Stakeholder engagement primer

The stakeholder engagement primer provides an introduction for beginners of 10 key aspects, as summarised below. The primer was published in 2021 as 10 blog posts. For other primers on key topics covered by Integration and Implementation Insights (i2Insights), see ‘Primers‘.



Summary: The purposes of producing this primer are discussed, especially providing a basic set of skills for researchers who want to engage with stakeholders that will work for many problems and in a variety of contexts.

Three definitions of stakeholders are reviewed, along with stakeholders as individuals or groups, and appropriate representation.



Summary: Four approaches to identifying stakeholders are presented, which can be used separately or in combination:

  1. interrogating the problem and the research
  2. using networks
  3. using a checklist of stakeholder categories
  4. building a mind map.


Summary: Four criteria for selecting stakeholders, and how to combine them, are described:

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


Summary: Five ways stakeholders can be included in research are presented; they can be:

  1. informed
  2. consulted
  3. involved
  4. collaborators
  5. supported.

The obligations of researchers to stakeholders for each option are also described.



Summary: Questions are presented for each engagement option (inform, consult, involve, collaborate, support):

  • to help decide which options are most appropriate for which stakeholders
  • by taking into account multiple considerations, including the aims of the engagement, research requirements and available resources.


Summary: Three considerations to make stakeholder engagement maximally effective are reviewed:

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


Summary: Skills required for listening to understand are presented: openness; respect; suspending automatic response, judgment and certainty; building a safe space; and accurate documentation.

Four kinds of dialogue are also described: 1) serial monologue, 2) engaged monologue, 3) reflective dialogue, 4) generative dialogue.



Summary: Four skills are presented:

  • brainstorming to generate ideas
  • understanding the ‘groan zone’
  • two methods for reaching agreement
    • liberating structures 1-2-4-All method
    • gradients of agreement.


Summary: Considerations are reviewed for:

  • how and when to evaluate, including who the evaluation is for, what want to know, and what resources and skills are available for the evaluation
  • periodic self-assessment, including in planning the research, during the research and at the end of the research.


Summary: Two areas for building additional skills are considered:

  • understanding and managing power and control
  • working effectively with multiple stakeholders.