Identifying your stakeholders

Understanding the needs, perceptions and experience of stakeholders should lie at the heart of the local economic assessment (LEA) testing process. It is highly likely that shifts in policies, structures and governance will result in the stakeholder community for the LEA expanding and changing over time.

You need to devise a framework that will enable you to compare and contrast the views, experiences and added value of the LEA over a range of stakeholders at both local and regional levels.

Identifying your stakeholders

Organising an early brainstorming session with the LEA team to identify stakeholders is an effective means of capturing the full range of likely stakeholders. This should be added to as discussions take place with different internal departments and external interests. The stakeholder mapping tool developed for this purpose can be found here.

Remember that different stakeholders can perceive the same issue in quite different ways depending on their vested interests, their priorities at the time and their experiences of the organisation or people leading the work. The concerns and objectives of different stakeholders and stakeholder groups are sometimes in conflict.

Segmenting your stakeholders

You should consider developing a simple set of criteria in order to help prioritise which stakeholders should be allocated time and effort to build or maintain strong relationships.

All the stakeholders could be given a score of 1 to 3 - 3 being the highest score, 1 being the lowest - according to an assessment of the following three attributes:

  • Power - the extent to which the stakeholder has direct or indirect influence in the assessment arena: through political networks, membership of bodies or the size and nature of the mandate that supports their activities, powerful stakeholders are able to exert strategic pressure effectively, often for their own gain.
  • Legitimacy - the strength of the mandate supporting the activities of the stakeholder in question: determined by the size and breadth of the organisation's membership, electoral support - where relevant - budget and or geographical reach.
  • Alignment - the extent to which each stakeholder's objectives and activities are strategically consistent with those of the LEA's purpose and scope.

Comparing results using these variables at the local level helps you examine views and findings from different perspectives, to weigh and compare feedback, now and in the future.

Understanding your stakeholders

In order to manage stakeholders effectively it is important to understand the needs and interests of each, including:

  • their goals
  • past reactions
  • expected behaviour
  • the likely impact the LEA will have on them - positive or negative
  • their likely reaction
  • the extent of buy-in and level of support.

Consulting your stakeholders

No one method will work for all given circumstances. However, knowing the people you want to consult with will help you decide which method or methods will work best in your situation, as will the resources and timescales available to you.

At an early stage consideration should be given to how the assessment will be consulted upon. For example, if there is to be a public consultation, you will need to publish the LEA in a format that is accessible for the web and in paper format.

To ensure you get a broad spectrum of feedback your consultation strategy will need to include a variety of reactive and proactive methods. Reactive methods would include making the LEA available on the web and in paper form and outlining a common set of questions you would like feedback on within a specified time period. Proactive consultation methods would include face-to-face and or telephone interviews, focus groups, roadshows, summits and so on. These can be used to reach out to important and or under-represented interests, for example, senior business personnel and lone parents.

Any consultation needs clarity on the parameters of the consultation, that is, what is within the scope of consultation and may be changed as a result and what is not. To have credibility and value the consultation should seek feedback on the relevance, accuracy, and comprehensiveness of the LEA.

As part of the consultation you may want to ask a few partners - with differing perspectives and different learning styles - to ‘pilot' the draft assessment. You could ask them to consider how they would use the assessment in their own areas of work. Taking note of their responses will ensure a better finished product. Similarly use other groups to test the final report. In both cases asking them to give you honest feedback is essential.

 

3 May 2012

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