Stakeholder Engagement in Policy Development:
Observations and Lessons from International
Natalie Helbig, Sharon Dawes, Zamira Dzhusupova, Bram Klievink
and Catherine Gerald Mkude
Abstract This chapter provides a starting point for better understanding how
different approaches, tools, and technologies can support effective stakeholder participation in policy development. Participatory policy making involves stakeholders
in various stages of the policy process and can focus on both the substance of the
policy problem or on improving the tools and processes of policy development. We
examine five international cases of stakeholder engagement in policy development to
explore two questions: (1) what types of engagement tools and processes are useful
for different stakeholders and contexts? And (2) what factors support the effective use
of particular tools and technologies toward constructive outcomes? The cases address
e-government strategic planning in a developing country, energy policy in a transitional economy, development of new technology and policy innovations in global
trade, exploration of tools for policy-relevant evidence in early childhood decision
making, and development of indicators for evaluating policy options in urban planning. Following a comparison of the cases, we discuss salient factors of stakeholder
N. Helbig () · S. Dawes
Center for Technology in Government, University at Albany, 187 Wolf Road,
Suite 301, 12205 Albany, New York, USA
Department of Public Administration and Development Management
United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), New York, USA
Faculty of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology,
Jaffalaan 5, 2628 BX, Delft, The Netherlands
C. G. Mkude
Institute for IS Research, University of Koblenz-Landau, Universitätsstr. 1,
56070 Koblenz, Germany
© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015
M. Janssen et al. (eds.), Policy Practice and Digital Science,
Public Administration and Information Technology 10, DOI 10.1007/978-3-319-12784-2_9
N. Helbig et al.
selection and representation, stakeholder support and education, the value of stakeholder engagement for dealing with complexity, and the usefulness of third-party
experts for enhancing transparency and improving tools for engagement.
Complex public problems are shared and dispersed across multiple organizations and
domains (Kettl 2002). Consider, for example, the array of concerns associated with
improving air quality or assuring the safety of food products. The formal governmental responses to these specific public needs are addressed through public policies.
Policy might focus on different geographic locations, processes, or products, or
could specify how certain outcomes are defined, observed, and assessed. Moreover,
individuals, families, communities, industry, and government itself are all affected
by policy choices, and they all have interests in both the decision-making process
and the final decisions (Bryson 2004).
In light of seemingly intractable and complex social problems, public administrators have shifted toward governance activities that allow citizens and stakeholders to
have deeper involvement in the policy-making process and the work of government
(Bingham et al. 2005). Governance models which focus on quasi-legislative activities such as participatory budgeting, citizen juries, focus groups, roundtables, or
town meetings (Bingham et al. 2005; Fishkin 1995) create opportunities for citizens
and stakeholders to envision their future growth (Myers and Kitsuse 2000), clarify
their own policy preferences, engage in dialogue on policy choices, or bring various
groups to consensus on proposals (McAfee 2004). The models vary based on degree
of involvement by the general population, whether they occur in public spaces, if the
stakeholders are actually empowered, and whether they lead to tangible outcomes
(Bingham et al. 2005).
Stakeholder engagement objectives may also vary by their point of connection
with the policy process (Fung 2006). The policy process is complex and there are
many different ways to conceptualize how it works. The stages heuristic of public
policy making is one of the most broadly accepted (Sabatier 1991). Although the
utility of the stages model has limits, and numerous advances in theories and methods
for understanding the policy process have been made, the stages heuristic continues
to offer useful conceptualizations (Jenkins-Smith and Sabatier 1993). While specification and content of the stages vary somewhat throughout the literature, however (as
shown in Fig. 9.1), models often comprise some combination of problem identification, agenda setting, formulation, adoption, implementation, and policy evaluation
(Lasswell 1951; Easton 1965; Jones 1977). More recent conceptualizations involve
feedback across the various stages.
Research in both the public and private sectors has identified a number of benefits associated with stakeholder engagement in governance. Stakeholders’ interests
illuminate the multiplicity of factors that underlie policy problems, decisions, and
implementation. Direct engagement of stakeholders increases public understanding
9 Stakeholder Engagement in Policy Development
Fig. 9.1 Stages of the policy process
of the issues and the consequences of different choices. Accordingly, engagement
generates more options for policies or actions. Engagement brings more information
into the deliberation process from different kinds of stakeholders so that decisions are
more likely to avoid unintended consequences and fit better into existing contexts.
Engagement also reveals both conflicts and agreements among different stakeholder
groups. While taking stakeholders into account is a crucial aspect of solving public
problems, policy development includes both powerful and powerless stakeholders
within the process (Bryson 2004). Some stakeholders have the power, knowledge,
or resources to affect the policy content, while others are relatively powerless but
nevertheless are affected, sometimes in dramatic ways (Brugha and Varvasovszky
2000). Thus, open and evenhanded stakeholder engagement, especially among those
with conflicting viewpoints, can sometimes resolve differences and build trust in the
policy-making process and help secure public acceptance of decisions (e.g., Klievink
et al. 2012).
In the past 20 years, specialized technologies, electronic communication, and
advanced analytical, modeling, and simulation techniques have been developed to
support governance processes. Administrators, analysts, and planners must decide
how and when to engage citizens and stakeholders in governance, particularly during
the different stages of policy making. They must also consider which mechanisms
N. Helbig et al.
to use for managing the relationships (Bryson 2004) and must select from a variety
of tools and techniques. In this chapter, we begin to explore two questions: (1)
What types of engagement tools and processes are useful for different stakeholders
and contexts? And (2) what factors support the effective use of particular tools and
technologies toward constructive outcomes?
The next sections start by reviewing the foundational elements of stakeholder theory and its relation to governance, including a summary of tools and techniques used
to identify stakeholders and analyze stakeholder interests and ways to classify types
of engagement. We then offer five case stories of stakeholder engagement in complex
and dynamic settings across the world including e-government strategic planning in a
developing country, exploring different uses of evidence in early childhood decision
making, developing technology and policy innovations in global trade, and involving
citizens in the design of energy policy and transportation planning. The cases vary in
both policy content and the extent to which newer technologies were used to deal with
the complexity of the engagement process, their accessibility and understandability
to outsiders, and the advantages and disadvantages they offer to expert stakeholders
as compared to laymen. We then compare the cases, discuss their similarities and
differences, and conclude with a discussion of the usefulness of different tools and
processes for different stakeholders and contexts and the factors that support their
Foundations of Stakeholder Engagement
Stakeholder engagement, as a concept, originated within organizational studies as an
approach to managing corporations (Freeman 2010; Bingham et al. 2005; Donaldson and Preston 1995; Mitchell et al. 1997). This approach has since been adapted
for use by public sector organizations to highlight the importance of stakeholders in
various aspects of the policy-making process (Bingham et al. 2005). Bingham et al.
(2005) situate stakeholders as part of “new governance” concepts where government
actively involves citizens as stakeholders in decision making through activities such
as deliberative democracy, participatory budgeting, or collaborative policy making.
Research on stakeholder inclusion in government processes has been found to enhance accountability, efficiency in decision-making processes, and good governance
(Ackerman 2004; Flak and Rose 2005; Yetano et al. 2010). The growing popularity
of stakeholder analysis reflects an increasing recognition of stakeholder influences
on decision-making processes (Brugha and Varvasovszky 2000).
The term “stakeholder” is defined differently by different disciplines. Most definitions mention similar stakeholder categories such as companies and their employees
9 Stakeholder Engagement in Policy Development
or external entities such as suppliers, customers, governments, or creditors. In the
public sector, the definition of stakeholder emphasizes categories of citizens defined
by demographic characteristics, life stages, interest groups, or organizational boundaries (Bingham et al. 2005; Ackerman 2004; Yetano et al. 2010). Stakeholders can
be both internal to the government (e.g., the government organizations responsible
for policy implementation) and external to it (e.g., the industries, communities, or
individuals to be affected by government actions or rules).
In this chapter, we use Freeman’s (1984) definition of stakeholder as any group
or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of an organization’s
objectives. In the public sector, “organization” is understood to mean a government
entity or body with responsibility for public policies or services. In the simplest terms,
those who can affect or may be affected by a policy can be considered stakeholders
in that policy. In traditional expert-based approaches to policy making, the needs of
stakeholders are indirectly addressed by public agencies and acknowledged experts
(Bijlsma et al. 2011; De Marchi 2003). In these expert-based approaches, internal
and external stakeholders may be consulted, but in participatory approaches, stakeholders are not only consulted but are also involved in a structured way to influence
problem framing, policy analysis, and decision making. Bijlsma et al. (2011) define
participatory policy development as the “influence of stakeholder involvement on the
development of substance in policy development, notably the framing of the policy
problem, the policy analysis and design, and the creation and use of knowledge”
Stakeholder Identification and Analysis
Stakeholder identification and analysis is an important first phase in stakeholder engagement processes (Freeman 2010). Analysis typically involves five steps (Kennon
et al. 2009): identifying stakeholders, understanding and managing stakeholders,
setting goals, identifying the costs of engagement, and evaluating and revisiting the
analysis. Through these various steps, an analysis helps to distinguish stakeholders
from non-stakeholders and to identify the ways that stakeholders need to be engaged
during different parts of the policy cycle. Over time, the mix of stakeholders in a
particular policy issue is likely to change, as new stakeholders may join the engagement activities, while others may drop out (Elias et al. 2002) or shift among different
types. Joining, dropping out, or moving among types thus dynamically changes the
configuration and analysis of stakeholders over time.
Various techniques for stakeholder identification and analysis are reviewed in
the literature. These techniques focus attention on the interrelations of groups or
organizations with respect to their interests in, or impacts on policies within, a
broader political, economic, and cultural context. These techniques also provide
ways for analysts to understand stakeholder power, influence, needs, and conflicts
of interest. Bryson (2004) characterized stakeholder identification as an iterative
process highlighting the need to determine the purpose of involving stakeholders
N. Helbig et al.
and cautioning that these purposes may change over time. He describes a stage
approach to selecting stakeholders: someone or a small group responsible for the
policy analysis develops an initial stakeholder list as a starting point for thinking
about which stakeholders are missing. Brainstorming and the use of interviews,
questionnaires, focus groups, or other information-gathering techniques can be used
to expand the list. Bryson (2004) notes “this staged process embodies a kind of
technical, political, and ethical rationality” (p. 29). He also lists a variety of analysis
techniques, such as power and influence grids (Eden and Ackermann 1998), bases of
power diagrams (Bryson et al. 2002), stakeholder–issue interrelationship diagrams
(Bryant 2003), problem-frame stakeholder maps (Anderson et al. 1999), ethical
analysis grids (Lewis 1991), or policy attractiveness versus stakeholder capability
grids (Bryson et al. 1986). Each of these tools is used in different situations to help
understand and identify various aspects of stakeholder interests.
Stakeholder engagement methods are the means by which stakeholder views, information, and opinions are elicited, or by which stakeholders are involved in decision
making. Engagement can take various forms. The International Association for Public Participation identified five levels of stakeholder engagement: (IAP2 2007). At
the simplest level, informing, stakeholders are merely informed, for example, via
websites, fact sheets, newsletters, or allowing visitors to observe policy discussions.
The level of engagement in this form is very low and suitable only to engage those
stakeholders with low urgency, influence, importance, or interest (Bryson 2004).
Various methods are available for consulting, including conducting interviews, administering surveys to gather information, opening up draft policy documents for
public comment, or using Web 2.0 tools to gather ideas. The main goal of this form
of engagement is to elicit the views and interests, as well as the salient information
that stakeholders have with regard to the policy concern.
Involving stakeholders is a more intensive engagement where stakeholders work
together during the policy development process. Some tools used to ensure that ideas,
interests, and concerns are consistently understood and addressed include scenario
building (Wimmer et al. 2012), engaging panels of experts such as the Delphi method
(Linstone and Turoff 1975), or group model building that includes simulating policy
choices, games, or role playing (Andersen et al. 2007; Vennix et al. 1996). Models,
simulations, or scenarios can be used as boundary objects (Black and Andersen
2012; Star and Griesemer 1989) to enable diverse sets of stakeholders to have a
shared experience and to exchange localized or specialized knowledge in order to
learn, create common understanding, and identify alternative choices. All these levels
focus on the flow of information among actors, but the direction and intensity vary.
The most intense engagement is realized through full collaboration with or even
empowerment of stakeholders. In the IAP2 spectrum of public participation, collaboration means stakeholders’ advice and recommendations will be incorporated in
9 Stakeholder Engagement in Policy Development
the final decisions to a maximum extent (IAP2 2007). Empowerment means that the
final decision making is actually in the hands of the public. Realistically, collaboration and empowerment exist within institutional and legal parameters. For example,
the policy-making body (usually a government agency) will need to put some constraints or boundaries around the policy options that comport with the limits of its
legal authority. For both levels, consensus-building approaches are essential. This
can be done through citizen juries (Smith and en Wales 2000), the enactment of a
stakeholder board (urbanAPI1 ; Klievink et al. 2012), or by setting up living labs
(Tan et al. 2011; Higgins and Klein 2011) in which stakeholders collaboratively
develop, implement, and evaluate solutions within a given context. All of these
approaches not only assist in incorporating stakeholders’ views into the policy process but also enhance acceptance by stakeholders because they were part of the
deliberation process (e.g., see Klievink and Lucassen 2013).
Below we offer five case stories about stakeholder engagement in policy making.
The cases were recommended by a diverse set of eGovPoliNet consortium partners
who shared an interest in tools and techniques to support the policy process. The
main goal of the case stories is to highlight the roles that stakeholders can play in
policy development and to discuss how different methods, tools, and technologies
could be used for engaging stakeholders in the policy process. Each case describes a
situation where stakeholders were involved in the problem definition, agenda setting,
and formulation stages of the policy cycle. In all cases, a trusted third party, generally
university researchers, facilitated the process and applied the tools. The cases vary in
policy content and in the extent of technology use in the engagement process. They
represent different policy domains, and governments at different stages of development with different political systems. The first three cases focus on substantive policy
choices for e-government strategic planning, alternative energy policy, and global
trade inspection. The last two concentrate on stakeholder involvement in improving
tools to support the policy-making process. Of those, the first focuses on connecting policy makers and modelers in building a supportive framework for assessing
early childhood programs and second involves stakeholders in defining assessment
indicators to be built into a model that supports urban planning decisions.
In this section, we describe these diverse situations as the foundation for the
comparison presented in Sect. 9.4 where we identify similarities and differences that
suggest approaches, tools, and techniques that are useful and effective in different
contexts and with different kinds of stakeholders.
For each case below, we present the key characteristics of the policy-making situation and assess the purpose of stakeholder engagement. With respect to stakeholder
UrbanAPI is an EC FP7 project focused on interactive analysis, simulation, and visualization
tools for agile urban policy implementation http://www.urbanapi.eu/.
N. Helbig et al.
identification and analysis, we cover both the identification of stakeholders (types)
involved and the methods used for identificat ...
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