Stakeholder Participation


The course is aimed at both those conducting stakeholder participation processes, and at stakeholders themselves. It aims to build an awareness of the process and its various dimensions: for project proponents or participation practitioners to better understand how to engage stakeholders; and for stakeholders to learn how they can play a more active role in the processes that govern their future.

Project Proponent/Government
  • regional councils
  • local constituency offices
  • municipalities
  • projects/programmes
  • private sector

Specific Objectives

  • Sensitize to the process, why it is necessary, and its potential benefits
  • Become aware of different aspects of the communication process – e.g.
  • "levels" of SP involvement, from awareness to participation
  • stakeholders’ role in defining participatory process
  • create awareness of issues of discrimination, inclusivity, bias
  • awareness of legal aspects, existing frameworks
  • To propose a few techniques, when they are appropriate:
  • basic mapping of stakeholders and their interests
  • setting communication objectives/planning
  • selection of appropriate communication techniques
  • Community Based Organisations (CBOs)
  • Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs)
  • Community members

Specific Objectives

  • Sensitize to the process
  • Educate stakeholder groups on their “rights”:
  • What they can expect to gain from participating
  • What are their rights, what can/should they expect to be consulted
  • Create an understanding of the process to be able to play a stronger role in defining their own opportunities to participate
  • Explore how stakeholders can organize themselves to have stronger voice/ representation? What structures may be appropriate?

The course is packaged into a number of modules, each of which can be flexibly tailored to audience and time limitations—in some cases modules may be entirely omitted.
Each module has a brief introduction to key ideas supported by open discussion in order to share experiences. This is followed by practical group exercises to build on the concepts learned and expose the complexities that arise when theory is taken to practice. The exercises are based on a fictional scenario which is built upon from one step to the next.

The idea for this course grew from a IW:Learn/ Environmental Law Institute course on Public Participation in International Waters Management. Based on a number of sources, this course attempts to present key concepts by collating essential references as supporting material. All sources are acknowledged in the reference list for each module.

General material

Course Overview

Who is a stakeholder, why is stakeholder participation important, audience and objectives, format, course material, how the course works and further reading.

Scenario for working sessions

Description of a scenario that will be used in working sessions throughout the course. The participant will have to choose 2 of the 3 scenarios available.

Material for each module

Slide Presentation

Summarised key concepts and questions for discussion.

Module Overview

Brief guidance on key concepts and outcomes and supporting material.

Presenter Notes

Collation of essential references covering the key concepts.

Case Studies

Examples of stakeholder participation processes that helps the participant to broaden his/her knowledge in a diversity of aspects around the globe. The case studies will give the participants a chance to apply the knowledge acquired through the modules.

General Course Content

The documents in this section are meant for usage throughout the duration of the course. Here you will find an overview of the course modules and its key contents, materials for further reading and the scenario for use during working sessions of the course.

Module 1: Introduction to Stakeholder Participation

Key Concepts and Outcomes
Module 1 introduces key concepts surrounding stakeholder participation (SP) processes. It sets the background for what SP processes might entail in terms of stakeholder identification, purpose for participation, and degrees of engagement—issues that will be discussed in further detail in following modules. Key concepts discussed include:

  • Who are the stakeholders? Participants should become familiar with the different types of stakeholder participation and realise that we have all been part of some form of stakeholder participation process at some stage—at least by voting. Participants will formulate a definition of stakeholder based on their own experiences of participation processes.
  • Levels of engagement Participants will become familiar with the spectrum of SP approaches, and understand that they vary from simply informing or protesting (one-way communication flow) to actually participating in decisions (two-way communication flow).
  • Participation as human and legal rights Participants will look at participation as a human right and a constitutional right, and analyse different legal and institutional frameworks within which SP processes are necessary.
  • Benefits of stakeholder participation Participants will identify potential benefits and reasons to engage in a SP process.
  • The process Participants will learn what a SP process might entail in terms of required steps (various aspects of the process will be dealt with in following modules, while Module 4 will discuss specific examples of SP models).

Module 2: Stakeholder Analysis

Module 2 deals with Stakeholder Analysis, a key initial step in a SP process and often overlooked. This step provides indications as to which stakeholder groups should be part of the process and what the most appropriate participation mechanisms are for the different groups. Key concepts discussed include:

  • Why do stakeholder analysis? Participants will learn that a requirement of any SP process is to first identify the project objective and the purpose for engaging in SP process to form background to who will be interested parties. The objectives and steps for a stakeholder analysis will be discussed.
  • Identifying the stakeholders Participants will look into the initial step of identifying the interested parties, both those directly and indirectly affected. This is a crucial step to identify who the stakeholders are, what their interests are, and what role they will have in the process.
  • Assessing stakeholder importance and influence Using different methods such as stakeholder tables and matrixes, participants will discuss how to assess the different stakeholders in terms of their priority for the project or the power they may have to control decisions.
  • Working Session Participants will carry out a stakeholder analysis for a given scenario.

Module 3A: Engagement Techniques Introduction

Module 3a discusses the range of engagement techniques that can be used in SP processes. The different techniques may be more or less suitable for the different levels of participation required—from informing to consulting and collaborating—and need to be selected based on the audience as well as the purpose and stage of the SP process. The key concepts discussed are:

  • Range of techniques Participants will list potential engagement techniques, especially unconventional ones, drawing on their experience in SP processes.
  • Different techniques for different levels of engagement Participants will analyse the range of techniques listed and discuss how they differ in terms of the level of engagement possible (from simply being informed to collaborating).
  • Selection of techniques Participants will explore what needs to be considered when selecting engagement techniques. Apart from the level of engagement required, issues should also be considered that pertain to the range desired for the participation, resources available, type of audience, and specific objectives of participation.

Module 3B: Engagement Techniques Running a Workshop

Stakeholder workshops are commonly used to present information, exchange and discuss views or plan and evaluate options. Module 3b of the course will discuss practicalities when planning and running stakeholder workshops. Key issues discussed include:

  • Why organise a SP workshop? Participants will discuss different situations in which a SP workshop might be needed and with what purposes. They will look at what workshops might be good for, and what they might not be good for.
  • Planning the workshop Participants will discuss requirements for SP workshops and issues that need to be considered in the planning phase. Participants will discuss what kind of facilitation is needed to ensure equal input from all participants. Facilitation approaches will be discussed, with an emphasis on those that allow participants to analyse by themselves and help dialogue.
  • Facilitation techniques Participants will discuss different facilitation techniques for SP workshops, for different workshop purposes: setting goals, capturing knowledge, and managing conflict.
  • Working session Participants will experiment with the card sorting technique, in a scenario of a policy formulation workshop.

Module 3C: Engagement Techniques Strategic Communications

The need for effective communication will be discussed in Module 3c. Strategic communication is used to change behaviours and can help engage people. Key concepts covered include:

  • Why and what to communicate? Participants will discuss what information needs to be shared in a SP process and how it depends on the objectives of the SP process and the information needs identified in the stakeholder analysis (Module 2). The factors that need to be considered when planning communications will be discussed, both internal factors (e.g. culture and behaviour) and external ones (e.g. media available).
  • Effective communication Participants will discuss the need for SP participants to understand why it is important for them to communicate. Other issues that need consideration to ensure effective communication will be discussed, including the selection of appropriate channels and messages.
  • Use of Netorks The use of networks in specific will be discussed, as well as the need to incorporate feedback mechanisms to ensure dialogue.
  • Being strategic In an attempt to understand what motivates people to engage in SP processes, participants will learn the difference between conventional and strategic communication approaches. The concept of strategic communication, which aims to motivate changes in behaviour, will be presented.
  • Working session Based on the stakeholder analysis conducted earlier (Module 2), participants will discuss what information needs to be shared, what kinds of message would be more effective (e.g. Shock? Education?), and what long-term, strategic communication goals need to be kept in mind.

Module 4: Planning

SP processes can be applied in different settings and with different purposes and thus need to be planned case-by-case. Using examples, Module 4 of the course will explore different situations where SP approaches can be applied and evaluated, the basic steps that are required, and how to implement and monitor the process. This is essentially a practical module covering:

  • Opportunities for SP Participants will look into different contexts in which SP is needed, from policy development to programme assessment, development planning and environmental impact assessment. Some examples will be given and discussed, both in the context of a large infrastructure project and of policy/ planning processes.
  • Different SP models Participants will review the different phases or steps that a SP process might entail, and will analyse some suggested models as well as practical examples of approaches used.
  • Communication plan Participants will go through the steps required to develop a communication plan, based on the key audiences, messages and communication tools that have been identified, and detailing actions required, responsibilities, timelines and costs.
  • Monitoring and Evaluating Participants will discuss how to evaluate the success of SP processes through the use of both qualitative and quantitative indicators.
  • Working session Participants will prepare a communication plan, for which they will define objectives, analyse the need for different messages for different stakeholder groups, and identify communication initiatives and mix of techniques appropriate.

Module 5: Representivity


Module 5 of the course deals with representivity in SP processes and the need to consider that not all stakeholder groups have the same voice. SP practitioners have to account for all possible constraints that may prevent stakeholders from participating; while stakeholder groups can resort to representatives, caucusing or NGO or networks support to have a stronger voice. Key concepts covered include:

  • Who has how much voice Participants will discuss potential imbalances in a SP process and what groups are often left out (women and the poorer, for example). Non-accessible language, time constraints, social hierarchies and other constraints to participation will be discussed in the light of the participants’ experience.
  • For SP practitioners: how to ensure representivity? Ways for SP processes to ensure representative stakeholder groups will be discussed. Points of discussion include assistance provided by the project to people who cannot participate and the role of stakeholders themselves in defining a representative stakeholder list.
  • For SP participants: how to have a stronger voice? Participants will discuss how stakeholders can organise themselves to have a stronger say, e.g. by selecting representatives, requesting assistance from networks and NGOs, and caucusing. Participants will provide examples of existing mechanisms or channels for stakeholders to have their say.

A One Stop Participation Guide: A Handbook for Public Participation in Environmental Assessment in Southern Africa (SAIEA): pages 52 to 55