The Institute of Social and Ethical AccountAbility's AA 1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard defines stakeholders as:

… those groups who affect and/or could be affected by an organisation’s activities, products or services and associated performance. Organisations will have many stakeholders, each with distinct types and levels of involvement, and often with diverse and sometimes conflicting interests and concerns.'

The same standard defines stakeholder engagement as '… the process used by an organisation to engage relevant stakeholders for a purpose to achieve accepted outcomes.'

Effective stakeholder engagement is a critical skill for your success as a senior executive within the NSW public sector. You can form strong working relationships within and across agencies by applying some key principles that enable inclusiveness, openness and appreciation of the diverse stakeholder perspectives and expertise needed to achieve common business objectives.
A robust stakeholder engagement model can guide you and other employees through the process of identifying and categorising key internal and external stakeholders, so you can engage with them in a timely manner using appropriate techniques.
 

Principles of engagement

Five key principles underpin effective stakeholder engagement and set the standard for consistent, open and honest working relationships.

Principle 1: Purposeful

Begin with clear objectives of what needs to be achieved.
Start by defining:

  • who is important to engage with
  • why engagement is important
  • what outcomes you are hoping to achieve from the engagement
  • which activities will be most effective for engaging with stakeholder groups.

Principle 2: Inclusive

Identify all relevant stakeholder groups and any necessary steps that will make it easy for them to be involved.

  • Identify and facilitate the participation of individuals, groups, and organisations who contribute to, influence, or are affected by your work
  • Provide clear, succinct and timely information (relevant to their participation).

Principle 3: Timely

Involve your identified stakeholders early and provide details of how and when they will be involved.

  • Provide a clear explanation of the stakeholder engagement process, and discuss proposed timelines - including meeting schedules, information requests and feedback.

Principle 4: Respectful

Acknowledge and respect the expertise, perspective and needs of all stakeholders.

  • Be open to alternative views and problem-solving ideas.
  • Respect your stakeholders' expertise and appreciate the benefits of mutual learning.
  • Adapt your communication style to meet the needs and preferences of your stakeholders.

Principle 5: Transparent

Be open and honest in your engagement and set clear expectations.

  • Clearly explain the stakeholder engagement process, the role of your stakeholders, and how their input will inform the project.

The Stakeholder Engagement Framework

The Stakeholder Engagement Framework below has been adapted from the international standard developed by the Institute of Social and Ethical AccountAbility (2005).
The framework illustrates a five-step process for maintaining and supporting effective stakeholder engagement through planning, preparation, action, and evaluation of every engagement activity. The stakeholder engagement process is a comprehensive, dynamic, ongoing cycle.
 

Stage 1: Think strategically

  • Think strategically about the business issues that need to be addressed and the relevance of each stakeholder group
  • Create an initial stakeholder map for further analysis.

Stage 2: Analyse and plan

  • Use the stakeholder map prepared in Stage 1 to identify the different stakeholder types.
  • Consider the project objectives, stakeholder relevance and priority, existing relationships, available resources and organisational constraints. 

Stage 3: Prepare and resource

  • Consider stakeholders' competencies and capacity to engage.
  • Take necessary action to address any barriers to effective engagement.

Stage 4: Design and engage

  • Consider different engagement approaches.
  • Outline the most appropriate engagement techniques for each stakeholder type.

Stage 5: Review and measure

  • Evaluate and use input from stakeholders to achieve your project objectives.
  • Follow up with stakeholders on the output of the engagement process.
  • Review and refine the stakeholder engagement process.
  • Plan follow-up activities.

Stakeholder engagement levels

The diagram below is adapted from the International Association for Public Participation Spectrum (2007) – recognised as the global standard for defining forms of engagement. It outlines varying levels of engagement with different types of stakeholders. The appropriate tools and techniques for facilitating the engagement process can vary according to the situation, and the time, skills and resources available to you.

Inform

Deliver one-way communication to educate stakeholders.

No dialogue; this is a telling-only’ approach.

 

Suggested activities include publishing:

  • fact sheets and websites
  • bulletins and letters
  • corporate documents (such as annual reports)
  • speeches, conferences papers and presentations
  • media releases and advertising.

Consult

Seek information and feedback from stakeholders to inform internal decisions.

Limited dialogue; you ask questions and receive answers.

Suggested activities include conducting:

  • surveys
  • focus Groups
  • one-on-one meetings
  • public meetings and workshops
  • online Q&A sessions, feedback sessions and discussion forums.

Involve

Directly work with stakeholders throughout the engagement process to ensure their issues and concerns are considered.

Two-way communication, with equal learning from each party.

Suggested activities include facilitating: 

  • multi-stakeholders forums
  • advisory  panels
  • consultative committees
  • participatory decision-making processes
  • workshops.

Collaborate

Take a partnership approach to developing mutually agreeable solutions and a joint plan of action.

Two way communication, with learning, negotiation, and authority to make decisions.

Suggested activities include putting together:

  • reference groups
  • joint projects
  • multi-stakeholder initiatives
  • partnerships.