Stakeholder participation: IAP2 public participation spectrum

Purpose:

  • To describe different ways stakeholder engagement can occur
  • To assist in the selection of the appropriate level of stakeholder participation depending on the particular circumstances
  • To specifically examine stakeholder engagement in a research context.

Description: The International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) has developed a spectrum for public participation, specifically for government decision making. The spectrum can be easily adapted for other contexts and a modified version has been produced for a research context.

The original spectrum, illustrated in the first figure below, describes five levels of participation: inform, consult, involve, collaborate and empower. The main point is that “differing levels of participation are legitimate and depend on the goals, time frames, resources, and levels of concern in the decision to be made.” In addition, the Spectrum sets out the “promise to the public” for each type of participation.

IAP2 Public Participation Spectrum

(Copyright: IAP2 International Federation, 2014 – written permission obtained from IAP2)

 
The research-relevant modified IAP2 spectrum (Bammer, 2019), illustrated in the figure below (in green) maintains the key aspects of the original notably:

  • the five types of engagement: inform, consult, involve, collaborate, empower
  • the idea that ‘differing levels of participation are legitimate and depend on the goals, time frames, resources, and levels of concern’ in the research to be undertaken
  • the ‘promise’ to the stakeholder group for each type of participation.

Research-relevant modified IAP2 spectrum (Bammer, 2019).

Research-relevant modified IAP2 spectrum (Bammer, 2019). This spectrum for stakeholder participation in research is adapted from the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) spectrum of public participation in decision making

 
Apart from changing the wording to be specifically relevant for research, one modification has been made so that the spectrum works for research on complex problems. In the stakeholder participation goal for “collaboration”, “each” is replaced with “salient” as in “Researchers partner with stakeholders for salient aspects of the research process”. While full collaboration may be possible on a straightforward research question (with, for example, few stakeholder groups and one simple form of data collection), it is unlikely that any stakeholder groups will be able (or even want) to contribute meaningfully to each aspect of the research on a complex problem.

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Posted: October 2017
Last modified: September 2019