I cannot say this strongly enough: we do this work to make the world a better place. Here’s the rub though: we don’t get to decide what someone else’s ‘better’ looks like.
By now you know how much importance I put on participation from stakeholders into every step of the process – from design, through participation, to evaluation. Stakeholders matter. They are important because they can influence success and failure. That’s why it is so crucial that we engage with stakeholders all the time.
The easiest way to do this is to start with a mapping exercise: who does your organisation know and what is the nature of that relationship or partnership? What do they influence and what influences them? What ‘stake’ do they have in your organisation or project (they are stakeholders for a reason after all).
Two great resources that I use to help me with any stakeholder analysis are:
Bob Williams’ “Systemic Evaluation Design” (2019) – just the most useful book – even if you’re not doing evaluations but just want to be better at strategy design
Eva Schiffer’s Influence mapping tool: Net-Map (2007), which you can use without any special kit (especially useful when working far away from home or online)
Combining these two approaches results in deep understanding of who your most important stakeholders are and how they are connected to you.
Once you know and understand your stakeholders, engaging them in the design and implementation of your work becomes almost second nature (of course here we could get into a longer discussion about partnerships and partnership working, but that’s for another day). It is easy to see how interconnected your work is with both the communities that you hope to support and other agencies and funders working either with the same community or alongside you in other areas.
After all, we don’t achieve social impact on our own. This is a collective endeavour we are all engaged in and to be successful we have to include each other, listen to each other and work together to make the world a better place.