What is a stakeholder?
A stakeholder is a person or organisation who has something to gain or lose as a result of the outcomes of a project, programme or process. (Hovland, Ingie ‘Successful Communication: A Toolkit for Researchers and Civil Society Organisations’, p.8, 2005).
It is vital to discover who all the stakeholders are during your project prepartion phase.
What is stakeholder analysis?
Stakeholder analysis (SA) identifies each stakeholder, describes their needs or desires with respect to the project and whether they are a primary (key, directly involved) or secondary stakeholder, and analyses how much interest in and influence over the project outcomes they have. Once you understand the needs and concerns of the stakeholders you can manage their expectations, ensure that they are all constructively involved in contributing to the project outcome, and you can plan how to deal with stakeholders who do not share the project’s aspirations. You need to use your SA to plan both your research and your communications strategy. Once you have begun to implement your project you need to regularly return to your SA and review it, too see that each stakeholder is being involved in an appropriate way.
The most common tool for SA is to create a matrix, such as an Alignment, Interest and Influence Matrix (AIIM). In an ideal world all your stakeholders would be aligned with your aims and very interested in the outcomes. Once you have placed each stakeholder on the matrix according to their current alignment and level of interest, you can plan how to move them to a position where they are both highly aligned and highly interested in making your outcomes happen. Your resources will not be infinite, however, so you can also see clearly which stakeholders are most influential in helping make your project work and/or bringing others along with them, and you can focus your resources on them. This RAPID briefing note has a good description of AIIM.
Why is stakeholder analysis useful?
SA should be carried out at each stage of your project, so that you can continually assess and track each stakeholder’s position. Are you keeping involved all the people and organisations who are key to your project? Are you dealing with potential problems? Does everyone know what is going on, with no one left in the dark? The more involved your key stakeholders are, the more likely the outcome is to be appropriate and sustainable.
This post by Ronda Levine on Brighthub gives some valuable links to different examples of SA, and some useful templates to set you on your way.