Step 3: Find the People Who Care

A place-based project will work best when backed by those who have an interest in the future of the place.

Who—besides you—may care that a place survives? Reaching out to these stakeholders and learning their varied perspectives on a place may foster surprising alliances, attract additional funds and supporters, and ultimately provide resources and open doors that will help you complete the project more effectively and efficiently.

At the very least, reaching out to others who care about this place will help you to determine where others stand on the key issues. You may discover that you have more allies in protecting it than you thought.

Here are some general suggestions for identifying stakeholders:

1. Identify the groups that use the place, have an interest in the place, or would be affected if the place were lost. In the case of Nathan's Famous, for instance, this might include:

  • The individuals and families that eat there
  • The people who work there
  • The residents and visitors who use it as a visual landmark
  • Historians of New York City
  • Tourism and economic development professionals

2. Try to be as specific as possible when you identify constituents. General categories (business owners, local activists) are less useful than detailed information (e.g., what kinds of businesses? activists for which constituencies and/or issues?). You may learn that the demographics are more varied than you originally knew.

For instance, you may believe that a particular corner store is of importance to the local Latino community, only to discover that its real relevance, more specifically, is to those community members who are from a particular village in Mexico. Or that the teenagers using a particular park are all skateboarders, for example, or students from a local high school.

3. Public spaces, in particular, can host the activities of multiple groups who barely recognize each other's existence. Cast your net widely.