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Stakeholder Analysis

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Stakeholder analysis is helpful for citizen advocacy campaigns or governments interested in reform or changes.  This allows the advocates or change-makers to identify whether the stakeholders are allies, neutral, or opponents. Strategic thinking includes identifying decision-makers and those who influence the decision-makers and identifying potential allied groups, individuals, potential opponents, obstacles, or competing interests.

This is often done first by mapping organizational stakeholders interested in the topic to:

  • Identify their interest in the subject—this usually means looking through websites, social media, or public statements
  • What have they said about the issue or similar issues
  • Identify their strengths in terms of money, people, influence
  • Identify their power with decision-makers, media, government, or the population

Once the list is complete, a small delegation should meet leaders to present the issue and gauge their leadership’s priorities, concerns, and interests.  In some countries like Kyrgyzstan, roundtable stakeholder events are popular to hear concerns about a potential policy before it is introduced.  Advocates and reformers meet individually in other countries to listen to their concerns privately.

If analysis and meetings are done before you begin, this eliminates problems or surprises later.  How many times have people started a youth program in a neighborhood by looking for a site instead of first talking to the Ministry of Youth (a potential decision-maker), coordinating with the other neighborhood youth program (a potential competing interest), and mobilizing its friends in the community (allies)?

Allied Organizations and Individuals

Targeting allies means using the organization’s time, money, and people to mobilize those most likely to get involved.  A lot of time and energy is wasted meeting with everyone instead of focusing on identifying people who are interested in the issue or project and will do serious work.

Although people outside the targeted allies group may be willing to help, focusing on those most interested in the issue or project is still useful.  A good test asks if the allied group is ready to endorse the issue or project publicly.  If yes, they are more likely to be serious volunteers than those who say no.

The list of what to ask organizations is endless, but ask them for some of the following:

  • Endorsement, use of their organization’s name as a supporter
  • Make a social media, newsletter, website
  • Education of their membership through a workshop or speech
  • Mobilizing their membership for meetings, petitions, social media
  • Support to influence decision makers—attend a meeting
  • Mobilize other potential allied groups and individuals through meetings or outreach
  • Neutralize opponents or competing interests—particularly if they have a relationship
  • Voluntary help on the project
  • Help with administration and office work
  • Help with research
  • Serve on committees, or recruit interested members to be on committees

Sometimes it is difficult to find a targeted group of people who will become allies because no NGOs or formal organizations are affiliated with that group.  For more significant issues, there is social media and targeting through existing groups or networks based on what people identify and like. 

For community-based concerns, tactics to reach individual people involve much more street activity or targeted communications.  The idea is to identify these allied individuals, get their names for future activities, and immediately attempt to get them involved with your group.  How to reach people in the neighborhood?  Knock on everyone’s door, explain the issue, and ask for their involvement.  How to reach senior citizens with health problems?  Posters in pharmacies. 

Tactics to reach groups and allies are many.  But targeting specific people by putting names or locations would be best.  There is no “mobilizing” youth without saying how this will be done.

Neutralizing Opponents

Opponents are those organizations or interests that may want to stop or slow down your efforts.  Often it is difficult to identify the opposition because their goals may not seem confrontational or competitive. Who could be against building the road?  Think not only of opponents but also of competing interests.  Does some other neighborhood want their road fixed first? Will the people who live on the road be in favor of or against getting the road fixed if, for example, it means increased traffic?  Is there a group in town who wants something else fixed, and you are competing with their priorities within the municipality?

Think of everyone who may be an opponent or competition.  Even if the opponents or competing interests aren’t organized against you now, they may slow down the effort by complaining to decision-makers.  Anticipating who they are, what they may do, and their influence on the decision-makers are all-important strategic considerations.

Meet Potential Opponents

Sometimes your organization can neutralize opponents and competing interests by meeting with them.  It may be helpful to meet the competing interests, identify their concerns, and work on a mutually agreeable solution. A group of women was interested in opening a kindergarten, but another was already operating a kindergarten.  They asked for a meeting because they preferred to have the existing kindergarten become an ally and not a competing interest.  They reasoned that since there were enough children for two kindergartens, they wouldn’t need to compete in enrolling children. They discussed that, if necessary, they would take a younger age group than the existing kindergarten.

Sometimes the organization or its allies can meet with potential opponents and request that they not become an active opponent of a project or issue.  The opponents may still dislike the problem or the project but will not work actively against it. This sometimes happens if the opponent sees many allies and prefers to avoid going against an issue or project that shares a broad base of support from the people.

There are only so many tactics devoted to opponents other than meeting with them and possibly coming up with mutually agreeable solutions.  This is because some opponents or competing interests cannot be influenced, and little time should be spent on these people. The advocate or reformer spends time, energy, and money working on decision-makers and allies that influence them.