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Article Type

Full Research Article – Regular Issue

Volume

8

Issue

2

Abstract

Stakeholder engagement for natural resource management at the state and local levels has become an important governance practice. This study examines the association of individual traits (aggressive communication, comfort with technology, and argumentativeness) with stakeholder participant voice in a water basin planning virtual meeting setting. Individual participants of the Edisto River Basin Council (RBC) meetings are the subject of the study. South Carolina decentralized water planning to the river basin level, creating RBCs and appointing interested and relevant stakeholders as members. While the river basin planning process did not envisage virtual (Zoom) meetings for the regular meetings of the RBC, the COVID pandemic required this to begin the planning process. Moreover, meeting participants possess diverse interests, powers, and individual traits that may affect the use of voice and engagement.

There is well-established literature on stakeholder participation in resource planning. However, there are gaps in the literature regarding use of voice in virtual meeting settings in water resources planning, especially in settings like water-abundant areas in the Southeastern United States. Using the Edisto RBC as a pilot basin and quantitative surveys, preliminary results found that while RBC participants were on average comfortable with technology, they generally avoided conflict, they exhibited average communication apprehension in a meeting environment, and virtual meetings appear to limit participant’s use of voice. Consequently, meeting planners must recognize that not all participants express themselves optimally in virtual meeting settings. In this vein, planners must work to develop opportunities for as much active engagement and sharing as possible.

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