Step 3: Assess Stakeholders’ Interests, Priorities, and Communications Needs, Through Mental Models Research
With a full expert characterization of the situation, both the technical and social aspects, we proceeded to Step 3 of the Process: conducting purposeful and empirical research with target stakeholders to identify their interests, priorities, and information needs. With this insight, the Team was able to determine where its (as biosolids professionals) interests and priorities were aligned with those of its stakeholders and where there were gaps. Reinforcing the alignments and closing the gaps would form the basis for the Team’s risk communications plans and materials in Step 4.
Empirical research, following the Mental Models approach, was conducted in both case studies. The objectives of this research were to: (a) elicit the values, priorities, interests, and informational needs related to biosolids land application of these key stakeholders in two geographic areas—Oklahoma and Virginia; (b) support development of risk communications tools and core messages that could be adapted by biosolids professionals; and (c) use the results of the case studies to develop prototypical communications materials.