How to run a stakeholder mapping exercise – a resource for grower groups
Stakeholder mapping is the initial step in developing a stakeholder engagement plan. This first step is crucial for the plan, as engaging stakeholders requires that you know who they are. Mapping enables organisations to identify and prioritise their stakeholders, which in turn enables them to reflect on the best engagement mechanisms for each stakeholder.
Engaging with stakeholders is central to the business of grower groups, with partnerships and collaboration critical to their success. As not for profit organisations, grower groups often have limited resources and rely on relationships with a whole range of stakeholders to enable the group to function effectively and achieve their goals and targets.
GGA run stakeholder mapping workshops held in the past have identified a number of key learnings. This discussion aims to capture and share these learnings to assist grower groups when undertaking their own stakeholder mapping sessions and subsequently develop a robust stakeholder engagement plan.
Why understand your stakeholders?
Grower groups identified a large number of reasons as to why it was important to understand their stakeholders. Some of these are listed below:
- Understand the particular relationship with each stakeholder
- Enable two way relationship between grower group and stakeholder
- Boost efficiency by prioritising and focusing time, effort and resources
- Give and get value from each stakeholder relationship
- Maximise the degree of impact your grower group can have
- Support innovation and progression of your group
- Identify funding opportunities and their capacity to deliver outcomes/support
- Know their level of motivation and whether you have a shared vision
- Develop positive PR and marketing to draw interest from outside the group
- Bring in new ideas, intellectual capital, skills & knowledge – create a skills & knowledge register
- Meet member and industry needs
- Have a policy influence
- Target your marketing and promotions
- Ensure effective communications
- Know your customers/clients and what they want – map their needs
- Know your obligations and commitments to different stakeholders
- Build your group vision
- Leverage and influence within the industry
- Know your important research partners and allowing collaboration
The 7 key learnings addressed below have been captured from the stakeholder mapping process undertaken by the GGA in an effort to assist grower groups when analysing their particular set of stakeholders, and starting the process of developing their stakeholder engagement plan.
Grower groups have a lot of stakeholders – and are great at engaging with them!
The first key message we can draw is that grower groups have a lot of stakeholders! It is evident that grower groups are really excelling in this space already, particularly in terms of knowing who the important stakeholders are and ensuring they engage with them.
Grower groups understand that they rely on relationships and collaboration with various stakeholders (funders, sponsors, communities, research partners etc.) to ensure they operate effectively. The stakeholder mapping exercise seeks to put some formality around this stakeholder engagement process, helping groups to become more efficient with their time and resources.
Relationship is different to influence
Groups have relationships with many different stakeholders. From strong connections with key people or groups in the community, to detached connections with stakeholders in other regions or industries. The influence of these stakeholders on the success of grower groups is not necessarily in proportion to the relationship with them, and it is important to understand the difference.
For example, there may be people or groups who have little or no direct connection with a grower group (no relationship evident) but they may still be important stakeholders with a strong influence on the success of the organisation. An example of this could be Federal Government or policy makers who can make decisions on funding or policy that could directly influence a group’s operations and therefore success. Think about ways you can develop a connection with these stakeholders, or alternatively utilise stakeholders you do have a relationship with, to help reach those more distant and form a network to reach them (e.g. GGA network).
On the other hand, a grower group may be very close to some stakeholders who have very little influence on the success of their organisation. Think about the time and resources you invest in these relationships, and whether your effort would be better spent maintaining or developing connections with other key influencers.
Interactions with stakeholders change over time
Stakeholder mapping is an ongoing process. It should be re-visited regularly (at least yearly) to identify who the stakeholders are, what the relationship is, and how much influence they have. Relationships and influence will change over time, so it is important to regularly map stakeholders to be clear about where each stakeholder currently sits in your engagement plan, enabling you to decide on the amount of time, effort and resources you should allocate to the relationship. Remember to update key contact people and continually gauge the interest each of your stakeholders have in your organisation as it matures, changes focus or picks up new projects or activities.
Different groups have different stakeholders – and different relationships with stakeholders
Different stakeholders will be more important to some groups than others. For example, a grower group may have a sponsorship agreement with a stakeholder that requires frequent communication and/or partnership, while another may not engage with that stakeholder at all. Every group’s stakeholder map will look different, depending on organisational structure, strategy, goals and current relationships. There is no best fit map to suit every organisation.
While many grower groups will have stakeholders who are similar or the same, the relationships will always be different. Groups will have different engagement strategies depending on the people, the relationships, time and resources available to invest into stakeholder engagement. It is up to each organisation to decide what is best for them.
The stakeholder map is a tool to assist in decision making
It is great to be able to identify every stakeholder you should be engaging with, but you cannot be everything to everyone. The map can be used as a tool to create your engagement plan and set priorities for your time, skills and resources. How you manage this process is up to your grower group to decide based on the key influencing stakeholders, your relationships with them (or the relationship you want to have with them), and your capacity to engage with them.
It is not always necessary to work through each individual stakeholder in depth, but the mapping process does help to determine who those key stakeholders are. In some cases, it may be possible to group stakeholders together based on particular interests or needs and engage them accordingly. For example, if you would simply like to keep a group of stakeholders informed of how your organisation is progressing, then a simple communication process (i.e. newsletter or email update) may be all that is needed.
With many groups having limited resources, a well thought out engagement strategy is essential to ensure meaningful and effective engagement. The GGA will be developing further resources for groups to assist in developing an effective stakeholder engagement plan, and help you think strategically about communication style and methods.
You might want to spend some time during a stakeholder mapping session to think about the potential impact of stakeholders with a negative influence on your organisation. How do you or might you engage or deal with these stakeholders? How much time and effort should your group invest in them and what is the best way to reduce the negative impact they could have? Do they influence the success of your organisation and how can you build your relationship with them to effectively manage the risk?
An individual or group that has the capability to block or delay your work is a serious risk and needs to be dealt with. Close engagement to fully understand their position is critical so that you can determine what may be done to minimize their impact on your work. If nothing else, better understanding where key stakeholders are coming from enables you to better plan your work with that in mind.
The best way to manage the potential negative influence of stakeholders is to identify all potential stakeholders, all potential problems associated with those stakeholder groups and take steps to address the problems if they were to arise. When setting out your stakeholder engagement plan, plan your activities around the requirements of each stakeholder, taking time to understand their buy-in and level of support for your organisation.
Link between stakeholder engagement and extension
A stakeholder engagement plan is an essential tool for undertaking extension activities. The plan will identify who the key stakeholders are, what information they should receive from your group, and in what format and timeline. For example, it may be acceptable to just engage some stakeholders through a monthly newsletter. However priority stakeholders, like the grower members of your group, will require a different engagement approach. If you are trying to achieve adoption/practice change, consider engagement practices that involve a higher level of participation, such as collaboration, partnership or consultation.
In summary, stakeholder mapping is an effective tool to assist grower groups to better understand their stakeholders. It enables them to start the process of effective stakeholder engagement by identifying who they are, where they are, what both parties need from the relationship to move the organisation or project forward, and ultimately, how to engage with them accordingly.