Recruitment, Retention, and Reactivation (R3) of hunters, anglers, and recreational target shooters is a priority for agencies, nongovernmental organizations, and others within the industry (hereafter, “stakeholders”) with a vested interest in natural resources conservation and the relevancy of the surrounding activities. Over the past ten years, states have experimented with the most efficient process to increase and diversify participation in and societal support for these activities. This period of trial and error revealed that entities operating within their own organizational silos are typically met with limited success, but through partnerships entities could increase the overall capacity and progress of state-level R3 efforts. This document aims to provide general guidance for developing statewide R3 collaborations and offers case studies from several states.
It is important to recognize that R3 processes are still emerging, and that this document will not capture every possible strategy or important component of a collaboration. This material was compiled by the National R3 Implementation Workgroup after reviewing four states’ R3 collaborations, (Arizona, California, Georgia, and Iowa) in detail and best practices developed by the R3 community over the past ten years.
Building and Maintaining a Statewide R3 Collaboration
Statewide R3 collaborations have taken on many forms in recent years (see case studies), but the majority share some common themes in how they were developed and currently function. Successful collaborations result from engaging the key state-stakeholders in the conversation and R3. Common themes that have been observed across states with R3 collaborations include hosting statewide meetings, dedicating staff, developing a state-level strategy, partnership-based marketing/branding, and events with shared resources.
Statewide R3 Meetings
When forming a statewide R3 collaboration, many states initiated their efforts with meetings, inviting stakeholders that are likely to support the collaboration. Usually the first meeting serves to educate everyone on R3, build consensus on direction and goals, and begin to form the partnerships that will lay the foundation for collaboration. Initially, the state wildlife agency Director and additional VIPs are beneficial to draw the level of interest and enthusiasm necessary for a powerful launch. While their attendance is not mandatory to successful sustainability, they effectively demonstrate the seriousness of the situation and call to action. Once dedicated parties are gathered and agree to pursue R3 on a statewide level, they must agree on that goal being a constant in addition to the goals and missions of their individual brands.
Many states have found it useful to bring in outside partners with R3 expertise (Council to Advance Hunting and the Shooting Sports, Wildlife Management Institute, Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation, etc.) to help facilitate early meetings, provide clarity surrounding R3, and review the research that validates social trends, emerging patterns, and current best practices. These meetings are content heavy and usually require at least a full day to cover the extensive complex issues. Strategic use of working lunches and breaks can improve progress. Clear expectations should be identified through majority consensus, and all the content and discussions should be captured for later review. Task management needs to be formal but realistic, some issues will be very complex and can take years to resolve.
After the initial gatherings and development of a collaboration, these meetings often occur on an annual, bi-annual, or even quarterly basis, depending on the stakeholders involved. Because of the complexities involved, follow up meetings serve to:
- Expand the stakeholder base and increase partnerships among stakeholders (remain in a recruitment phase).
- Disseminate current terminology, information, goals, direction, and successes (maintain these presentations for public affairs opportunities).
- Encourage implementation of best practices developed by the collaboration (strive for consistency and scalability in elements of R3 efforts).
- Allow time for workgroups/committees to meet in person.
- Continue to evolve state-level strategy.
One of the emerging practices that continues to prove effective in R3 efforts is the allocation of dedicated staff. Historically, R3 has been another duty assigned to hunter education coordinators, wildlife managers, and/or taken on by volunteers. Under the direction of the National Hunting and Shooting Sports Action Plan, many states have dedicated staff time to R3. While these efforts vary by state/organization, there are two common themes: 1) incorporating R3 duties into existing roles; and 2) creating R3-specific positions.
R3 Incorporated Into Existing Roles
While more states begin concertedly thinking of R3 as a function of business, as opposed to just another program, stakeholders are working toward ensuring all employees understand their role in R3. Many stakeholders have committed a portion of their full-time employees’ time to the mission of R3, incorporating it into their job descriptions (along with their original duties). These professionals are held accountable to dedicate time and resources to the research, coordination, and on-the-ground implementation necessary to form and maintain a statewide R3 collaboration. Positions that have seen an emphasis on R3, span the spectrum, from the regional supervisor/biologist to the CEO/director level, and are not limited to a specific type of stakeholder. Collaborations allow all stakeholders to assemble and decide where and at what level their employees (where applicable) can plug in, with the most benefit received when it is included as part of their scope of work.
In addition to some positions receiving partial emphasis on R3, we have seen the emergence of R3-specific positions (e.g., R3 Coordinator) at the state level as recommended in the National Hunting and Shooting Sports Action Plan. These positions have taken many forms, can be housed inside or outside of the state natural resources agency, and are often partnership-based, funded, and/or directed. While R3 specific, these professionals must be able to work cross functionally both within the agencies and with non-governmental organizations to increase their effectiveness. When properly equipped, and partnered with state agency staff and resources, these positions can serve as R3 facilitators, increasing the scale, creativity, capacity, responsiveness, and effectiveness of R3 collaborations.
All states that have successfully developed an R3 collaboration involving the majority of stakeholders within their state have a strategy in place. Some states have decided to formalize this strategy by developing a written plan to serve as the guiding document for their collaboration. State-level R3 plans typically build off of the information presented in the National Hunting and Shooting Sports Action Plan defining the barriers or threats that may be preventing participation in any given activity in the state and present strategies and action items needed to address those threats. This information is often developed via a consensus approach to ensure buy in from all stakeholders in the collaboration. The common process includes:
- R3-specific position drafting the bulk of the content after reviewing pertinent national and state-specific information and trends.
- Steering committee and/or task force reviewing and providing direction.
- Feedback solicited from all stakeholders in the collaboration via the statewide meeting or a committee structure.
- Form the necessary infrastructure and support mechanisms to spread implementation across all stakeholders and finalize the document.
Learn More: State-level plans and plan development webinars
Steering Committees and Task Forces
As a government entity, state natural resources agencies serve their public constituency. While they provide significant continuity and stable resources, they are not always best poised to be the “leader” of a successful R3 collaboration. The R3-specific positions are often the only people in a collaborative group composed mostly of volunteers, whose official full-time job is indeed R3 and much of their time and scope is limited. Given the above information, many states have found it beneficial to create a task force or steering committee to guide the collaboration ensuring a well-rounded consensus approach on direction and goals. Steering committees and task forces may serve different functions depending on the state (see case studies), but they are generally in positions of influence over programming. It is important that there is a line of communication between the steering committee and/or task force to higher state agency leadership so that programming follows cross-divisional policies and goals.
A successful steering committee will have motivated members from a balanced mix of stakeholders. As a state’s collaboration grows in numbers of stakeholders involved, it is not essential that all organizations have a member on the steering committee. Steering committees need to go through effective team building and visionary exercises. They will need to be able to have difficult conversations and come to positive outcomes despite conflicting methodologies and priorities. The stakeholders will rarely agree on all things related to an activity, but they need to reach common ground concerning R3 practices. Steering committees require more frequent meetings than the state collaboration. Agendas for the statewide R3 meetings, referenced above, should be developed, approved of, and presented by the steering committee.
All collaborations will have differences. It is essential that the steering committee provides direction in the collaboration. Some issues may not be ideal for early foundational work. Contested issues can be documented and monitored over time in an effort to build consensus. Provided that all efforts have R3 success in mind, the collaboration will move forward.
Marketing and Branding
Many state natural resources agencies have developed marketing or public affairs departments and R3 collaboration members must maintain an active relationship with those departments. This enables the agency to educate stakeholders on measurable R3 efforts and marketing, facilitate event recruitment for all stakeholders, increase opportunities for new partnerships, and involve the collaboration in messaging to target markets on behalf of the agency. These relationships will be key in assisting the stakeholders in reaching new target audiences.
The concept of a multi-organizational collaboration contributing to one mission is difficult to convey and can also be difficult to understand for the end user. One way to overcome this challenge is to have the stakeholders come together under one brand and/or on a virtual landing page on a central stakeholder’s website, often the state natural resources agency’s. This provides acknowledgement to all stakeholders and a location to house shared resources.
Learn More: Partnerships Best Practices around Marketing
In-person R3 events have been a main focus of many R3 collaborations in years past in an effort to provide in-the-field training to introduce new participants to the outdoors and move them along the spectrum of the Outdoor Recreation Adoption Model (ORAM). Learn-to-hunt/fish/target shoot events contribute to creating an artificial surrogate for what was once a natural pathway, moving participants from nontraditional backgrounds along the ORAM to continued participation in outdoor activities.
Learn More: Explanation of ORAM
Choosing a target audience unfamiliar with the activity is crucial when developing a partnership based R3 event. National and state-level analysis have revealed that R3 events have generally targeted or resulted in audiences already familiar with the activity (e.g. hunting R3 event participants are usually children and spouses of those that already hunt, target shoot or fish). When focusing on the recruitment portion of the ORAM, it is important to select a demographic that the event can staff to support appropriately. It is also important to ensure there is opportunity for success and resources for continued next steps for participants to engage in the activity learned.
When we are reaching out to new target audiences such as women, Hispanic, African American, Asian American, etc. it is extremely important for agencies and organizations to have retention mechanisms in place before trying to recruit these new users. We have seen through research with women for example that they are one of the fastest growing segments, but they are also one of the first segments to lapse out. Studies detail Hispanics as the most loyal customer base of all demographics but they require a higher degree of engagement to secure that loyalty. Having pathways and communication channels pre-established before reaching out to these audiences that will lead them to continued participation will be essential for success. Working to establish partnerships with non-traditional organizations that the target audience may be affiliated with and/or already familiar with can lead to long-term retention of participant as well.
Age is also an important factor to consider, as there are advantages and disadvantages to choosing certain age groups based on the activity selected. For example, with an R3 recreational target shooting event, youth are a viable audience because of the presence of youth shooting sports teams and clubs where there is a high likelihood that child will be able to continue participation after the event without a substantial time investment or knowledge requirement for the parent. Hunting requires a different level of skills development and avenues are not in place for youth to participate without a parent’s involvement. Family events could also offer another option to help youth maintain their participation into hunting. Adults may be a more efficient audience considering they have decision-making authority, financial resources, transportation, and may currently or one day have children of their own.
Different stakeholder organizations will have different target audience priorities. This is actually preferred. Stakeholders should be encouraged to self-select their contributions based on their organization’s mission, culture, and strengths. As the collaboration matures, the collective will provide a wide variety of offerings inviting to the greatest possible diversity of participants. During the developmental stages of the collaboration, it will be more important that the stakeholders pursue efforts that most align with their traditional efforts. As data becomes available and gaps in opportunities are identified, the collaboration can set priorities to best address these vacancies.
It is not realistic to present an all-encompassing event that provides equal knowledge for all game and fish species, and types of shooting sports. Many stakeholder organizations specialize in specific activities. Events that narrow the focus provide more in-depth learning and hands on skill building opportunities. Events intending to engage new audiences should focus on subsets of the activity that have limited barriers of entry and are easy for participants to replicate on their own after the event. For example, in Arizona there already existed a strong demand for a limited number of big game tags. There is also increasing research that novice hunters beginning with small game hunting displayed greater affinity for hunting and were less likely to lapse. As a result, the R3 collaboration increased the event focus to small game which provided greater opportunity and increased customer satisfaction and success therefore furthering the collective R3 efforts in the state.
Mentors are the backbone of many R3 events, and their role continues past the end date of the event. Mentors are typically volunteers that provide support (mentally, physically, and emotionally) to help event participants build confidence in the activity during and after the event. An advantage to partnership-based events is that a variety of volunteers are available from the partnering stakeholder bases. Choose mentors relevant to the activity and equip them with resources to help them provide the necessary guidance and social support. Remember that all volunteers are not good mentors.
Learn More: Mentor resources
Hosting all R3 events under a central online registration system (regardless of which stakeholder hosts the event) is a top priority for most state R3 collaborations. The state natural resources agencies are well positioned to dedicate resources to the development and management of an online event management system. Additionally, state agency staff can assist in listing the events in hunting and angling regulations and on social media platforms. Optimally, surveying all registrants and tracking them via a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform is ideal. This can be challenging to get all stakeholders to agree to, but the benefits are clear:
- Eases use for potential participants and volunteers with a year-round calendar of all R3 events and greater likelihood of participating in more than one event.
- Promotes all stakeholders’ events equally and likely ensures the opportunities are seen by a larger audience.
- Maintains a master list of R3 events while highlighting gaps and provides stakeholders the opportunity to fill in, increasing relevance.
- Further encourages partnership-based events easing the logistical burden of event hosting for stakeholders.
- Allows for facilitation in tracking of license and equipment purchasing behavior providing insights into the outcomes of events.
- Allows for incorporation of electronic surveys to ensure all events use standardized survey questions and data is stored in one place to cross-compare events (while still made available to event hosts).
Stakeholders will and should continue to recruit and pursue their missions independently. They may have different individual R3 priorities but being part of the collective ensures their efforts are highly visible on the landscape and all efforts are able to be tracked. This dedication of resources is often rewarded and builds collective community success.
Evaluation is not something simply done at the end of an event as an afterthought. It must be incorporated into the event from the beginning. Integral to all R3 events should be a set of measurable objectives and outcomes that guide design of an evaluation system to document the event’s effect and identify areas for improvement. The information gathered from evaluation allows stakeholders to conduct data-driven R3 events aimed at outcomes (the number of people that continue to participate in the activity after attending events) rather than outputs (the number of people who attend events). Having all stakeholders that host events in a state using standardized evaluation questions allows for in-depth analysis of event effectiveness across the state and provides data that can be used to improve all events. States that have successfully implemented evaluation at a large scale have made standardized evaluation templates (pre and post, and sometimes later follow-up) available to all stakeholders and encouraged their use. Many states are beginning to incorporate these evaluations in their central event registration system, further easing the evaluation process.
Learn More: Evaluation templates
All R3 events should take the above sections into consideration and incorporate their direction where applicable, but past that, R3 events can vary widely in how they are implemented. There are several detailed guides available for specific event types, but below are several best practices for implementation that are generally agreed upon for events hosted under a state R3 collaboration:
- Clear direction – ensure direction is clearly communicated to participants (and mentors or volunteers, if applicable) including, but not limited to, event requirements, registration, materials to bring, and physical location.
- Safety – regardless of the topic (hunting, fishing, or target shooting), safe handling of equipment should be a common theme that is formally introduced in the beginning of an event and consistently woven into the messaging throughout.
- Curriculum – cover all aspects of the activity including how it has benefited natural resources conservation historically and present day. Other recommended topics, where applicable, include species biology and strategy, equipment selection, ethics, and activities after the harvest (removing from the field, cleaning, and cooking).
- Focus on common ground – focus on the reasons why all participants and mentors are there and topics relevant to the activity that have high approval among the general public (e.g. food and wildlife management for a hunting event). For most groups avoid generally divisive topics like politics and religion, and topics relevant to the activity that do not have high approval among the general public (e.g., emphasizing trophy animals for a hunting event).
- Acknowledgements – all materials and media related to the event should acknowledge all stakeholders and this should be reiterated during and after the event.
- Next steps – clear next steps need to be present for the participants and mentors.
- Ensuring stakeholders have determined retention practices and have them in place before recruitment happens, ensuring the pathway to participation and next steps is available to the participants.
Because all states are different in the details of R3 collaborations, the authors of this document felt it prudent to provide case studies for four states as appendices to provide visual representation of the different strategies that have proven successful for the respective states. All case studies provide a summary of the collaboration, structure, communication flow, and lessons learned.
Arizona Case Study
R3 Organizational Summary
Arizona’s R3 strategy began as an Arizona Game and Fish Department special team in 2005. It became immediately clear that one entity cannot provide the volume of opportunity necessary to achieve R3 success. In 2009 many stakeholders joined the call to action and created a steering committee to guide the effort. The collaboration established a common brand, the Outdoor Skills Network (OSN). Coordination is achieved through six steering committee meetings a year and biannual statewide meetings. Together the stakeholders agreed on event standards and best practices for all brand events to maintain consistent expectations for the public. Increased stakeholder collaboration in event hosting has decreased volunteer fatigue and increased the quality of events. Standardized pre and post event surveys have improved attendee satisfaction. With the Department funding an online event manager resource for stakeholders, the OSN has become a destination that is easily shared in Department regulations and across social media platforms to invite new participants. The OSN R3 approach has achieved year-round mentored activities, serving up to 1,500 participants annually and contributing to increased license sales.
The Arizona R3 plan evolved from the Hunter and shooting Sports Recruitment and Retention Team report published 2005 with the following objectives:
- Identify opportunities to expand hunter participation in AZ.
- Assess hunter perceptions on barriers to hunter participation.
- Evaluate the Department’s Hunter Ed program for effectiveness.
- Explore models that maximize hunting opportunities.
- Explore innovative approaches and world class event execution.
- Tie proposed models to Department key measure tracking.
With additional input from a selected steering committee, successful models continue to be refined and deliver high levels of customer and volunteer satisfaction.
The steering committee ensures that the program direction continues to be in alignment with the support of the stakeholder organizations. Members attend six meetings a year to develop Summit agendas, review best practices, and ensure programs are filling the needs of AZ residents based on emerging data.
Members are selected to maintain a balance of organizational profiles and serve for three-year terms.
The Arizona Game and Fish Department initiated statewide R3 Summits in 2009. Hosting two stakeholder meetings a year, featuring national speakers and best practices, these meetings created a stable platform to build the collaboration. Beginning in 2012, the Department initiated hosting Outdoor Recreation Business Summits twice a year. The initial goal of business summits was to reintroduce the North American Model of Conservation and how the excise taxes fund conservation to industry leadership. Through continued execution, the business summits quickly evolved into a community of support for marketing, advocacy, and expanded scale of R3 and conservation efforts. The objectives of both summit models evolve through the direct input of the partners who attend and present at these events. Hosting events as a community service builds an informed and activated constituency. It provides R3 partners better resources to approach industry sponsors, while educating the sponsors on the big picture of their donations.
- Broader field of input, no idea is a bad idea
- If brought together under one “Network,” ”Community,” or “Taskforce” marquis, provides opportunity for maximum exposure to all stakeholder brands
- If online event manager system is deployed for all stakeholder use, customers are exposed to greatest potential of year-round opportunities
- Online event manager also facilitates greatest possible customer data collection
- When true collaboration is achieved, larger events come together easily with partners sharing the challenge, achieving more complex events with greater diversity of activity
- Achieve the greatest possible diversity
- Achieves greatest possible scale
- Achieves greatest variety of experiences
- If minimum event standards are established, provides a consistent customer experience across all programs
- Broader field of input with wide range of stakeholder expertise, no idea is a bad idea.
- Can take long to build, is never finished
- First steps take the longest and require dedication
- Requires patience and persistence
- Requires external experts to assist in building cohesion and trust
- Requires full-time staff commitment on part of State Wildlife Agency
- Agency must schedule and host meetings at a regular cadence
- Must always tier coordination and training for stakeholders based on each organization’s sophistication
- Agency must maintain an unassuming coordination role
- Must work through traditional competition among brands
- Must be able to track multiple priority efforts being forwarded by stakeholders
- Must ensure no stakeholder benefits financially from the collaboration
- Must ensure all credit is directed to the collective brand
California Case Study
R3 Organizational Summary
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) R3 leadership structure includes an executive R3 Task Force, statewide R3 coordinator, and an R3 Team. The R3 coordinator acts as the liaison between entities. The Task Force provides oversight and support to the R3 coordinator. They help address any high-level departmental challenges that arise and act as a springboard to ensure multiple divisions and branches policies, procedures and visions are incorporated into R3 work. The R3 coordinator assumes the bulk of R3 strategic development and coordination across the state. This position acts as a catalyst for statewide change and forward thinking. The coordinator manages external stakeholder and internal department R3 relationships to establish mutually beneficial outcomes, identifies and intervenes on potentially negative impacts on hunting and fishing, and drives the R3 team to turn barriers to participation into opportunities. The R3 Team assists in implementing the strategic goals of R3 efforts across the state. This includes collaborating with R3 stakeholders on creating marketing and outreach campaigns, managing human dimensions and licensing data analysis, program creation and implementation, technology modernization, public access and engagement, and more.
The California R3 Action Plan summarizes the process that CDFW took with engaging diverse stakeholders through a 6-month subcommittee process to determine how to best to move forward with R3 priorities. From this work, CDFW published a statewide R3 Implementation Strategy. This strategy contains specific, time-bound, measurable goals for all California R3 stakeholders, including CDFW.
- Unlearning what we think we know is one of the most powerful tools in creating change (Remember to ask often: If we know the answers, why are we in the position we are in?)
- Securing agreement to leave personal agendas “at the door” in order to move forward with mutually beneficial outcomes for R3 participation is useful. Those who can’t are probably not well suited to drive statewide R3 work.
- Securing buy-in and trust by empowering stakeholders to participate and take ownership is important for success.
- Being rigid can be harmful to long term R3 goals. It’s okay and necessary to pilot different ideas, evaluate, make adjustments, and change course when needed.
- Sticking to the way a program is delivered “because we’ve always done it this way” often creates exclusive environments and/or irrelevant messaging to be perpetuated.
- It’s not only important to collect and analyze data on who is participating but also on who is not participating, if they’d like to, and why they aren’t so programs and services can be developed or modified accordingly
The R3 Team in California is made up of CDFW staff within the Office of Communications, Education and Outreach and the Human Dimensions Unit. However, this is not an accurate reflection of who is involved with R3 efforts across CDFW. Please refer to the figures in this document for a more thorough understanding of how California R3 engagement exists internally to CDFW. In addition to the R3 team, there are also non-R3 staff who, in collaboration with the R3 team, carry out specific R3 goals relevant to their specific branch/ division/region/program.
- When this team was initially formed, they were responsible for the initial efforts around securing stakeholder engagement, creating the action plan and implementation strategy for the department. However, once those things occurred, we quickly realized that this team was too narrowly focused and needed to be expanded to meet the needs laid out in the implementation strategy. As such, we are in the process of evaluating and reimagining the role of this team.
- CDFW is a large department and R3 goals span many branches and programs. As a result, there is a need to establish “R3 POC work groups.” These work groups include one or more points of contact (POC) from various divisions, branches, regions and/or programs that address key R3 topics and are formed as needed and work with the internal R3 team.
California did not hold an R3 summit to discuss R3 goals and objectives with stakeholders. Instead, we engaged in a rigorous 6-month process where 8 subcommittees, consisting of dozens of people, met bi-weekly to discuss specific R3 priorities. These subcommittees were made up of R3 stakeholders, both internal and external to CDFW, with rotating moderators. California intentionally created an inclusive space to participate, knowing that the level of R3 understanding, skill sets, and attitudes/beliefs would be extremely varied on each committee. This was to ensure that R3 efforts could identify varied perspectives, ethics, and to understand different relationships with how land and wildlife is used to hunt and fish. This also helped ensure that R3 goals would be mutually beneficial to all stakeholders involved before moving forward with a large public audience. For more information about this process, please see the California R3 Action Plan.
- Agency staff witnessed a huge positive shift in attitudes and behavior through the subcommittee process.
- Agency staff should have spent more time recruiting stakeholder groups to the process. As the effort grew in popularity, organizations were disappointed that they didn’t know about it and found it difficult to join once committees had been working together for some time.
- Communication is key! Managing many committees, who aren’t necessarily talking to each other, is difficult. A communications plan helped the R3 team maintain buy-in across subcommittees. This plan included two successful key components, 1) moderator meetings where committee moderators could check in with the R3 coordinator and with each other and, 2) a monthly subcommittee newsletter where subcommittees reported their work, the R3 team included CDFW progress on non-subcommittee R3 goals, and general R3 announcements and news was included.
- People who volunteer to moderate aren’t always skilled and sometimes volunteer to press their own agenda. Don’t be afraid to step in to reclaim the conversation if it’s not useful to mutually beneficial outcomes.
- It would have been helpful to have in person meetings to create community but because of how large California is, we conducted these meetings virtually.
- Burn out can occur with longer processes and it was helpful to be clear upfront about the time commitment. We had 95% of those involved in the process stay involved until the end.
Georgia Case Study
Summary of Georgia’s R3 Journey
The Georgia’s R3 Initiative (GRI) was founded through a cooperative agreement between Georgia Wildlife Federation (GWF), Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Division (GADNR), National Wild Turkey Federation (NWTF), Quality Deer Management Association (QDMA), and Safari Club International (SCI), all of which funded an R3-dedicated position in December of 2015. The objectives of the GRI are to 1) increase participation in hunting and shooting sports as they relate to hunting and 2) increase societal acceptance of and support for hunting and shooting sports. While there are five funding partners, the GRI encompasses all organizations with a vested interest in the objectives in Georgia. Since inception, the GRI has produced a strategic plan, broken down barriers between stakeholders to facilitate a cooperative approach, and piloted nontraditional strategies. The data-driven strategies taken by the GRI have resulted in increased license dollars from marketing efforts and legislative changes, pilot programs making national headlines, and a continuation of the upward trend in hunting participation in Georgia.
The Georgia Hunting Action Plan is the guiding document for the GRI and was formed by 1) restructuring the pertinent action items in the National Hunting and Shooting Sports Action Plan to make them applicable to Georgia, 2) conducting a literature review, program inventory, and workgroup meetings to identify Georgia-specific R3 needs, and 3) hosting the 2016 Georgia R3 Summit to solicit stakeholder input on the proposed action items. The Plan was updated in 2017 based on progress made and feedback from stakeholders.
Steering Committee and Position
The Steering Committee funds, supervises, and provides direction for the R3 Manager. The R3 Manager’s scope of work includes:
- Implementing and updating the plan by working with committees, individual partners, and through direct efforts from the position.
- Serving as the main point of contact and strategic conduit for stakeholders.
- Hosting an annual R3 Summit.
- Expanding tested programs and piloting new programs based on the best available data.
- Representing the GRI at state/national meetings.
- Publicizing and/or facilitate publication of GRI efforts through media outlets.
Georgia R3 Summits were hosted in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Each one had a different objective with the main theme of the summits being to provide a time to bring stakeholders together, update them on R3, and put them to work. The objectives of the summits have focused on plan development, committee formation, action implementation, and partnership development.
While the GRI has had involvement in many partner learn-to-hunt programs, several have been piloted directly under the GRI umbrella with two evolving out of the pilot stage, Field to Fork (targeting food-focused audiences) and Academics Afield (targeting college audiences). Both programs target non-traditional audiences and follow the evaluation/tracking guidelines outlined in the Georgia Hunting Action Plan.
Five-partner position hosted outside of the agency (GADNR):
- Literal buy-in ($) from partners reducing the organizational silo approach to R3.
- Flexibility to wear many hats, connect with multiple volunteer bases, and tap into more resources.
- Influence in more than one organization.
- Able to be flexible and adapt quickly.
- Provides a direct line of communication to agency leadership, while a similar position (mid-level) inside the agency might not.
- Furthers stakeholder engagement and spreads out the workload. Piloting programs under the R3 partnership:
Piloting programs under the R3 partnership:
- Ensures tracking and evaluation.
- Enables experimental programs that follow the data and target non-traditional audiences.
- Provides proof of concept and does not require compromising with existing programs.
Five-partner position hosted outside of the agency:
- Satisfying each organization (position justification, reporting requirements, branding, events, etc.) detracts from working toward the objectives.
- Drafting, agreeing upon, and finalizing agreements is a significant undertaking.
- Less influence in any one organization.
- Disconnected from the agency divisions and general operations.
- Lack of stability; the position is term limited.
- Possible to lose track of the objectives.
- Inconsistent meeting frequency.
Piloting programs under the R3 partnership:
- Requires significant resources and time.
- Can be challenging to shift from the pilot stage to the implementation stage.
Iowa Case Study
R3 Organizational Summary
The Iowa Department of Natural Resources (DNR) manages fish and wildlife programs, ensures the health of Iowa’s forests and prairies, provides recreational opportunities in Iowa’s state parks, and encourages the enjoyment and stewardship of natural resources. Iowa’s R3 Program is located within the Conservation and Recreation Division (CRD) of the DNR and the core team is comprised primarily of staff from the Law Enforcement and Fisheries Bureaus. This team coordinates R3 work among the agency and with its external stakeholders. The core team meets every 6-8 weeks to discuss needs and strategies related to R3 work across the state. Each core team member oversees a Task Force Subcommittee and leads work and discussions primarily via calls and emails on priorities related to access (land and water), shooting sports and ranges, marketing and communications, education and outreach, and research and evaluation. The entire task force meets annually to provide updates, collaborate, and set priorities for the following year. An annual R3 summit is held each year to provide R3 internal and external stakeholders with updates on progress, innovations, case studies, tools, and training on key topics of interest. It also provides a forum for discussion and collaboration among attendees.
- Took approximately a year to complete from start to finish.
- Gathered input from internal and external stakeholders through conducting a program inventory survey, hosting a statewide R3 workshop, and deploying a post-workshop survey. The information gathered through these efforts set the framework for the plan development.
- Based on the feedback received, content was broken into six topic areas: access (land, water, ranges), community outreach, mentoring, marketing, education, and technical (laws, licenses, research). Over a couple weeks, internal and external subject matter experts on these topics were brought in and conducted facilitated discussions and exercises with them to begin flushing out specific strategies and action items for the plan.
- After a review and comment period with the subject matter experts, the agency developed a small team of internal and external stakeholders to serve in the role as the Plan Development Workgroup. This group’s main responsibilities were to identify gaps, duplication of efforts, and begin prioritizing the strategies and actions identified.
- The agency’s core team then furthered refined the work that the Plan Development Workgroup did and began drafting the plan. During this time period one-on-one in person meetings were held with each CRD Bureau Chiefs for feedback. This was highly beneficial and a much needed step for internal buy-in.
- The finalized strategies and action items were sent out to internal and external stakeholders for one last review before the plan was completed.
- The final plan was then rolled out at our first Iowa R3 Summit where a facilitated discussion was conducted and small group exercises on what resources individual groups and organizations could bring to the table for implementation of various elements of the plan itself.
The Task Force
After a couple of years of collaborating statewide on R3 efforts, it became apparent that there was a need to pull together a team of both internal and external stakeholders to work on various aspects of R3 in Iowa on a more regular basis versus just once a year at our annual summit. Even though the agency would continue to remain the primary driving force behind statewide R3 efforts, there still was a need for fresh eyes, different perspectives, and outside experts in our various topic areas to bring continuity, scalability, and provide us with a broader more diverse reach.
The annual summit is still a viable tool in our toolbox in regard to generating interest, excitement, and sharing of ideas and resources but the task force has allowed for more successful execution of the efforts, thus providing deliverables and other direct outputs.
- Writing a statewide R3 plan is a journey. To achieve buy-in from both internal and external R3 stakeholders, the process to develop a plan will take weeks if not months. The process to develop the necessary buy-in will differ from state to state and the best approach to develop a plan, one with incorporated elements into an existing plan or the creation of a stand-alone plan, will also vary depending on the organization and its partners.
- Dedicate the time to achieve buy-in from both internal and external stakeholders. Garner support from as many stakeholders as you can, and then move forward. Some partners may take longer to support the effort, but they can join the organization’s R3 efforts when they are ready.
- Use the National Plan and other state/organizations R3 plans as reference tools. These resources can help to develop ideas and thoughts, but they should not dictate the complete actions for your organization.
- Learn from other’s successes and failures, and adapt those examples to work for your agency or organization.
- Ask for help. Use the resources available to avoid reinventing the wheel. We can all learn, grow, and adapt from each other.
- Be prepared for feedback – both good and bad. If stakeholders feel they have been heard and have contributed to the effort, they will be more supportive and willing to do what’s needed down the road.
- Make sure to step back and listen. Even R3 Coordinators have a lot to learn.
- Time is and always will be a challenge for everyone. Whether solely dedicated to R3 or multiple responsibilities, time will continue to be a huge determinant of the progress made. Prioritization will be a necessity!
- Communication is key, even when it feels as if it is falling on deaf ears. One primary agency or organization will do the heavy lifting for R3, but without other staff and partners it will be hard to build scalable efforts.
- Realize that a statewide plan and/or organizational structure won’t be perfect. Adaptive management will be imperative to all aspects of R3. Agencies and organizations will need to evolve and adapt over time, even after failures and changes are made.
- Maintain momentum as much as possible. A dedicated R3 coordinator is critical to maintain momentum, but an organization can and must still make progress without one. A team of professionals can tackle small tasks and demonstrate to stakeholders that progress is being made to maintain and then build support and buy-in.
- Utilizing facilitators not directly related to R3 was extremely beneficial to getting started. This approach allowed the Iowa Core R3 Team to listen during parts of the planning and organizational process and also allowed us to actively participate during meetings to represent the programs we are responsible for without it feeling like we were controlling or biasing the effort.