Stakeholder engagement primer: 8. Generating ideas and reaching agreement

By Gabriele Bammer

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What skills for generating ideas and reaching agreement should every researcher involved in stakeholder engagement seek to cultivate? What key methods and concepts should they be familiar with?

The focus in this blog post is on generating ideas and reaching agreement, as well as recognising the “groan zone” between these two phases in a group process. Researchers will have diverse attributes and not everyone will be well-placed to cultivate the skills described here. Having an understanding of the skills can help in choosing the researchers best placed to undertake the stakeholder engagement.

Generating ideas: Brainstorming

For brainstorming to work well, it requires rapid-fire contributions, no holding back or self-censoring of ideas, and no discussion or criticism of the ideas proposed.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 7. Listening and dialogue

By Gabriele Bammer

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What skills should every researcher involved in stakeholder engagement seek to cultivate? What key tools for engaging stakeholders should they be familiar with?

In the next two blog posts, I present key skills and tools that are essential for engaging with stakeholders. Understanding these skills can help teams decide who would be best among their members to be responsible for stakeholder engagement. Those involved in stakeholder engagement can also work to strengthen these skills to underpin other useful methods such as surveys, interviews, focus groups and participatory modelling.

This blog post presents skills involved in listening and dialogue. The next presents tools for generating ideas and reaching agreement.

Listening to understand

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 6. Making engagement effective

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can researchers ensure that stakeholder contributions ― whether through consultation, involvement or collaboration ― are properly valued? What steps can researchers take to make stakeholder participation as effective as possible? How can damaging pitfalls be avoided?

Researchers can make the stakeholder engagement process maximally effective by paying attention to the following three aspects:

  1. ensuring credibility, relevance and legitimacy of stakeholder contributions
  2. accommodating stakeholder motivations, expertise and ability to participate
  3. avoiding or managing potential pitfalls.

1. Ensuring credibility, relevance and legitimacy of stakeholder participation

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 5. Choosing engagement options

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can researchers decide which engagement options will be most appropriate for which stakeholders? How can they take into account multiple considerations such as the aims of stakeholder engagement, the requirements of the research and available resources?

It can be helpful to think through how each option for stakeholder engagement (described in Primer #4) would be operationalised for each stakeholder, using the questions below. These make explicit what researchers often do intuitively.

By teasing out specifically what is required and matching this with the available resources – time, money and person-power – the aim is to reduce the possibility of a project running out of steam for stakeholder engagement before it is concluded and to maximise the chances that the commitments made by researchers to stakeholders (the ‘promise’ described in Primer #4) for each type of engagement can be fulfilled.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 4. Options for engagement

By Gabriele Bammer

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What options are available to researchers for including stakeholders in a research project in order to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the problem, provide ideas about addressing it and help the research to support policy or practice change? Can different stakeholders be included in different ways? Can the same group of stakeholders participate in different ways in various aspects of the research? What obligations do researchers have to participating stakeholders over the course of that project?

It can be useful to consider 5 ways in which researchers can include stakeholders in a project:

1. Inform:
Researchers provide stakeholders with balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding the research.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 3. Selecting stakeholders

By Gabriele Bammer

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Given that most research projects will not have the funding or time to involve all stakeholders who have been identified as potential contributors, what criteria are useful for selecting those to be invited to participate? How can those identified be assessed against the criteria?

Four criteria for selecting stakeholders are:

  • their legitimacy
  • their real and potential power
  • the urgency they assign to the problem
  • practical considerations.

Legitimacy

Legitimacy can usefully be examined along the following four dimensions:

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 2. Identifying stakeholders

By Gabriele Bammer

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How can all those who have something relevant to contribute to a research project be identified? In particular, how can we find those who, through their experience of being affected by or dealing with a problem, can provide:

  • a more comprehensive understanding of the problem
  • ideas about ways to address the problem
  • insights into how the research can best support policy and practice change on the problem in government, business and civil society?

A wide-ranging and inclusive initial process of identifying stakeholders ensures that key individuals and groups are not missed and that the broadest range of knowledge and perspectives is found, for both understanding and acting on the problem.

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A quick guide to post-normal science

By Silvio Funtowicz

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Silvio Funtowicz (biography)

Post-normal science comes into play for decision-making on policy issues where facts are uncertain, values in dispute, stakes high and decisions urgent.

A good example of a problem requiring post-normal science is the actions that need to be taken to mitigate the effects of sea level rise consequent on global climate change. All the causal elements are uncertain in the extreme, at stake is much of the built environment and the settlement patterns of people, what to save and what to sacrifice is in dispute, and the window for decision-making is shrinking. The COVID-19 pandemic is another instance of a post-normal science problem. The behaviour of the current and emerging variants of the virus is uncertain, the values of socially intrusive remedies are in dispute, and obviously stakes are high and decisions urgent.

In such contexts of policy making, normal science (in the Kuhnian sense, see Kuhn 1962) is still necessary, but no longer sufficient.

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Stakeholder engagement primer: 1a. Why a primer? 1b. Defining stakeholders

By Gabriele Bammer

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1a. Why a primer?

Do researchers who want to engage with stakeholders need a basic set of skills? Can we define a skillset that will work for many problems and in a variety of contexts?

My starting point for this primer is that the answer to both questions is “yes” and I have set out to provide those basics in nine easy-to-read blog posts. The tenth blog post in the series sketches out selected additional “advanced” skills; these need more interpersonal competences, experience, and knowledge.

The advantages of using a blog over other forms of communication are that it provides a vehicle for input and feedback, as well as being widely accessible. Comments on each blog post are therefore very welcome, particularly examples and lessons from your own work, things you wish you had known when you were starting out, and general feedback and critique.

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Six lessons for implementing technological change in developing country communities

By Jonathan Ensor, Daniel Vorbach, Steven Johnson and James Moir

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1. Jonathan Ensor (biography)
2. Daniel Vorbach (biography)
3. Steven Johnson (biography)
4. James Moir (biography)

How does the provision of new technology, infrastructure or community institutions interact with the social setting, especially at the village community level in developing countries? How does this interaction determine the sorts of changes that are experienced? Given this interconnection between the technical and social worlds, what are the implications for the design and implementation of interventions? And what does this more holistic perspective suggest that implementing agencies should be considering and advocating for alongside their on-the-ground activities?

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A Partnership Outcome Spaces framework for transdisciplinary student-staff partnerships

By Giedre Kligyte, Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer, Jarnae Leslie, Tyler Key, Bethany Hooper and Eleanor Salazar

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1. Giedre Kligyte; 2. Mieke van der Bijl-Brouwer; 3. Jarnae Leslie; 4. Tyler Key; 5. Bethany Hooper; 6. Eleanor Salazar (biographies)

How can universities leverage students’ perspectives to create pathways towards lasting organisational change in higher education? How can we conceptualise institutional impact and outcomes of transdisciplinary student-staff partnerships?

Why student-staff partnerships?

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System redesign toward creating shared value

By Moein Khazaei, Mohammad Ramezani, Amin Padash and Dorien DeTombe

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1. Moein Khazaei (biography)
2. Mohammad Ramezani (biography)
3. Amin Padash (biography)
4. Dorien DeTombe (biography)

How can services that are provided to citizens be overhauled so that they will survive, be competitive and be fair (eg., accessible to all)? Is there a systematic way in which shared value can be created? By shared value we mean combining social and environmental interests with corporate interests.

We have developed a methodology that we call “System redesign toward creating shared value” or SYRCS. It comprises 4 stages, shown in the figure below. They are:

  1. emancipation and critical thinking
  2. problem structuring
  3. multi-criteria and quantitative decision-making
  4. creating shared value.

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