Who is a Stakeholder?

One of the comments I made in my candidate’s questionnaire for the Columbia Flier was that the new CA President needed to heal relations with stakeholders across Columbia. But who is a stakeholder in Columbia?

The term “stakeholder” has been used by those in Columbia to describe a diverse conglomeration of people and organizations: CA staff, Village staff, Villages, Village Boards, volunteers for CA and Villages, property owners, renters, and others who live, work, and play in Columbia. What has recently been renamed “Building a Better Columbia” has historically been called Stakeholder’s Advance–a meeting of the CA and Village Boards, and staff from the eleven organizations, to kick off each new fiscal year.

I would add to the definition of stakeholder. Students who attend area schools are stakeholders, even though they may be minors. Those who use CA facilities are stakeholders. Howard Community College students, who come from across the County, are stakeholders–they certainly come into Columbia for class and have an enormous impact on the adjacent neighborhoods on Town Center and Harper’s Choice.

Which brings me to my concern about how CA interacts with all stakeholders. CA all too often shoots itself in the foot by failing to communicate with stakeholders and failing to treat stakeholders with respect, resulting in wasted resources and damaged relations.

Today (April 18th) was Columbia Cleanup. The idea for the event was fantastic–groups of volunteers would simultaneously gather in their home Villages to clean up trash for a couple of hours. However, planning, organization, and advertising for the event left a lot to be desired. The press release for the event was distributed on April 2nd, a mere 16 days before the event. No email address or website with information was given, only a telephone number at CA, which rings during business hours. No outreach appears to have happened with local schools (where students must earn community service hours for graduation) or the local community college. The press release stated that the Villages were co-hosts of the event, however, the Villages were not consulted regarding dates, logistics, or given enough lead time to help advertise the event. In Long Reach, notification could have gone out in Reach Out, through calls to long term volunteers, or over the website.

I showed up, as did a few of my campaign volunteers. Aside from my group, there was only two other volunteers from Long Reach–longstanding environmental volunteers who had participated in the Kings Contrivance tree planting earlier this month. A number of people who wished to volunteer, and who carry trash bags on the path daily, were unable to due to lack of notice. Given the busy schedule for weekend events April, and the sixteen day lead time, no Village staff were able to attend. Local high school students were not given enough time to organize. While we cleaned up a lot of trash, I do wonder if it was worth the CA resources in planning the event. Indeed, for no cost except better planning, CA could have vastly increased turnout.