Knowing your audience

Introduction to stakeholder engagement

By 5 February 2014

In research, publications and other outputs are often seen as the end product. But for Think Tanks and organisations aiming to affect change in the world, an output is, at best, a means to an end. To give research ‘legs’, Think Tanks often create a package of outputs and activities that engage, and even involve, reach various audiences, or stakeholders throughout the process.

This guide provides an introduction to stakeholder engagement and outlines a number of tools that can be used to better understand who your stakeholders are.

Title: Introduction to Stakeholder Engagement Author: Institute of Development Studies Year: 2013

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This resource has been produced as part of the Think Tank Initiative’s Policy Engagement and Communications (PEC) programme. You can find all ongoing outputs related to this project via the PEC mini-site on Research to Action. To get updates from the PEC programme and be part of the discussion sign-up to our RSS or email updates. You can also follow our progress via Twitter using the following hashtag #ttipec.

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  • Cheryl Brown

    This is a nice summary of some useful tools, thanks.

    Another stakeholder analysis tool that I like to use is one developed by Peter Block looking at organisation politics and positions stakeholders in term of level of Trust and Agreement with you.
    It was developed to help leaders manage organisational change but I find it really useful for situations where someone is trying to influence other people when the only power they have is that of their relationships. So this could be useful for think tanks who are trying to influence stakeholders with whom they have some level of existing relationships (negative or positive).

    The Block matrix is explained nicely here with some advice on how to work with each group e.g. with Opponents (where there’s trust but disagreement) are people you can have a constructive discussion with because you already have an established relationship and may end up reviewing your viewpoint or reframing it.
    http://www.teamstarproject.org/pdf/Strategic%20Influence.pdf

    I also recommend doing a stakeholder analysis of stakeholders i.e. who has power/influence over your most important stakeholders. You will probably identify some people/groups that they are influenced by or whose interests they have to respond to and you can tailor your communication to respect this.

  • Andrew Clappison

    Hi Cheryl,

    Very interesting comment, thanks.

    Have you ever tried using Net-Map? A whole industry seems to have grown-up around this tool and yet it’s not very clear what this tool offers that’s unique…

    I’ve not come accross the work by Peter Block before and I will be sure to take a look at this – it sounds very useful, especially given the focus on existing relationships. What tool would you reccomend for “a stakeholder analysis of stakeholders”? It sometimes feels like a very difficult task understanding who has influence over your stakeholders, especially if you don’t reside within the same networks as them.

    Andrew

    • Cheryl Brown

      Hi Andrew,

      I haven’t used Net-Map. I’m more of a flipchart and marker girl to be honest! I’m just rediscovering Peter Block’s work actually. There’s a summary of his “six conversations” methodology for civic engagement here http://www.peterblock.com/_assets/downloads/Civic.pdf and there’s a lot of value I think in looking at conversation as the route for engagement.

      To do a stakeholder analysis of stakeholders…a few ways:
      1) use the same tools but a different starting point. So if I want to understand my most important stakeholders better e.g. those who fall into the High Interest, High Power quadrant, such as a program donor, then I’d do a stakeholder analysis for them – who has Power and Interest over them and what are those interests and powers. For example, if you learn that your donor needs to have a strong relationship with the voting public in that country and that they worry about tax-payers money being wasted, then you can respond to that when you communicate to your donor.

      2) Take a look at some marketing (yikes!) theory e.g. the Organisational Decision Making Unit which would suggest who your stakeholders might be influenced by. I’ve tried to find a development-friendly summary online but am stumped. However I do explain it on p.17 of an IDS publication
      ids.ac.uk/files/dmfile/WhoareweaimingtoreachCBrownJul2010.pdf

      3) Do some research – not necessarily field research. I think you make a good point about it being hard to know who/what influences your stakeholders. So especially for important stakeholders, we have to put the time in to doing some digging. Sounds like the topic for another blog post: “Stalking stakeholders: doing online research to understand your stakeholders’ needs and influencers”

  • Cheryl Brown

    Somehow I deleted my reply when I edited it. Here it is again:

    Hi Andrew,

    I haven’t used Net-Map. I’m more of a flipchart and marker girl to be honest!
    I’m just rediscovering Peter Block’s work actually. There’s a summary of his
    “six conversations” methodology for civic engagement here http://www.peterblock.com/_assets/downloads/Civic.pdf and
    there’s a lot of value I think in looking at conversation as the route for
    engagement.

    To do a stakeholder analysis of stakeholders…a few ways:
    1) use the same tools but a different starting point. So if I want to understand my most
    important stakeholders better e.g. those who fall into the High Interest, High
    Power quadrant, such as a program donor, then I’d do a stakeholder analysis for
    them – who has Power and Interest over them and what are those interests and
    powers. For example, if you learn that your donor needs to have a strong
    relationship with the voting public in that country and that they worry about
    tax-payers money being wasted, then you can respond to that when you communicate
    to your donor.

    2) Take a look at some marketing (yikes!) theory e.g. the Organisational
    Decision Making Unit which would suggest who your stakeholders might be
    influenced by. I’ve tried to find a development-friendly summary online but am
    stumped. However I do explain it on p.17 of an IDS publication
    ids.ac.uk/files/dmfile/WhoareweaimingtoreachCBrownJul2010.pdf

    3) Do some research – not necessarily field research. This should probably be no.1 if we’re looking at this in terms of importance. I think you make a good point about it being hard to know who/what influences your stakeholders. So, especially for important stakeholders, we have to put the time in to doing some digging. Sounds like the topic for another blog post: “Stalking stakeholders:
    doing online research to understand your stakeholders’ needs and
    influencers”, but I have had some experience of doing this.
    I expect you’d agree that it’s pretty essential to research your target audiences (using secondary research if you can’t stretch to asking them yourself) and I’d make the case for expanding this to take in other stakeholders given their potential influence on your programme’s success. Especially as sometimes, they’re in both camps e.g. donor and intended user.
    Depending on who the stakeholder is, you may find someone has done the work for you or they themselves have made their stakeholder analysis available (showing how has power and influence over them).

    4) IIED has a great “power tool” (part of a whole set that are all worth a look) on stakeholder influence mapping – I remember seeing the hand-drawn example one time and thinking it looked like a handy approach to mapping relationships and how they change over time.
    http://www.policy-powertools.org/Tools/Understanding/SIM.html

    • Andrew Clappison

      Hi Cheryl,

      There is so much valuble stuff here, much of which I
      did not know existed. Thanks for enlightening me! I have already printed
      some of this stuff out and have added it all to my ‘to read’ list.

      I
      like the idea of “Stalking stakeholders: doing online research to
      understand your stakeholders’ needs and influencers”… let me know if
      you get round to writing this, it would be a valuble contribution to
      R2A if you wanted to find a home for it!

      Andrew