Every stakeholder process is unique and will follow its own path and logic. Nevertheless, experience has shown that there are some common phases and process considerations that, if designed for, will improve the effectiveness of the process. These have been captured here in what we call the process model. The phases should be considered as iterative, not regarded as linear step by step elements.
The phases of the process model are:
- Initiating: This is the phase when someone or a group of stakeholders first starts thinking about and organizing a multi-stakeholder process. This phase is critical. If, for example, mistakes are made on who to involve early on, or the politics of the situation is misjudged it can spell disaster for the entire process. There is no ‘right way’ to get a MSP going. However there are a set of tips that if carefully considered will give the process a better chance of being successful.
- Adaptive Planning: Stakeholder process need to engage the different interest groups in a processes of problem analysis, vision building, strategy development and action planning. Recognising complexity, these processes are not seen as linear or as generating blueprints for change: rather they are ongoing processes which set the direction and strategy of the MSP, making it transparent as well as adaptable to emerging insights and experiences.
- Collaborative Action: Ideas and plans for change need to be acted on. Often MSPs fail or lead to disillusionment because the ideas and plans generated through multi-stakeholder engagement don’t end up being acted on and put into practice. Taking action requires a different level of commitment and resources than the adaptive planning phase, as well as sometimes different management and organizational arrangements may be required. (Not all multi-stakeholder processes enter the collaborative action phase as some are purely designed to be consultative.
- Reflexive Monitoring: Very few stakeholder processes effectively embed monitoring into the process. We use the term reflexive monitoring here to refer to a type of monitoring that enables the actors to learn about their process as it unfolds and to adapt it. It is important to monitor not just the anticipated and unanticipated outcomes of the process, but also expectations and quality of the process itself: engaging stakeholders in a discussion about what for them would constitute a quality process and then setting up systems for monitoring and regularly reviewing this can be a very powerful tool for improving the process.