Matching stakeholder engagement methods to gaps in knowledge

Important policy decisions benefit from knowledge about the local circumstance (where ‘local’ may mean, for instance, an organisation, a community, a state or a nation) and knowledge about similar circumstances elsewhere. The first comes from local data (occasionally local research) and local people who have a stake in the issues under consideration – the stakeholders who make the decision, who have to implement the decision, or who may be affected by the decision. The second comes from research that local stakeholders may judge to be relevant to the decisions they face. Some decisions are not made for local circumstances, but for all circumstances, for instance decisions made by international bodies. These decisions similarly benefit from knowledge held by stakeholders who bring experience from around the world, and from studies whose findings might be widely applicable.

This tool kit signposts methods and tools to help with:

  • Finding and making sense of research evidence
  • Finding relevant stakeholders to draw on their knowledge
  • Helping stakeholders discuss issues and make decisions

The choice of methods and tools for making decisions about policy (organisational or wider public policy) depends in part on whether decision-makers and stakeholders have a shared understanding about the context where the decisions will be applied, and whether the research available is judged relevant to the circumstances.

The choice of methods and tools for making decisions about conducting research depends on part on whether the aim is to produce new knowledge that will be for local use or be applied much more widely, and whether the researchers and other stakeholders have a shared understanding of what is already known before the research begins.

The framework below helps decision-makers, researchers and other stakeholders choose methods and tools for engaging with evidence and each other depending on whether they plan to:

  • Make a policy decision or plan some research
  • Whether the decision or research is to apply only locally, or more generally
  • How much clarity and consensus there is about what they know when starting out, whether this is being clear and agreed about where a decision will be applied, or clear and agreed about the existing knowledge that new research will build on.

(1) Engaging stakeholders with making decisions

Generalisable knowledge
Understanding of context
Lacking
Available
Shared
Limited
B) When decision-makers and stakeholders have a good shared understanding of the context for implementing decisions
A) When decision-makers and stakeholders have a good shared understanding of the context for implementing decisions
D) When decision-makers and stakeholders have limited shared understanding of the context for implementing decisions
C) When decision-makers and stakeholders have limited shared understanding of the context for implementing decisions
Engaging stakeholders with making decisions
 
 
 
 

(2) Engaging stakeholders with conducting research

Generalisable knowledge
Understanding of context
Required
Unnecessary
Shared
Limited
1) When generalisable knowledge is required, and researchers and stakeholders have a shared understanding of existing knowledge, research can be driven by widely shared priorities.
2) When locally relevant evidence is sufficient, and researchers and stakeholders have a clear, shared understanding of existing knowledge, research can be driven by local priorities.
3) When generalisable knowledge is required, and researchers and stakeholders have a limited shared understanding of existing knowledge, the first step is developing consensus about research needs.
4) When locally tailored knowledge is sufficient, and researchers and stakeholders have a limited shared understanding of existing knowledge
Engaging stakeholders with conducting research
 
 
 
 

Contextual analysis for stakeholder engagement

What research is conducted and used is influenced by political power, democratic processes, institutional mechanisms, values and priorities.

Methods of choice: identifying stakeholders who are essential for, or may influence, decision making or research processes.

Limitations: The political analysis skills required for understanding the roles and influence of stakeholders, and the technical skills required for producing generalisable knowledge, are usually held by different sets of people.

Evidence: stakeholder mapping (Henwood 2017)

Tools: Every day political analysis and Collaboration mapping

Engaging stakeholders with evidence and uncertainty: an evidence map

Below, you can access an evidence map linked to the two stakeholder engagement frameworks above. The evidence map contains 53 research studies and tools to support stakeholder engagement in different circumstances as outlined in the two frameworks above. The left axis on the evidence map overlaps with the 4 quadrants in each of the stakeholder framework. That is, the left axis of the evidence map allows you to navigate between the stakeholder engagement frameworks above and the evidence map below (see image of the evidence map).

Access the interactive map here. The map is best viewed in Firefox. Evidence map: engaging stakeholders with evidence and uncertainty