Our Approach:
The Citizen Advocacy Pyramid

Overcoming community opposition and winning permits for commercial real estate projects requires citizen advocacy: identifying and mobilizing real people.

AdvocacyPyramidWebAs part of Saint Consulting’s political campaign approach to land use projects, we build community support using adaptive campaign plans built on a framework we call the Citizen Advocacy Pyramid. Our campaigns are a four-step process — designed to identify, engage, harness and mobilize vocal advocates to speak and act in favor of our client’s interests.

Canvassing door-to-door, by telephone and through social media enables us to identify and engage prospective supporters. To leverage their support as a bona fide community group, we bring them together to harness and mobilize them to become vocal advocates for our projects.

When we first reach out for community support, we find a wide range of people – from those who are unaware, all the way up to those who are already committed to support a project.

We call this the Citizen Advocacy Pyramid – everyone is somewhere along a Value and Quantity scale. The higher up the pyramid, the more valuable they are to one’s campaign; the wider the category, the more people are in that pool. Moving people up the scale from unaware to vocal support – as many as possible – is the key to overcoming community opposition. In this age of residents knowing that they can indeed fight developers, big companies, and even City Hall, this process is the only sure way one gets to ‘Yes.’

Where are the NIMBYs? Not in this pyramid. Trying to convert opponents is a waste of time and resources. While they cannot be ignored, a campaign is much better served focusing on people who can be converted into support.


With over 2,000 challenging projects since 1983, here are just a few of our favorites

Securing unanimous approval for two controversial five-story office buildings on a 22 acre site straddling two municipalities and requiring special-use permits.

Winning a controversial racehorse track expansion to include 4,000 slot machines, restaurants, a private club and a 15,000 car garage.

Winning a crucial “liquor by the drink” referendum on behalf of a client building a 1,000 acres mixed-use development and conference center after multiple previous attempts had failed.

Securing controversial air quality permits for a Midwestern power plant with a unanimous vote against entrenched opposition.

Securing a unanimous City Council vote approving a major expansion of a coal-fired waste to energy power plant in a residential neighborhood.

Providing a Fortune 100 retailer with competitive intelligence and strategic market monitoring that allowed us to stop more than 30 competitive threats in five states.

Winning approval by referendum to allow a controversial rail transit line that Honolulu officials had been trying to construct for over 40 years.

Winning a highly contentious battle for expansion of a facility for a large waste and recycling client against a politically connected competitor who wanted to open his own facility nearby.

Stopping a 200-bed hospital that threatened to cannibalize our client’s highly lucrative specialized care facility.

Won the insanely competitive Boston area casino license for Steve Wynn’s $1.7 billion resort.

Winning unanimous approval for a controversial 100-megawatt, 70 turbine wind farm project.

Secured the 1st permits for a new US oil refinery in over 30 years.

Winning approval for an 11-mile rail spur for a Midwest quarry site after four years of failed attempts by the client.

Winning approvals for expansion of a Washington, DC hotel against well-organized vehement neighborhood opposition.

Winning approval for a 130 acres shopping center and 120 housing units after annexation efforts ran into intense opposition.

Helping one of the nation’s largest home builders win approvals to rezone 1,600 acres and build 12,000 new homes.

Successfully stopping our retail client’s competitor from gaining approvals for a highly strategic site and then winning approvals for our client to build on that very same site.

Helping a Fortune 500 retailer expose a competitor who was behind multiple “community opposition efforts” and teaching their development team how to identify and thwart anti-competitive efforts.

Quickly rolling out a digital campaign for a sprawling multi-use transportation and shipping complex that resulted in massive grassroots support.

Conducting seminars for land agents working on a multi-state gas pipeline project teaching methods for generating local support and effectively dealing with community opposition.

Designing a social media program for a new NFL football stadium that identified and energized proponents, resulting in an unprecedented groundswell of support.

Protecting market share at over 500 locations over 20 years for one international retailer resulting in a documented savings well in excess of $1 Billion.