Stakeholders Research Paper

This paper discusses how a project should deal with its internal and external stakeholders who are associated with determining the project's objectives and uncertainty issues. Our experiences during 15 years of uncertainty assessment in many different sectors show that stakeholders are subjective and influenced by the objectives or effects of the project more than expected. This paper focuses on the relationship between the stakeholders and opportunities. We conclude that projects to a little extent find opportunities because risk and opportunities processes not are separated. From our point of view, projects can find and exploit opportunities and benefits to a greater extend if they use a defined opportunity management process. This paper has four parts. Firstly, rationality and methodology are presented. The method that we adopt is of qualitative nature. In the second part, relevant theories are described. Part three presents our ideas about the connection between stakeholders and uncertainty. And finally, conclusion and a description of further research wind up the whole discussion.

Stakeholders are people or organisations who have an interest in your research project, or affect or are affected by its outcomes. Stakeholders include those who are both supportive of your research, as well as those who may be less supportive or indeed critical of it.

The purpose of stakeholder analysis is to:

  1. identify project stakeholders
  2. determine what interest each stakeholder has in your project
  3. assess how much influence stakeholders have on the project
  4. consider how you will manage and communicate with different types of stakeholder.

Identify project stakeholders

Brainstorm all the stakeholders you can identify for your project. Projects often have more stakeholders than people realise and all sorts of people and organisations can emerge from this process. It may be helpful to consider:

  • who is directly involved in the project?
  • who are the potential beneficiaries of the research?
  • who might be negatively affected by it?
  • who directly or indirectly supports your research?
  • do you have any opponents?
  • are there existing positive or negative relationships amongst your stakeholders?

Determine what interest each stakeholder has in your project

Having identified the different stakeholders, consider what interests they have in your research project. For some stakeholders this may be very obvious; for others, it will be less clear and you may need to consult with them directly. One way of considering stakeholders' reactions to your project is to come up with stakeholder straplines. This involves getting people, either individually or in groups, to think about the different stakeholders' views of the project and sum these up in a pithy strapline. The discussion before and during the production of the strapline may help deepen your understanding of the issues and identify any implications for your project. The process may also reveal surprising complexities and differences of opinion that have to be managed.

Assess how much influence stakeholders have over the project

Some stakeholders will have considerable influence over your project and its outcomes either by directly controlling resources or key decisions (e.g. funders, ethics committees) or because they are central to successful project implementation (e.g. research participants). By considering and mapping your different stakeholders according to their level of influence and interest you can plan how you will manage and prioritise your engagement with them. This approach can also be helpful in considering how you communicate with your different stakeholders.

When mapping stakeholders in this way, it is helpful to flag which are supporters and which are critical of your project. Critics, particularly those with high influence need to have their views acknowledged in order to avoid conflict. One way of doing this is to invite them to join the project steering group. Properly managed they can become champions - "keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

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