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Stakeholder Engagement Strategy Strategic stakeholder engagement goes beyond the day‐to‐day management responsibilities of involving staff in addressing operational issues and of managing good working relationships with partners and stakeholders. Strategic Stakeholder Engagement intends to foster long‐term sector growth and resilience by creating networked intelligence, strengthening relationships between actors in the system and encouraging distributed decision‐making. The characteristics of strategic stakeholder engagement include:
working at multiple levels – internal to the department and external to the department; local, regional, national and global; government, universities, producers, distributors, industry, associations, etc.
developing new relationships, processes and tools to advance department priorities and serve the public interest
producing public benefit through greater levels of collaboration collaborating within and across regions and stakeholder groups – industry, business and
civil society Purpose of the Engagement Strategy
The primary purposes of a Stakeholder Engagement Strategy are to support the Department’s strategic priorities by facilitating a shift in how the sector collaborates, innovates and achieves sustainability. It describes a set of processes and activities designed to transform, improve and scale up the ability of the Department, its partners, and its internal as well as external stakeholders to pro‐actively respond and quickly react to current and anticipated demands.
Glossary – Key Terms Because words can have multiple meanings, it is important to create shared understanding of the key terms used in this document.
Stakeholder: Any group or individual who can affect, or is affected by, an organization or its activities. Also, any individual or group that can help define value propositions for the organization.
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Strategic Stakeholder Engagement: A set of activities, methods and processes designed
to serve the long‐term growth and development of the initiating organization and the system of which it is a part.
Strategy: Developing a stakeholder strategy tends to have two parts:
i. Analysis of strategic stakeholder engagement goals: breaking down a goal into steps,
designing how the steps may be implemented, and estimating the anticipated consequences of each step. It takes into account the organization’s strengths, its vision and mission and priorities.
ii. Strategic thinking: this is about synthesizing trends and how they might have an
impact on relationships between stakeholders. It is also about using intuition and creativity to formulate an integrated perspective, a vision, of an the ideal set of relationships between the Branch and its stakeholders.
Effective stakeholder strategy relies on actively and iteratively learning from activities undertaken, supporting overall organizational learning, and its capacity to respond to challenges and opportunities in a resilient way.
Engagement: Stakeholder engagement arises from formal and informal ways of staying
connected to the various parties who have an actual or potential interest in or effect on the Department’s business. Engagement is about actively taking steps to understand stakeholder views; it is about being accountable to stakeholders when accountability is called for; and it is about using the information gleaned from these relationships to support and drive system resilience and innovation.
Leadership: is enacted through authentic speaking, listening and behaving in a way that enables an organization, community or system to effectively address its key challenges and take advantage of its key opportunities
Collaboration: Is a relationship among people/organizations committed to supporting
each other in achieving shared goals.
Why stakeholder engagement matters
One way to understand the importance of stakeholder engagement is to look at what can happen when it is not done: stakeholders see the government as unresponsive to their needs; employees feel unappreciated; partners trust the Department less; communities dig
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in their heels; and investors get nervous. Three key reasons for stakeholder engagement are building social capital, reducing risk and fuelling innovation1. Building social capital. In today's business environment, social capital is at least as
important as fixed assets. Social capital refers to features of social organization, such as networks, norms and social trust that facilitate coordination and co‐operation for mutual advantage. Social capital is the foundation on which an organization renews its “license to operate.” It is the basis for employees' willingness to give their best. It is essential to brand value. Social capital means strong, trusting relationships. It is forged slowly over time through positive interactions with stakeholders, but may be quickly lost when trust is broken. Benefits of building social capital include improved access to information, enhanced influence, increased adherence to group norms, and being given the benefit of doubt should an unexpected problem arise. In a recent document, Stakeholder Relationships, Social Capital and Business Value Creation (2003), the Chartered Accountants of Canada noted that the extent to which social capital creates value depends on the context, the perspective of the stakeholder and the nature of the corporation's strategic goals. While it is not possible to measure the value of a corporation's social capital, it is possible to assess the quality of a firm's stakeholder relationships and the potential contribution of social capital to the creation of business value.
Reducing risk. In an environment of instant, global communication, stakeholder engagement can provide an early warning of service or product concerns of customers, safety, human rights and environmental concerns of communities, and governance concerns of shareholders, among other issues. With a stakeholder engagement process in place, the organization will have a way to respond to stakeholders' concerns promptly, before they become much bigger problems.
Fuelling innovation. Stakeholder engagement can improve information flow, identify business opportunities and generate ideas. Some researchers have suggested that businesses that cultivate a culture of learning and transparency in relation to stakeholders will have an edge in the increasingly wired and knowledge‐driven world.
1 This Section draws on work from the recent Engagement Toolkit developed by Industry Canada. http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/csr-rse.nsf/eng/rs00138.html
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How to approach stakeholder engagement
A typical stakeholder engagement strategy will take a five‐step approach:
1. Understand the reasons for stakeholder engagement (key issues and drivers)
2. Identify stakeholders in relation to those issues and drivers
3. Define clear objectives, and plan the engagement process
4. Facilitate various levels of engagement, paying close attention to creating feedback loops in relation to impact and outcome.
5. Use participatory means to maintain the relationships while delivering on commitments
The following chart illustrates the essential components of strategic stakeholder engagement.
ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS OF STRATEGIC STAKEHOLDER ENGAGEMENT
Bounding the System Define issues/opportunities and drivers; define and identify levels, niches, organizations and actors relevant to the problem (or opportunity)
Understanding key stakeholders as potential collaborators in addressing the problem (or opportunity)
Where is it possible to create or strengthen relationships with stakeholders as a routine part of the ongoing work in the Branch?
What are the best ways to enter into collaborative opportunities?
Who is best positioned to open up new dialogue or other collaboration opportunities?
Where are the long‐standing patterns that support or hinder our objectives?
Identifying levers for change
What kinds of meetings or other forms of engagement will offer opportunities to meet more than one engagement objective, and potentially scale up positive changes in the relationships between stakeholders? (cross‐level influences)
Once the first three steps are clear, the detailed engagement approach will be grounded in the following principles.
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Guiding Principles for Strategic Engagement
While the nature of each engagement initiative will vary, the following guiding principles are important to keep in mind when developing processes that aim to produce extraordinary results and deepen a sense of connection among diverse stakeholders:
Include the widest possible spectrum of stakeholders: People / organizations involved must include those who influence or are influenced by an organization and its activities, regardless of whether they are inside or outside the organization.
Explore multiple perspectives before decision‐making and action‐taking: This principle accomplishes several things. First, it prevents people from leaping into problem‐solving and taking action before the context is fully explored. Second, it allows all perspectives to be heard. This increases the amount and type of information available and expands participants’ understanding of issues, leading to the possibility of out‐of‐the‐box thinking.
Use strengths‐based approaches: Rather than focusing on what is missing or what must be
improved, begin with strengths that can be built upon and what is already at work in the system. A strengths‐based approach generates more energy for change than does an approach based primarily on fixing deficits.
Offer opportunities for people in various positions to have influence: this means
structuring meetings and processes so that everyone’s ideas can influence the outcomes under discussion.
Look for common ground, not compromised ground: It is our assumption that everyone's
interests are best served by reframing issues in a non‐adversarial way, and creating processes to maximize gains for all with a stake in the outcome.
Use engagement processes to develop capacity and increased understanding of current
challenges: Using small group and plenary dialogue can help people develop new skills that they can take back to their workplaces. They learn how to facilitate small group dialogue, and/or how to support dialogue by acting inviting different perspectives to be heard.
Be transparent and accountable: Be honest about who is being engaged and why; and
share the results of engagement The Continuum of Engagement The following graphic illustrates both the continuum of stakeholder engagement and some possible activities that could be employed at the various stages of engagement.
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For more information contact:
Ray Gordezky [email protected] 905‐771‐1047 Ingrid Richter [email protected] 416‐406‐6395