Stakeholder analysis (SA) identifies and describes stakeholders and assesses their respective interests in a particular issue. SA is used in the policy and project context, during planning and development, implementation, and evaluation and analysis. It is a useful management tool as it poses strategic questions such as who should be considered, and what is the best strategy to manage the particular stakeholder. In the context of policy making, there are, according to D. Strauss, four types of stakeholders that have to be considered:
- those with formal power to make a decision,
- those with power to block a decision,
- those affected by a decision, and
- those with relevant information or expertise.
SA also helps in understanding the complexity of an issue. The result of SA is a list that encompasses the main relevant characteristics of each of the stakeholders. The characteristics considered vary depending on the purpose of the SA. They can include a description of the stakeholders' involvement in the issue, an assessment of their level of interest in the issue, influence, position towards the issue, and the impact of an issue on a particular stakeholder. Relationships between different stakeholders can also be part of an SA.
Relevance to Trade Facilitation
In the field of trade facilitation, stakeholders come from various groups. Participatory processes, such as consultation and cooperation, may involve a large or a small group of selected stakeholders. Identification of the relevant stakeholders is therefore important for the conduct of participatory processes and an SA can assist in this task. In addition to identifying the stakeholders, an SA can also provide information about the stockholders' interests, their attitudes towards specific issues and problems, and the character of already existing relationships between these stakeholders. This information is useful for the management of participatory processes.
How to Conduct a Stakeholder Analysis
The different purposes of an SA
A stakeholder analysis can be conducted at different stages of the project and policy cycle and for different purposes. In a project implementation purpose, an SA can be used to identify potential project partners and supporters. It also provides information on possible risks to the project's success. Furthermore, the SA may lead to mapping all those stakeholders that need to be informed about the project, and those that can evaluate the results/impact of that project.
An SA can also be useful for organizational development, such as setting up a trade facilitation body or working group. In this case, the SA provides information on who should be involved in the organization itself and who constitutes the organizational environment.
Timeframe of SA
The timeframe for an SA depends on the purpose and the number of potential stakeholders and resources available. In the project scenario, an SA can be a short time analysis conducted once at the beginning of the project. In the context of the development of an organization, an SA can be conducted periodically in line with the evolution of the organization and the stakeholders and their relationships. It can become a measure of the success of organizational development. Attention has to be paid to not collecting too much information. The scope of the SA should be clearly defined at the beginning of the analysis. The scope can include the stakeholders' attributes (numbers, size, market value, etc.), their interests, resources and influence/power. More in-depth information, including the origin of the influence and resources as well as the relationships between the different stakeholders, may take a longer time.
External versus internal analysts
The analysis can be undertaken by an external or an internal analyst. An external analyst is a person who is not involved in the project or organization and who is not affected by the issues. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages. An external analyst is a neutral actor who does not hold preconceived opinions about the other stakeholders, and is not embedded in any form of relationship with them. The disadvantage of external analysts is that they may not have the necessary knowledge of, and familiarity with, the environment, and will not easily notice subtle characteristics, in particular any constrains in the relationships between the stakeholders. Internal analysts have better levels of familiarity and knowledge. This, however, does not automatically mean that the analyst has analytical understanding of the environment. It is also more difficult to neutralize any potential biases against the stakeholders and the analysts in the case of an internal analyst.
SA is based on bilateral interviews to collect information and data. The interviews make use of standardized questions. The analyst records the answers and his/her perceptions and assumptions. The information is than organized and analysed before being presented to the stakeholders who were interviewed. It is necessary to ask for confirmation of the analysis and its underlying perceptions and assumptions by presenting the findings to individual stakeholders.
The results of an SA are often presented in tables, maps or matrices. In a table the characteristics and other information collected for each stakeholder is presented (see example below). The information in the table can be text based or standardized by using qualifiers such as high, medium, low, supportive, opposed, etc. Using standardized qualifiers allows the information to be presented to all stakeholders in matrices combining one or two characteristics.
Matrix from Crosby