International Waters learning Exchange & Resource Network

4.3 - Stakeholders - Identification & Engagement

Introduction to Stakeholder Engagement

Mary Matthews, UNDP-GEF Kura-Aras River Basin Project, provides an introduction to the topic of stakeholder engagement in the implementation of GEF International waters projects.

GEF IW project experiences on stakeholder involvement are available here.

Stakeholders are any party who may – directly or indirectly, positively or negatively – affect or be affected by the outcomes of projects or programs.

Participation can be defined as the process through which people with an interest (stakeholders) influence and share control over development initiatives and the decisions and resources that affect them.

In practice this involves employing measures to:

  • Identify relevant stakeholders;
  • Share information with them;
  • Listen to their views;
  • Involve them in processes of development planning and decision-making;
  • Contribute to their capacity-building; and
  • Empower them to initiate, manage and control their own self-development.

Who are stakeholders what is the difference between a stakeholder and the Public?

  • A stakeholder is someone who is interested party based on their social professional or academic interests.
  • The public is a wider range everyone is a member of the public they are the wide range of people both impacting and impacted by water management issues.

Stakeholder categories can be broken down into competent authorities who are professionals dealing with water management and have the authority to deal with water management issues. It's important in integrated water resource management and integrating coastal zone management to look at all of the different bodies who are competent authorities dealing with water management issues this can include ministries of economics, trade, environment, water and irrigation, fisheries, natural resources, health, transportation, regional development, and foreign affairs. All of these ministries need to be involved as stakeholders in the transboundary water management. Large marine ecosystems and regional seas stakeholders who are competent authorities may also include Port Authority, fisheries management agencies, environment agencies, and international commissions, and other organizations who have the authority to manage and oversee these bodies of water. Other stakeholders include civil society representatives, academics and researchers, impacted stakeholders, businesses, farmers, fishermen, water user associations, agricultural interests and even the environment can be considered a stakeholder.

Stakeholder involvement and public awareness are both very important factors and successful transboundary water management high-level of stakeholder involvement are critical for ownership of the project outcomes and of the long-term management for the project.

Involving stakeholders very early in the project process is critical to making sure you're meeting the needs of the client your service. Involving stakeholders early on in project implementation can be done through a stakeholder analysis. Stakeholder analysis involves systematically asking people the key stakeholders what their interest are, what their needs are, and understanding their perceptions about the issues your project is addressing. A trained social scientist is very helpful and developing your methodology for this.

Remember when you were doing your team is stakeholder analysis you want to be impartial you want an analysis that reflects what the stakeholders want not the answer that the person giving the survey expects. This is one reason it is important to be very careful if you are using NGOs in survey administration

Remember when you were giving your survey you were doing stakeholder involvement the question should be asked in a respectful manner at all times. Often the people you interview for your stakeholder analysis will be many of the same people you will want to work with in the future keep that in mind when meeting them and working with them. More information on stakeholder analysis is available in the TDA/SAP Manual.

Stakeholder involvement after the stakeholder analysis

Once you have an idea of your stakeholders are, what levels of authority they have, and what their interests are you can map their interests out for your own review. This can help you to define where there are conflicts of interest between stakeholder groups that you must address in the stakeholder involvement process. This mapping information may not be best presented to the wider audience but will be useful for forming your stakeholder engagement plan, and mapping your progress on the project.

There are three main levels of stakeholder engagement:

  • The most basic level is information you provide to the stakeholders to tell them about what the project is doing. This is unidirectional and a very minimum requirement.
  • The next level is consultation with stakeholders. This is you when you and your staff meet with stakeholders to tell them about what you were doing and take their feedback for consideration into project processes.
  • The highest level is full engagement. In full engagement the stakeholders are actively involved in developing the project and the rules for implementation, full engagement of stakeholders is ideal stakeholder involvement

Informing stakeholders can be done through newsletters, emails, web pages, social media and other media outlets. Be sensitive to what media outlets and in which languages your information is presented. You want to give clear concise and meaningful information to your stakeholders about what you were doing. When informing stakeholders avoid technical jargon. Instead relate what's important to them and why they should be interested.

Also provide them with information on how they can become more involved. This links closely to public awareness and can be used this way as well if wider audiences are addressed.

For the next level of stakeholder involvement you can hold meetings, meet some stakeholders one-on-one, or have forums where they can come and discuss the issues with you. Stakeholder involvement at this level requires an active effort that is worth pursuing for your project because it helps stakeholders to understand what you are doing, and more importantly it is an opportunity for you to learn from them.

An example of this is an NGO forum where NGOs are brought together from different countries and different focal area. The objective of an NGO forum can be for the NGOs provide feedback on your project as well as suggestions for how to improve aspects of it. An NGO forum enables civil society members from different countries and with different focuses to meet one another to address common themes. For example biodiversity and water management themed NGO forums or an NGO forum on water and public health can increase linkages between stakeholders and strengthen your project. When working with NGOs you must:

  • Be very careful to manage the expectations of the NGOs regarding their involvement in the project.
  • Be sensitive to the relationship between the NGOs and the competent authorities that can sometimes be tricky and warrants your attention.
  • Be aware of the difference between an NGO that functions as a nongovernmental body and NGOs the function as consulting organizations and civil society at the same time

Also be aware of stakeholder impressions of the NGOs and other NGOs impressions of one another that can impact dynamics for civil society involvement.  There's often for capture by a few very strongly self promoting NGOs of civil society that is not truly reflective, so be sensitive to this and work with several rather than just one, if possible.  In areas with more advanced or develop civil society involvement an NGO forum can play a critical role in helping to develop and implement project activities including NGO Forum representatives serving as observers or members of the project steering committee.

A stakeholder advisory group is often a very useful tool for project manager For full stakeholder engagement in the project process it is important to be selective and yet open with the stakeholders you were working with. Be sensitive to the inter-ministerial tensions as well as the stakeholders personal level of authority and responsibility. A stakeholder advisory group can provide input and increase ownership of the project processes. For the stakeholder advisory group work with your focal point to select people from various ministries who can provide an active input into your project.

You want people who have a firm knowledge base as well as a high-level of interest. Ideally you want current of future decision makers. The higher level they are the better, however higher-level decision-makers are often very short of time. Often these people can identify someone below them who has great potential to work on their behalf.

Combine this with experts from your project who are also very knowledgeable about the integrated issues you're facing. When recruiting for your stakeholder advisory group be sure that the authority above them acknowledges and agrees to their participation.

For stakeholder involvement and a stakeholder advisory group have clear objectives of what you need to accomplish working with them. Stakeholder advisory group can be critical to the formation of your national action plan and your strategic action Program. Having their involvement will make a much stronger project that will much be more likely to be owned by the countries. It will also serve to help in the planning process for stakeholders to be involved because you will be building their capacity for planning actions and involvement.

Having stakeholders involved in all levels of your project is critical to the success and long-term sustainability of your project because it is not your project your are managing, it should be theirs.

Public awareness

Public awareness involves educating the public about an issue about why it is important to them and how they can take steps to address it.

A social Marketing campaign can present information clearly quickly and often with humor is empowering to the public and stakeholders. There are some good examples of social marketing campaigns and international waters. This includes the South Pacific islands the Black Sea and others. FAO has a food and water use program has an excellent social media campaign. It is important to avoid making judgments or being preachy in a social marketing campaign and public awareness raising.

Other very useful aspects for public awareness raising include short films and documentaries these can be made by local people and edited with support of a trained professional.

Educating the public is a very important aspect of public awareness. Educating the public about your project and about the various aspects of your project can be a challenge. It is worthwhile to hire a professional stakeholder involvement expert and public awareness expert who can help to teach the public about what your project is doing. One popular to teach the public is to focus on children who will learn about various issues within school curriculum and then share that with their parents. In many countries there is a new life for environmental education and they are eager to have curriculum materials and information. You must be sure that the curriculum you develop is not just taken from somewhere else, but is adjusted to suit specific issues with specific needs and the cultural sensitivities of the countries in which you were working.

Also whenever possible you must make it interactive to let the kids get their hands dirty. Children learn best by doing do allow them to learn by sampling and by exploring. Help them learn in a way that is something they will remember and enjoy. Children are naturally curious. This can be very helpful, if materials are well presented and provided.

When educating the public, make it relevant to them. For example if you're interested in water quality and have children helping with biomonitoring help them understand how the macro invertebrates in the water and the health of those communities also impacts the health of their own community. Teach them the linkages so that they can teach their parents.

When possible link with other projects in your area that are focusing on education curriculum development, public-health, gender, socioeconomic development and other issues that are directly related to your topic. This will build important linkages for your project, and help distribute the increased understanding of the issues that is critical for good public involvement.

Further information can be found at:$FILE/PartOne_StakeholderConsultation.pdf