement isn't Stakeholder Engagement and why Aboriginal Peoples get offended when referred to as Stakeholders.
Working Effectively with Indigenous Peoples® tip:
Avoid the use of stakeholder in your conversations with Aboriginal Peoples. For example, don't start your meeting by saying, "Hi, we are here to talk to you because you are one of the stakeholders on our list."
Also, avoid handing out your business card if it has Manager, Stakeholder Relations on it. Change your business card and omit the title or hand out yellow sticky notes with your name and number on it instead.
Here's another suggestion regarding business cards and what you should have on them.
Our "Guidebook to Terminology" is a free download!