2.2 Stakeholder engagement

Inadequate stakeholder involvement is one of the most common reasons programmes and projects fail. Therefore, every effort should be made to encourage broad and active stakeholder engagement in the planning, monitoring and evaluation processes. This is particularly relevant to crisis situations where people’s sense of security and vulnerability may be heightened and where tensions and factions may exist. In these situations, the planning process should aim to ensure that as many stakeholders as possible are involved (especially those who may be least able to promote their own interests), and that opportunities are created for the various parties to hear each other’s perspectives in an open and balanced manner. In crisis situations this is not just good practice but is fundamental to ensuring that programming ‘does no harm’ at the least, and, hopefully, reduces inherent or active tensions. Perceptions of UNDP neutrality, and at times the success of the programme or project, depend on representatives of the different main stakeholder groups (including those relating to different parties of the tension) being equally consulted. In some situations, a planning fora that brings stakeholders together so that they can hear each other’s views may itself be a mechanism for reducing tensions. 

Step 1: Stakeholder analysis

Any given programme, project or development plan is likely to have a number of important stakeholders. Effective planning is done with the participation of these stakeholders. Stakeholders are the people who will benefit from the development activity or whose interests may be affected by that activity. Therefore, a simple stakeholder analysis is generally recommended for all planning processes. A stakeholder analysis can help identify:

  1. Potential risks, conflicts and constraints that could affect the programmes, projects or activities being planned
  2. Opportunities and partnerships that could be explored and developed
  3. Vulnerable or marginalized groups that are normally left out of planning processes

Various stakeholder analysis tools can be used to identify stakeholders and determine the type of involvement that they should have at different stages of the process (planning, implementation, monitoring, reporting, evaluation, etc.) These range from basic consultations and focus group discussions for simple programmes and projects to more elaborate workshops for large or complex programmes. The planning or management team should use their judgment to determine what is most appropriate, bearing in mind that the main objective is to properly identify key stakeholders who may have a strong interest in or ability to influence what is being planned. Generally, for UNDP programmes and projects, at least one UNDP officer and one government official would be part of the stakeholder group involved in planning.

Tip: There is a tendency for core planning teams not to involve certain stakeholders in planning. This typically occurs with complex programmes and projects and work that involves developing policy. Marginalized groups, poor rural community members, minorities and others are often left out because planners assume that these groups are not well informed or educated enough to contribute to the planning process. This assumption often turns out to be very costly. A good planner should always ask: “Whose voice is normally not heard on this issue?” Planners are often pleasantly surprised at the insights that previously unheard stakeholders have to offer.

Tables 3 and 4 and Figure 4 are examples of three simple tools often used to conduct a stakeholder analysis. (For purposes of illustration, the tables contain some examples of the type of information that could be entered in the various columns for challenges related to public participation in an election support programme). Table 3 seeks to identify the stakeholders who may have an interest in the programme or project being planned, and determine the nature of that interest. Table 4 assesses the importance and influence of those stakeholders in the programme or project. Here, importance relates to who the programme or project is intended for, which may be different from the level of influence they may have.

Table 3. Identification of key stakeholders and their interests

Stakeholders (examples)

Interest in Activity

Nature of Interest (+ve or –ve)*

Office of the Prime Minister

Greater citizen participation

+

Universities

Political culture and civic behaviour

+

Main political parties

Free and fair elections
Opportunities for greater influence?

+
+/-

Religious umbrella organizations

Ethics in politics, fairness

+

NGO groups (e.g. a watchdog NGO)

Fairness, greater influence

+

Private sector organizations

Opportunities for influence, fairness

+/-

Minority group representatives

Opportunities to participate

+

Youth umbrella organizations

Opportunities to participate

+

Electoral administrative body

Maintain own neutrality

+

International observer group

Fairness

+

Citizens organizations

Rights of citizens, fairness

+

Women’s organizations

Rights of women, fairness

+

Informal political leaders

Threats to their power

-

Note: NGO indicates non-governmental organization.
* Positive or negative interest has to do with whether a stakeholder or stakeholder group would be supportive or disruptive of the programme or project being planned or in terms of whether their interest could help or impede what is being planned. In some cases, a stakeholder group may have both a negative and a positive interest, as would be the case, for example, if some umbrella private sector groups were supportive of a programme that others opposed.

Table 4. Importance and influence of stakeholders

Stakeholders (examples)

Importance
(Scale of 1 to 5, 5 = highest)

Influence
(Scale of 1 to 5, 5 = highest)

Office of the Prime Minister

5

5

Universities

3

2

Main political parties

5

4

Religious umbrella organization

3

2

NGO groups (e.g. a watchdog NGO)

3

3

Private sector organizations

3

4

Minority group representatives

5

1

Youth umbrella organizations

5

1

Electoral administrative body

4

3

International observer group

1

3

Citizens organizations

5

2

Women’s organizations

5

2

Informal political leaders

2

4

Note: NGO indicates non-governmental organization.

The tables and matrix can be helpful in communicating about the stakeholders and their role in the programme or activities that are being planned.

Stakeholder importance and influence matrix (deliverable two)

The stakeholder importance and influence matrix, which is the second deliverable in the planning process, becomes the main tool used to determine who should be involved in the planning session and how other stakeholders should be engaged in the overall process.

Group 1 stakeholders are very important to the success of the activity but may have little influence on the process. For example, the success of an electoral project will often depend on how well women and minorities are able to participate in the elections, but these groups may not have much influence on the design and implementation of the project or the conduct of the elections. In this case, they are highly important but not very influential. They may require special emphasis to ensure that their interests are protected and that their voices are heard.

Group 2 stakeholders are central to the planning process as they are both important and influential. These should be key stakeholders for partnership building. For example, political parties involved in a national elections programme may be both very important (as mobilizers of citizens) and influential (without their support the programme may not be possible).

Group 3 stakeholders are not the central stakeholders for an initiative and have little influence on its success or failure. They are unlikely to play a major role in the overall process. One example could be an international observer group that has little influence on elections. Similarly, they are not the intended beneficiaries of, and will not be impacted by, those elections.

Group 4 stakeholders are not very important to the activity but may exercise significant influence. For example, an informal political leader may not be an important stakeholder for an elections initiative aimed at increasing voter participation, but she or he could have major influence on the process due to informal relations with power brokers and ability to mobilize people or influence public opinion. These stakeholders can sometimes create constraints to programme implementation or may be able to stop all activities. Even if they are not involved in the planning process, there may need to be a strategy for communicating with these stakeholders and gaining their support.

Based on the stakeholder analysis, and on what is practicable given cost and location of various stakeholders, the identified stakeholders should be brought together in a planning workshop or meeting. This may be the first meeting to plan the UNDAF or a UNDP country programme or project.

Tip: The planning team should devote time to discussing the issue of how to effectively involve stakeholders. There are many examples of how to do this. For example, some teams have budgeted resources to assist certain stakeholders with travel and accommodation expenses. Others have rearranged meeting times to be more suitable to specific stakeholders. In most cases, official letters of invitation are sent to stakeholders by senior government or UN officials. This can be helpful in conveying the importance attached to stakeholder participation. The team should discuss the most suitable arrangements given the local context.

Note: The stakeholder analysis can be used to outline who the stakeholders will be in the UNCT plan of engagement or, at the project level, to outline the stakeholders in the draft proposal prepared by UNDP in the ‘justifying a project’ stage of project development.

 
Step 2: Orientation and training of stakeholders
 
Orientation on the planning process

Stakeholders should be made aware of what the planning process will involve. Whether planning a national strategy, a UNDAF, or a global, regional or country programme, the process will often require a series of workshops and meetings over several months to analyse the problems, commission studies, undertake research, discuss and come to conclusions on priorities and approaches, formulate a results framework, and put together a monitoring and evaluation plan. Project-level planning may also involve a series of meetings and include one or more workshops based on the size and complexity of the project.

The planning team should provide the stakeholders with a copy of the draft issue note and work plan at the initial meeting. The work plan should include sufficient time for preparing the results framework and the monitoring and evaluation plan. It should also allow for potential challenges in conducting stakeholder meetings in crisis settings when meetings between different parties can be sensitive and time consuming.

Box 5. Preparing a timeline for UN programme document
The UNDAF is the main planning document for the UN team in a given country. The UNDAF is prepared with the government and other national stakeholders. In preparing the UNDAF, all the main steps discussed in this Handbook would be undertaken between June and December of the year preceding the completion of the five-year UNDAF cycle.
For UNDP country programmes, it is normal for the steps leading to the preparation of a draft country programme and results framework to be completed in parallel with the UNDAF process (between June and December) with greater elaboration of the UNDP components of the UNDAF between September and February of the following year. In March, the completed country programme is submitted with an evaluation plan to the UNDP Executive Board.
Many units use the CPAP process between March and September to refine their results frameworks (outcomes, outputs and indicators), develop monitoring plans, and refine their evaluation plans. This approach is often taken given that between March and September national partners would have begun engaging with UNDP on the specific projects to be developed and would therefore have more information on the relevant outputs, indicators and targets. However, in many other planning processes, the full results framework along with the M&E plan are developed and finalized at the same time that the plan is prepared.
Projects are planned at various points during the programme cycle, and there is no prescribed time-frame for when these should be done.

If appropriate, the stakeholders involved in the planning process should be provided with orientation or training on issues such as gender analysis, rights-based approaches to development, conflict-sensitivity and analysis, and capacity development. (When planning UNDAFs, it is also usually helpful to include a deliverable on the UN reform process and aid effectiveness to increase awareness of the direction in which the United Nations is moving globally and at the national level.) This initial session is intended to raise awareness of these issues and enable participants to adopt a more rigorous and analytical approach to the planning process. Some of the ways in which this can be done include:

  • Having a gender expert provide a overview to participants on the importance of gender and how to look at development programming through a gender lens. This session would include an introduction to the gender analysis methodology.
  • Including a gender expert as a stakeholder in the workshop as an additional means of ensuring that gender and women’s empowerment issues receive attention.
  • Having a presenter address the group on capacity development methodology as a tool to enhance programme effectiveness and promote more sustainable development.12
  • Having a presenter address the group on promoting inclusiveness and a rights-based approach to development13

Expert support in organizing and presenting these cross-cutting thematic issues can be obtained by contacting the relevant units in BDP, BCPR and the UN Staff College.

Considerations at the project level
This type of briefing for stakeholders applies equally to programmes and projects. However, most small projects are unlikely to have enough resources to provide expert trainers on some of the themes. In these situations, the planning team should consider cost-effective options for increasing stakeholder awareness. This may include preparing short presentations or briefing guides and circulating them to stakeholders ahead of the meetings. Also, it may be useful to invite persons with training in the particular areas to be stakeholders in the process. For example, a representative from a human rights, women’s or gender NGO could be invited to be a project stakeholder. Similarly, gender or human rights analysts in national planning agencies or from other partner development agencies could be involved as stakeholders. This can be an effective way of ensuring ongoing focus on the issues, as opposed to only at the beginning of the planning exercise.  

Orientation on approaches to dialogue

At the start of the planning process, it is important that all stakeholders start at the same point. They should all understand:

  • Why it is important for them to work together
  • Why they have been selected for the planning exercise
  • The rules of the planning exercise and how stakeholders should dialogue, especially in crisis settings, where these fora could be the first time different parties have heard each others’ perspectives and goals for  development
It is important to bring stakeholders together not only for the resources they have but also because each has a unique perspective on the causes of the problems and what may be required to solve them. A government minister, a community member, a social worker, an economist, a businessperson, a woman, a man, and a UNDP staff may all be involved in designing a plan—and may all have different views on what they are confronting and what changes they would like to see occur. It is common in the early stages of

planning for persons to use anecdotes to get stakeholders to see how easy it is to look at the same issue and yet see it differently.

The core planning team should find ways to encourage stakeholders to:

  1. Suspend judgment—Stakeholders should not start the process with any pre-set ideas and should not rush to conclusions. They should be prepared to hear different points of view before coming to conclusions.
  2. Be open to all points of view—In the planning exercise, all points of view are equally valid, not just those of persons considered important. The planning exercise should be conducted in such a way that everyone (men, women, marginalized individuals) feels free to express their views. The views expressed by stakeholders are neither ‘right’ nor ‘wrong’.
  3. Be creative—Stakeholders should understand that long-standing challenges are unlikely to be solved by traditional approaches, many of which may have been tried before. They should therefore be open to fresh ideas, especially those that may, at first, seem unworkable or unrealistic.

The same approach to explaining these basic guidelines to stakeholders can be applied in both programme-level and project-level planning.

Once the orientation is completed, the stakeholders can proceed to the actual planning exercise.

Note: It is useful to remind stakeholders that the planning process is not about developing a UNDP or UNCT plan but about developing a plan that addresses the needs and priorities of the country or community, which UNDP or UNCT will support as one partner in the process