Stakeholder engagement is key for an e-government initiative to be fully successful and effective.
Charlotte Van Dijck, post-doctoral researcher at KU Leuven Public Governance Institute, Trui Steen, full professor at KU Leuven Public Governance Institute, Noemi Milo, consultant at Deloitte Italy
31 July 2023
5 min read
Stakeholder engagement is key for an e-government initiative to be fully successful and effective. During processes of IPS co-creation a better understanding of stakeholders paves the way for more effective stakeholder communication, greater stakeholder engagement and, ultimately, improved public services design and delivery. For this, the identification of stakeholders is considered essential.
Stakeholders can be defined as “any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization’s objective” (Freeman, 1984/2010: 25). This implies that a given actor could either directly have an impact on, or be responsible for, the activities of an organisation, but equally could be willingly or unwillingly impacted by them, or both. Following this logic, a stakeholder may be considered as being usually involved, to a greater or lesser degree, in a particular activity and hence have responsibilities within it and take a measure of interest in its success.
We can distinguish between internal and external stakeholders. The first include core members of the project network that have direct strategic and authoritative roles in the planning, design, delivery, and maintenance of a service. External stakeholders are those that have a stake or strong personal interest in the project’s progress, will use a provided service, and live with the consequences of the project outcomes (Wiewiora et. al., 2015). Stakeholders can also be distinguished based on their roles, wherein each group of stakeholders participates in the process of digital service provision in more than one capacity (Rowley, 2011). Examples of such roles are service providers, consumers or users, decision-makers, service developers, etc.
Stakeholders can be engaged at different levels, from informing, over consulting, to actual co-creating. Each level has several different stakeholder engagement methods applicable to it. Apart from the types of stakeholders and the level of stakeholder engagement, another element to consider are the phases of the public service cycle that stakeholders will be part of. These phases include co-design, co-delivery and co-assessment, but can be further divided into smaller phases such as: co-planning, co-prioritisation, co-financing, co- implementation/management, co-commissioning, etc. In fact, some of these phases can be looked at as project roles and responsibilities as well.
In sum, an important part of IPS co-creation is selecting the right stakeholders, finding the appropriate level and method of engagement for them, engaging them where required in the phases of the public service cycle, and giving them appropriate roles and responsibilities. Given the many roles, methods, types and phases to take into account, making the appropriate choices in terms of stakeholder engagement can seem highly complicated.
Building a Toolkit for IPS Stakeholder Engagement
Based on the IPS holistic framework, the recommendations of previous inGOV deliverables, academic research on co-creation, analysis of best practice cases and the experience of the four inGOV pilots, the inGOV project aims to construct a toolkit that can help meta- governors in IPS co-creation. This toolkit will consist of various tables, diagrams and visuals to help make informed decisions about stakeholder identification and selection, roles and responsibilities and methods of engagement.
This toolkit will include various elements such as a stakeholder selection flowchart and roadmap, guidelines for approaching stakeholders, and outlines of stakeholder roles and responsibilities, and of stakeholder engagement levels and methods. Here we provide a sneak preview of some of these elements.
Guidelines for approaching and engaging stakeholders are created, with the aim to avoid common pitfalls and increase the chances of successfully tying co-creators to the network.
1. Get to know the field When looking for external stakeholders such as businesses, NGOs, civil society organizations or other governmental organizations, get to know the field. It is wise to evaluate different options and to examine different alternatives to see which stakeholder would be the best fit for the project.
2. Make your pitch memorable When meeting with a potential stakeholder, ensure that you can pitch the project in a clear and exciting way and that you can quickly situate where they would fit into the project as co-creators.
3. Go in prepared Show the stakeholder that you have done your research. Be aware of the way of working, the values and the sensitivities of the stakeholder. Ensure that you can convey why their engagement in the co-creation can be a win-win situation. Make sure it is clear why they were selected as potential co-creators over other alternatives.
4. Engage After a positive first meeting, consolidate the collaboration. Arrange for a follow- up meeting in the immediate future and keep in touch throughout the preparation of the project. “Keeping the network warm” is vital to keep stakeholders from dropping out prematurely.
5. Embed Once a stakeholder is selected, involve them in the next steps. Inform them about how the preparation of the project is going, but moreover, consult them for input about project decisions and ensure that they feel heard and valued. This type of involvement helps motivate stakeholders and embeds them in the project.
An agile roadmap further serves as a tool to refine the stakeholder selection. By posing critical questions related to the context and the process, meta-governors can verify whether it can be instrumental to invite additional stakeholders to the network.
Freeman, R. E. (1984, 2010). Strategic management: A stakeholder approach: Cambridge university press.
Rowley, J. (2011). e-Government stakeholders—Who are they and what do they want?, International journal of information management, 31(1), 53-62.
Wiewiora, A., Keast, R., & Brown, K. (2015). Opportunities and Challenges in Engaging, Citizens in the Co-Production of Infrastructure-Based Public Services in Australia, Public Management Review, 18(4), 483-507.