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Getting to the Meaning of Meaningful Engagement

Tue, Jan 23 2024, 3 - 4pm

Speaker(s): Julia Wondolleck and Arianna Stokes

Location: Webinar

Meaningful engagement has become a catchphrase in public participation. Its characteristics are assumed to be self-evident yet many struggle with its implementation and, until recently, there has been surprisingly little work shedding light on how to achieve it. The NERRS Science Collaborative, through its participation in the Reserve System, has observed how meaningful engagement is foundational to effective collaborative science and is a frequent discussion topic among NERRS project teams.

Seeking to unpack the dimensions of meaningful engagement, the Science Collaborative has supported research that draws on the experiences and insights of collaborative science teams. The research aims to answer questions such as:  What exactly does meaningful engagement mean in practice? What are the tell-tale signs when it is being achieved, and when it is not? What factors help advance it? What are the challenges to realizing it, and how might those challenges be addressed?

This webinar describes the overall research project, shares preliminary findings based on interviews with collaborative science project team members and reserve partners, and highlights how intended products can benefit collaborative science teams and others.


Julia Wondolleck, University of Michigan

Julia Wondolleck is an Emerita Professor at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability and a member of the NERRS Science Collaborative team.  She has spent her professional career researching, writing, and teaching about collaborative processes in natural resource and environmental management contexts. She is supervising Arianna’s graduate research on meaningful engagement.

Arianna Stokes, University of Michigan

Arianna Stokes is a master's student at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability where she is studying participatory processes within the fields of environmental policy and environmental justice. Originally from New Hampshire, Arianna has a degree in ecology and economics from the University of California Davis. Prior to graduate school, Arianna worked in coastal New Hampshire and participated in CoastWise, a place-based coastal resilience program, at UNH Sea Grant. She is currently a science communication fellow at the University of Michigan Museum of Natural History.