Stakeholder engagement: identifying relevant stakeholders

Purpose: To ascertain everyone who has a perspective or knowledge that may be useful to the research.

Description: Four different approaches to identifying stakeholders are extracted from Durham and colleagues (2014). It can be helpful to use one or more of them in any project.

In identifying stakeholders, it is important to be inclusive, at least initially, in identifying all those who “are affected by, who can influence, or may have an interest in the research.” As part of the identification process it is useful to consider:

  • “what they may be able to contribute to the project”
  • how they may “help define and refine the scope of the issues being considered”
  • whether they can help identify other stakeholders
  • whether those who may oppose the research or be potential sources of conflict have been adequately included
  • “what will motivate them to become involved (i.e. what they can gain from engaging).”

It is useful to review whether key stakeholders have been missed over the course of the project, especially if priorities change.

Approach 1. A useful set of questions (Durham et al., 2014: 40):

  • Who is responsible for making decisions that might affect the research?
  • Are there policies emerging or in existence that will benefit from or be affected by the research? If so who needs to be informed?
  • Which individuals are likely to be affected by the outputs of the research? Who, although not directly affected, may be interested in the results of the research?
  • Are there stakeholders that have been involved in similar projects on previous occasions?
  • Which groups or individuals may be able to provide relevant information, equipment or resources?
  • Who is likely to have a negative view of the research?
  • Which stakeholders is it essential to involve? Who is it preferable to involve? Who needs to be consulted? Who needs to be informed?
  • Which parties are likely to be the most influential?
  • Who will be critical to the final delivery?

Approach 2. Brainstorming, snowball accumulation and self-selection:

  • Brainstorming with other members of the research team, other colleagues, stakeholders who have already been identified and others who have worked on similar problems in similar locations can identify relevant stakeholders.
  • Snowball accumulation – an iterative process with stakeholders, akin to snowball sampling – can also be helpful. In this case, as new stakeholders are identified, they are asked who else should be involved, and this process proceeds until no new stakeholders are identified.
  • Self-selection following promotion of the research and the engagement process can be used to encourage relevant stakeholders to nominate themselves.

Approach 3. Identifying likely stakeholder categories in advance and using them as a checklist.
Categories may include:

  • government departments, politicians, policy makers and advisers (local, national, international)
  • other national or international policy makers or policy groups (e.g. peak bodies and agencies)
  • non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
  • business and industry
  • local communities
  • landowners and managers
  • professional groups, such as nurses, surveyors, police, veterinarians
  • the media
  • the general public.

It can also be helpful to tabulate information on such stakeholders, as shown in the example below from Durham et al. (2014: 39). Describing what the identified stakeholders would contribute to the project and why they might wish to become involved can also spark ideas about other relevant stakeholders.


Approach 4. Developing a mind-map.

An environmental example taken from Durham et al. (2014: 45) is shown below. It involves identifying the major groups of stakeholders, who are placed at the centre of the map, and then progressing outwards by adding greater detail.


Next steps

The processes described here can potentially identify a large number of stakeholders, often more than can be included in the research given available resources. In such cases further analysis is required to identify who may be most important to include and this is dealt with under “Stakeholder analysis” on this website (see also below). 


Related tools on this website:

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Related tools on Wikipedia:

Posted: June 2020
Last modified: June 2020