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The challenge of consulting many – stakeholder identification

Here in the UK we’re often baffled by the low response rate of our public consultations when even the most controversial ones only attract a minor response rate. Is this because our potential consultees are just not interested in relocating a maternity ward, the closure of their local library or building a waste plant? Or could it be that our stakeholder mapping and engagement methods have been insufficient? In most cases it is a mixture of the two and it is, therefore, important to start early and to identify where and how to deploy your resources.

A case in point, the European Commission is responsible for drafting European-wide regulations that may affect more than 500 million people, businesses and representative organisations. The challenge they face is how to reach these 500 million potential consultees. Their solution is to go digital! It’s impossible to organise focus groups and public meetings in all 28 Member States on, for instance, the “revision of Regulation (EU) No 443/2009 and Regulation (EU) No 510/2011 setting CO2 emission performance standards for light duty vehicles”, so they choose to make use of surveys & questionnaires. The problem with digital by default is that you’re excluding lots of potential stakeholders who don’t have an online presence or prefer to speak to a Council Officer, Health Commissioner or project developer in person.

But there are other ways! You might not be able to engage with every single (potential) stakeholder due to limited resources and time, but engaging with some of your KEY stakeholders will give you a good understanding of how they see the issues.

How easy is it though to identify the ones with a high influence/high interest ratio? One way of doing this is to use the following identification criteria:

  • Extent of influence
  • Extent of stake/interest
  • Historic participation
  • Value of contribution
  • Convenience

Another exercise that will be of great help in identifying your key stakeholders, and which features in the Making Consultation Meaningful training course, is the ‘Six Tests’ exercise:

Test 1: Who is directly impacted by this decision?

Test 2: Who is indirectly impacted?

Test 3:  Who is potentially impacted?

Test 4: Whose help is needed to make the decision work?

Test 5: Who knows about the subject?

Test 6: Who will have an interest in the subject?

Using the above mentioned criteria, you will be able to make a reasonable judgment as to which stakeholders will be your top priority, those who you need to manage with care, those who are a low priority, and those who need help in engaging with you.

About the Author

Remmert worked as the Institute’s Policy & Communications Manager and has a BA in Law and an MA in European Policy from the University of Amsterdam. He is well versed in open policy-making and distilling evidence based recommendations into policy actions. Remmert is an expert on the United Nation’s Aarhus Convention for which he has developed a unique risk-assessment tool and is currently involved in a European Union funded project to explore how e-participation can foster young people’s empowerment and active participation in democratic life.

Read more about Remmert

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