Using charrettes to solve wildlife management communication issues in Michigan

MDRN partners with NCI and MSU Extension to use the charrette process to co-create an education and outreach plan.

People sitting around table at a meeting having a discussion.
Discussion during one of the MDOT charrette project set up meetings.

Since first detected in Michigan’s free-ranging deer populations in 2015, more than 180 deer have tested positive for chronic wasting disease (CWD) across nine Michigan counties. This neurological disease affects deer, elk, reindeer and moose, and is always fatal.

Without management, outreach and engagement, the spread of CWD in Michigan’s deer could have broad impacts felt across the state and by a diverse set of stakeholders.

While the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (MDNR) is researching how to deal with the disease, impacted stakeholders need information about the disease and policies related to it that may affect them.

To make sure that the information is timely, relevant and useful, and to augment the communication we already provide, the MDNR has partnered with the National Charrette Institute and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension to use the charrette process to co-create an education and outreach plan.

“This charrette effort is an exciting opportunity for MDNR and MSU to learn and conduct meaningful engagement, engage with diverse stakeholders, and develop a collaborative output with collaborative implementation,” said Emily Pomeranz from MDNR.

The goal of this project is to help Michigan residents better understand the scope of CWD effects and communicate the strategies that can be undertaken to reduce the spread of the disease and its impact on relevant stakeholders.

While the project activities will take place in the Montcalm and Ionia county area – the hotspot for CWD prevalence in Michigan – it is anticipated that components of the plan will be relevant for audiences statewide.

Project collaborators have begun planning the charrette effort with the help of a committee made up of partners reflecting a broad set of viewpoints, including state agencies, hunters, conservation organizations, public health, agriculture, local government, tribal government, and youth.

Over the course of four meetings, the committee has identified goals and objectives of the project, measures of its success, who will be involved and how, a list of base data work, and a project roadmap and charrette schedule.

In the coming months, project collaborators will be conducting focus groups to learn about perceptions and knowledge of CWD-related issues that are relevant to partners and understand relevant and trusted sources partners rely on for information.

This data collection effort will inform the charrette scheduled for June, where we will work with partners and others to develop messaging, sources, channels and language tailored to the needs of relevant groups and stakeholders. The culmination of the charrette effort will be an education and outreach plan, co-implemented by partners.

The MDNR’s Wildlife Division has been working on developing a culture of engagement, a multi-pronged effort involving trainings, internal engagement-focused work groups, hiring for positions with specific engagement and outreach expectations, as well as strategic partnerships and research projects with university collaborators.

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