Blogs & Comment

Stakeholder Relations

Yesterday I was talking to John Kim Bell, President and & CEO of Bell & Bernard, a firm specializing in First Nations-Corporate-Government Relations, about constructive dialogue. Constructive diablogues are open, transparent, and trustworthy engagements with local stakeholders that foster a shared understanding of each partners needs and priorities. According to John Kim, while constructive dialogue is fundamentally important in gaining the support of local communities it isnt easily understood or effectively practiced.

On the one hand, understanding and addressing the needs of stakeholders is critical for companies that require the support of local communities for their license to operate. On the other hand, Ive found that key stakeholder engagement principles such as constructive dialogue are highly qualitative and not a high priority in organizational cultures where what gets measured gets done. Also, establishing trust with local stakeholders takes time and doesnt deliver a fast ROI.

I thought it might be helpful to share the framework for a system Ive used for engaging stakeholders (based on Business for Social Responsibilitys Stakeholder Engagement Planning Toolkit). Here are the steps and related questions:

Prepare: Which key business issues would benefit from a stakeholder engagement process? Who are the relevant stakeholders?

Plan: What are the objectives? What resources (people, money, time) are you able to allocate? Who will be accountable? What is the best mode of discussion to have? How will you measure success?

Design: How will you extend an invitation to your stakeholders? What is the best way to conduct/facilitate the engangement? Do you need an independent third-party facilitator? Do you need to verify or audit the engagement?

Engage: Do you have enough background information, materials and training? What are the next steps?

Evaluate: Do you need more time? Was the engagement itself successful based on your predetermined criteria? What are the outcomes? Was the process helpful?

Apply: How will you ensure that the results of the engagement reach the right internal decision makers? How will you inform stakeholders about follow-up from the engagement session?