There’s a place at the table for you!

The turkey is in the oven. You’ve been basting it faithfully. The stuffing is perfectly seasoned. Cranberry sauce is chilled. The table is set with all of your grandmother’s finest china. You are ready to host the annual family Christmas party.

Then imagine only half of the guests you expected show up. The ones that do come pick through the food, murmuring about whether or not it’s fully cooked. Someone wonders why so-and-so isn’t here. Didn’t you invite so-and-so? Someone else wanted pumpkin pie–you made apple.

Now imagine the scene above, except rather than a festive dinner party, what you are hosting is a meeting on a potential community improvement project. Maybe you want to build a youth center, create a broadband infrastructure, or expand health care options. If you don’t take a serious approach to working with people who have a stake in the initiative you could, well, shoot your eye out.

Stakeholder Analysis–Right People, Right Time

When it comes to community projects like these, stakeholder identification and analysis is key. You need to bring the right people together at the right time to develop buy-in, and foster a collaborative atmosphere that produces a shared vision everyone can get excited about.

But who are the stakeholders for a given project? Why do we need them? What about the naysayers? Do you invite the enemy to the party?

In the PMBOK® Guide the Project Management Institute (PMI)® defines project stakeholders as “individuals, groups, or organizations who may affect, be affected by, or perceive themselves to be affected by a decision, or outcome of a project.” In short, they’re the people who will affect or be affected by this initiative. They have something at stake. If you are building a birth center, for example, the stakeholders would include pregnant women, families of childbearing age, midwives and support staff, and local obstetricians, who might stand to lose clientele (and yes, you do have to invite the naysayers).

In any project, but particularly in community improvement projects, it is important to go through a processes of identifying stakeholders, analyzing their interest level and potential impact, and develop a plan for stakeholder management. This also includes stakeholders that are not directly impacted by the project. If you want to start a community bus route, the businesses near bus stops along the route could stand to benefit from increased traffic. Local used car dealerships might see a drop in sales if public transportation became available. Each of these need to be considered through the stakeholder analysis process.

Stakeholder analysis may be performed through multiple classification methods. One effective model is through the use of an influence/impact grid, where stakeholders are grouped based upon their influence level (power/authority) to the project and their interest in the project. Sometimes a person who takes a particular interest in an issue, whether it affects them or not, can be an influential stakeholder. This might be a local elected official, an expert in the field, or a champion. Effective stakeholder analysis will help in creating a plan for stakeholder engagement.

Stakeholder Engagement

Once you’ve identified and analyzed the stakeholders involved, the next step is to decide which ones will be invited to the table and why. Tom Wolff, psychologist and author of “The Power of Collaborative Solutions” recommends asking the following questions when identifying potential stakeholders:

  • What are their capacities and skills?
  • What is their potential role in the collaboration?
  • What is their self-interest? That is, why would they want to get involved?
  • How will you recruit them?
  • What barriers might exist to recruiting them?
  • Who will approach them? And when?

An invitation to the dinner party doesn’t necessarily mean your guest will show up, either; you have to be strategic. The main reason a person volunteers to get involved with something is that someone they know asks them. So crack those networking knuckles and reach out to the people you know who know the people you’d like to get involved in your project.

And don’t forget, nobody wants to feel like a decoration. Let the person know exactly why you’ve asked them to take part. Use the 6 Rs of the Participant as a guide:

  • Recognition (We saw how you were able to rally the county commissioners around X initiative last year)
  • Roles (We would like you to serve as a board member/consultant/spokesperson/financial advisor)
  • Respect (We respect your schedule and can accommodate you in this way . . .)
  • Relationship (We have invited X to collaborate with us as well)
  • Rewards (What would you like to get out of this?)
  • Results (So far, we have achieved X, and our plan is to achieve Y in the next 6 months)

Remember, just as your family dinner party is less about the food and more about the people, so is community engagement.

Solarity has been awarded a contract to assist the state of Kentucky in  community engagement as part of the KentuckyWired initiative to make high-speed, high-capacity internet available to every county throughout the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Our role is to engage with community stakeholders to assist in developing a shared vision for community broadband adoption and planning. We want you to be at the table with us to bring the benefits of broadband to your community.

We’d love to attend your next community “dinner party.” We’ll bring the turkey.


About the author

Christy Swift has been a freelance writer and correspondent in the United States and Canada for over 10 years. With a degree in English and technical writing, she has a knack for making complicated subject matter digestible and even tasty. Christy regularly conducts research into the latest trends in project management to provide the Solarity Group with engaging content for its website and e-newsletters. 

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We partner with organizations and individuals to help them go “from inspiration to implementation” by helping them to define the right work, plan the work, and work the plan.