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Engaging Outraged Stakeholders
By Bill Shireman et. al.
Dec 7, 2013 - 12:40:31 AM

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Future 500 is a non-profit that places itself in a hazardous place: directly in the middle of groups in conflict. These parties, whether they are Democrats and Republicans or an international corporation and a dedicated activist group, often revel in their mutual hatred. Those at Future 500 believe that no cause is more important than mediating these divisive issues, and finding some common ground between two opposing groups helps improve the world. Engaging Outraged Stakeholders gives a detailed look at this difficult, but potentially very rewarding, work.

With parties that are so divided, finding that common ground is much more easily said than done. Groups that are so adamant about their viewpoint are often equally resolved against their opposition. Frequently, they have invested a good deal of time and energy demonizing the other party. However, Future 500 works to humanize both sides, locating the fears of each one and working to eradicate them. With this done, the avenues of communication open up. Slowly, holding each side accountable in a careful, supportive way, each group's deep purpose can be identified and commonalities can be located. Once common ground is found, a mutually beneficial solution isn't far behind.

This purpose is what Bill Shireman, Danna Pfahl, Erik Wohlgemuth, and the rest of the Future 500 team strive to do on a daily basis. Together, they work to align the power and money of the private sector with the purpose of stakeholders. In this way, social and environmental concerns don't have to stall economic growth. Instead, a market-based solution can ensure that the growth is sustainable. Future 500 aims to break through stalemates, guide parties to thoughtful solutions, and achieve broad, systematic change. Their work is a breath of fresh air; the mission is hopeful and even novel to those who have become jaded by halted progress.

Engaging Outraged Stakeholders takes an in-depth look at this work, showing that opposing groups often make the best allies. Throughout the company's history, Future 500 has united many odd couples that have gone on to make great changes. In this book, readers will be treated to case studies of these unlikely alliances, beginning at a stage when the groups, at best, did not understand one another, and, at worst, vehemently hated each other. These accomplishments range from the California's "Bottle Bill" to the Mitsubishi/ Rainforest Action Network partnership to save forests. Readers can glean a great deal from these examples, learning about guiding opposing groups to negotiation and compromise from those who do it best. The writers also acknowledge that such work can be a struggle, and doesn't always result in success. However, it is clear that Shireman, Pfahl and Wohlgemuth believe that such work is important enough to outweigh the risks. Without it, disputes reign on and problems go unsolved; the only way that ensures progress is to meet the problem head-on. The book also includes the steps the authors use to engage with opposing parties and interviews with experts on economics and the environment. These great minds suggest practical, simple solutions to some of the greatest problems facing our world today, including climate change and lack of cooperation between opposing political parties.

Engaging Outraged Stakeholders is the first book of its kind, giving readers an exhaustive manual concerning stakeholder engagement. It features detailed examples of this work through true success stories, as well as some sobering, frank words on the potential for failure. However, by following the steps the authors outline for successful engagement, and heeding the many wise words of advice, readers will feel that nearly any conflict can be successfully mediated. Whether that conflict is in the boardroom, the office, or between friends or family, readers will be inspired to follow the authors' sage counsel and work through it to find common ground and, hopefully, progress for the good of all parties involved.

Bill Shireman

Bill Shireman is the President and CEO of Future 500. His co-writers Danna Pfahl and Erik Wohlgemuth are Future 500's VP of Stakeholder Engagement and Chief Operating Officer, respectively.

© Copyright 2002-2014 by Magic City Morning Star

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