Stakeholder engagement: defining the extent of the engagement

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Purpose: To decide on the extent of the stakeholder engagement to be undertaken, taking into account relevant contextual factors.

Description: What is meant by the extent of the engagement is outlined first, followed by issues to consider in deciding the extent. Context is one of these issues and is described in a separate section.

Extent of stakeholder engagement

The extent of stakeholder engagement:

  • “determines where the boundaries of engagement lie”
  • assists in “defining achievable outcomes from engagement activities”
  • considers what the objectives can realistically achieve, what impact stakeholder engagement may have, and whether it will contribute anything to the project aims
  • helps “identify stakeholders who might wish to become involved”
  • ascertains “whether adequate resources are available to carry out engagement”
  • assesses risks associated with undertaking engagement to ensure that they are managed effectively (Durham et al. 2014, p. 28).

“Important points to consider when defining the extent of stakeholder engagement activities:

  • What can the engagement realistically achieve in the time available?
  • What are the limitations and how can these be clearly set?
  • How are stakeholders to be involved - are they to be kept informed throughout the project lifecycle ... asked for their opinions, or involved fully in the decision making process? What impact will this have on the scope of planned activities?
  • What types of information will need to be gathered (quantitative versus qualitative) and how will this be collected and over what timescale?
  • What additional resources might be required to facilitate effective engagement (staff training, external contractors, and trans-disciplinary collaboration)? What will be the cost of engaging (both financial and other resources [e.g. staff time, cost of external contractors, and cost of training for staff])?
  • What are the potential risks associated with stakeholder engagement activities at a particular scale? How are these best addressed?
  • How are the outcomes of the engagement going to be implemented? How and when will the outcomes be communicated back to the stakeholders?
  • How will the success of the engagement be measured?" (Durham et al. 2014, p. 28).

A note on resources: “Considering the potential cost and time requirement of engaging early on in project lifecycle will ensure sufficient funds can be made available to enable engagement activities to be comprehensive, fit-for-purpose, and beneficial to all parties involved" (Durham et al. 2014, p. 28).

Taking context into account

“Every research project is unique and is shaped by the issues under consideration, the people involved, the prehistory of the work, and relevant wider decision-making processes, amongst other factors. These issues may affect what can, and cannot, be done within the engagement process and are likely to dictate which activities it will be appropriate to adopt. Understanding the context also helps to ensure that the engagement process builds upon previous experience and incorporates lessons learnt, rather than simply duplicating previous efforts. Defining context also makes certain that the engagement is of relevance to the potential stakeholders" (Durham et al. 2014, p. 28).

“Important points when considering the background and context for engagement activities:

  • What similar projects have been undertaken previously?
  • How successful were the projects and what were the key elements in achieving or failing the objectives?
  • What stakeholders, or stakeholder groups, have been engaged in the past?
  • What is the historical context to the project?
  • What wider decision-making processes that may affect the project need to be considered?
  • Do existing networks exist, and, if so, how can these be utilised?
  • What is the relationship status with stakeholders or potential stakeholders?
  • Are there any relevant activities, events or communication channels that could be used to engage with stakeholders?" (Durham et al. 2014, p. 29.)


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Posted: June 2020
Last modified: June 2020