The Borealis team works with government entities around the world looking to engage stakeholders in a more efficient and cost-effective manner. In this article, I share best practices for improving government stakeholder engagement, along with concrete examples of how governments can use stakeholder engagement software to get there.
Jump to section:
- Challenges in government stakeholder engagement
- Barriers to improving government stakeholder engagement
- Tools for improving government stakeholder engagement practices
- Use cases for stakeholder management software
- Example of how governments can use stakeholder management software
- Things to consider when evaluating a software
- Government Stakeholder Engagement FAQS
Key challenges in government stakeholder engagement management and public engagement
Ensuring effective stakeholder engagement is a common challenge for many government entities that need to:
- Cover a large territory
- Manage large numbers of stakeholders and high volumes of stakeholder data
- Understand the changing relationships between stakeholders
- Create and maintain up-to-date stakeholder lists
- Track all stakeholder engagement activities
- Report stakeholder engagement outcomes
- Manage stakeholder engagement employees that are:
- Likely spread across multiple regions and offices
- All working toward the same goal, but not necessarily with the same tools or processes
- Dealing with different local contexts
These are just some of the many challenges that can make it extremely difficult for any government entity to effectively manage the vast quantities of communications generated relating to public engagement.
The Covid-19 pandemic further intensified these challenges. And new obstacles have since emerged: health services are strained to the breaking point, inflationary pressures are ongoing, the war in Ukraine is accelerating the energy transition, and so on.
Governments may now have fewer resources at their disposal to dedicate to engaging stakeholders, even though this dialog is essential for guiding government action and maintaining social cohesion.
Let’s look at some of reasons for these challenges and how government entities can overcome most of them with stakeholder management software.
Key barriers to improving government stakeholder engagement
Private businesses working on large-scale infrastructure projects in mining, energy, transportation, and others have long adopted stakeholder management software to better manage stakeholder relationships.
Government entities, however, have been slow to follow this best practice in stakeholder engagement. This is often due to several reasons:
- Lack of understanding of what stakeholder engagement software really is and what it can do.
- Resistance to change and the initial cost of implementing a new system.
- Struggle to establish and maintain open, inclusive, and transparent processes that encourage participation and enable more representative decision-making.
- Struggle to implement the proven 3-stage methodology of “plan-engage-measure” advocated by best practices in stakeholder engagement.
As a result, many governments continue to manage their stakeholder data the “old school” way with emails, spreadsheets, and even pen & paper. This means government stakeholder management teams do not have a single source of centralized stakeholder data. Instead, they work with incomplete knowledge and in silos, resulting in subpar outcomes. This invariably leads to oversights, duplicated efforts, and ineffective reporting.
Poor reporting is particularly problematic as it muddies the view of actual outcomes and prevents agencies from fully building on lessons learned. These shortcomings are not due to an unwillingness to improve practices, but rather to a lack of adequate tools that allow for such a systematic and standardized approach.
How governments can improve stakeholder engagement practices
Ineffective processes can often be improved with the right tools and methodology. While some governments have tried configuring their existing CRM system for stakeholder engagement, the gold standard remains stakeholder management software.
Stakeholder management software for governments allows public outreach and community involvement teams to manage all stakeholder data, engagement plans, and related activities according to the proven 3-step methodology and from a single, centralized database.
Stakeholder management software:
- Replaces endless spreadsheets, emails and personal notes – which are susceptible to being lost or misplaced – with a single point of truth that’s always accessible, up-to-date, quality controlled and secure.
- Breaks down silos and improves productivity by keeping all information at your fingertips.
- Provides an easy framework to implement a structured and standardized approach to stakeholder engagement.
- Is extremely feature-rich while remaining intuitive and user-friendly, even to those with limited computer skills.
- Adapts to how teams prefer to work, such as allowing users to capture data directly from Outlook, open sessions, events, media/social media, and enter and access data while on the go via the mobile app, etc.).
Borealis stakeholder management software is used by governments worldwide to better manage stakeholder relationships.
Use cases facilitated by stakeholder management software
- Identify and map stakeholders
- Conduct a stakeholder analysis each quarter
- Assess stakeholder position to evaluate overall support per stakeholder group, key stakeholder, region, etc.
- Categorize stakeholders to define stakeholder strategy
- Create engagement plans based on assessment level
- Coordinate activities on campaigns to brief relevant stakeholders
- Manage entities, organizations, departments, committees, and their relationships & political affiliations
- Connect and engage with their stakeholder in different ways and frequencies based on priority
- Track the most important communications around the topic that will be used to engage stakeholders over a period of time, or periodically reviewed internally (ex. holding quarterly briefs on project updates with media stakeholders and not losing track of those they need to follow up with)
- Add quantitative metrics to stakeholder engagement performance to manage future situations
- Keep stakeholder assessments up-to-date as it might change engagement levels
- Engage media with regard to public relations matters
- Plan, organize, and hold media events
- Update the media industry on project updates
- Collect information from the media
- Manage and monitor social media channels
- Respond as needed
CASE IN POINT: Rationale for creating an external public engagement strategy for a district energy system
Misconceptions are common when it comes to district energy systems. Stakeholders such as end users, municipal staff, and elected officials may not fully understand how district energy systems work – nor their benefits and contributions to the sustainability of communities.
Lack of awareness and misunderstandings can be a barrier to district energy growth and may even hinder the efforts of political leaders to create effective policies and incentives. Effective communication and successful stakeholder engagement are vital in addressing the misconceptions surrounding this technology to dismantle these barriers.
Due to the complexity of district energy systems and the diversity of the stakeholders, it is important for an engagement strategy to follow a structured and informed process.
Create a solid stakeholder engagement plan
This guide offers a step-by-step approach to building an effective stakeholder engagement plan.
Concrete examples of how governments can use stakeholder management software
- Easily pull up lists of relevant stakeholders by project, location, topics of interest, etc.
- Centralize information and break down silos by giving all employees access to the same, complete dataset. (When everyone relies on their own list or spreadsheet, no one can see the big picture).
- Create individual and team calendars to improve planning and coordination. Use automatic reminders to keep everyone on track and ensure the right stakeholders are informed at the right time.
- Use the stakeholder mapping tool to assess stakeholders by level of interest, influence, and priority, along with their multiple roles, relationships with other stakeholders, affiliations, etc.
- Use the engagement plan tool to create detailed plans for specific infrastructure, projects, districts, stakeholder groups, etc. Assign tasks, resources, and deadlines to manage and track activities.
- Use tools like batch tasks, email templates, customizable distribution lists, etc. to simplify the sending, recording, and management of communications to vast numbers of stakeholders.
- Communicate with stakeholders using their preferred method of communication (like SMS), without losing sight of the communication.
- Use the GIS mapping tool to map infrastructure and create buffer zones around assets to visually identify affected stakeholders and potential issues.
Evaluating a software solution for managing stakeholders in government? Make sure you ask about those important points.
When evaluating different stakeholder management software solutions, government entities will need to consider security and compliance criteria such as:
- ISO 27001 certification – Global standard for managing information and protecting data against security breaches
- WCAG (Web Content Accessibility Guidelines) – Guidelines for making web content more accessible to people with disabilities
- Data hosting – Where and how data is stored
- Data privacy standards – Such as GDPR and other privacy laws that may be in force
A growing number of governments around the world rely on Borealis stakeholder engagement software to improve their stakeholder engagement practices.
Our experts provide full software integration, employee training, and ongoing support. Whatever your current work methods and processes, we will work with your team to ensure a smooth transition. Learn more. Talk to an expert.
Government Stakeholder Engagement FAQS
What is a government stakeholder?
Government stakeholders are individuals, groups, or organizations that have an interest or concern in government activities, decisions, or policies.
Government stakeholder examples include:
Government agencies and departments:
These government stakeholders are part of the government itself, but their specific mandates may sometimes mean different or conflicting interests and concerns.
Businesses and industries:
These government stakeholders may be regulated by the government or may rely on government contracts or policies.
Non-profit organizations and advocacy groups:
These government stakeholders will often lobby the government for changes in policy or legislation
Citizens and community groups:
These government stakeholders are directly affected by government policies and decisions, and also a driving force in shaping these policies and decisions.
Other governments and international organizations:
These government stakeholders can include foreign governments and international bodies like the United Nations or the World Bank.
All of these examples of government stakeholders will all have specific needs and perspectives that sometimes overlap, sometimes contradict. Balancing these diverse interests is a key part of effective governance.
Who are local government stakeholders?
Local government stakeholder examples include individuals, groups, or organizations are the same as government stakeholders, with the exception that they will have an interest in or can be affected by the decisions and actions of a local government. Local government stakeholders can influence or be influenced by local government policies, objectives, and decisions. Local government stakeholder examples typically include:
Broad and diverse group of people of all ages, professions, and backgrounds who live in the community.
These government stakeholders are directly impacted by the decisions and actions of the local government, but also directly influence such decisions and actions.
From small enterprises to large corporations.
These government stakeholders are affected by local government policies, such as tax rates, regulations, and infrastructure development.
Nonprofit Organizations and Community Groups:
From social service providers to environmental advocacy groups.
These government stakeholders often work closely with local government and can both influence and be influenced by its decisions.
Local news outlets, bloggers, and other media.
These government stakeholders play a role in shaping public opinion about local government actions.
Other Public Entities:
School districts, public utilities, transportation agencies, etc.
These government stakeholders are either overseen by the local government or work closely with it.
Employees and Unions:
Public sector employees and their representative unions.
These government stakeholders are an integral part of the labor ecosystem and have a significant impact on labor-related laws, regulations, and policies.
Other levels of government:
State or provincial governments, national governments, and even international bodies.
These government stakeholders often come into play when decisions have wider impacts or when funding is involved.
Understanding and engaging these different government stakeholder examples is crucial for local governments to effectively serve their communities, make informed decisions, and maintain transparency and accountability
Why is stakeholder engagement important for government departments and agencies?
Whether in industry or government, stakeholder engagement is all about humanizing the relationship between an organization and those who are impacted by, interested in, or have influence over its activities. The goal of engaging with stakeholders is to pursue activities in a productive manner that is acceptable to all. Effective engagement builds healthy, trusted relationships that benefit everyone.
Unlike for-profit businesses, which typically use stakeholder engagement as a means to demonstrate compliance and secure social license to operate, the goal for most government agencies is to better serve the public while making more efficient use of limited public resources.
Stakeholder engagement is crucial for government departments and agencies for several reasons:
- Informed Decision-Making: Stakeholders often have unique knowledge, perspectives, and insights that can inform policy-making and improve decision-making.
- Accountability and Transparency: Engaging with stakeholders allows for greater transparency, ensuring that the decision-making process is open and accountable. It can increase trust in the government and its institutions.
- Effective Implementation: Stakeholder engagement is key to the successful implementation of policies and programs. Stakeholders can offer valuable input on practicality, potential obstacles, and strategies for effective implementation.
- Building Consensus and Reducing Conflict: By involving stakeholders in the decision-making process, governments can help build consensus and reduce potential conflicts. This can lead to greater acceptance and support for policies and initiatives.
- Legitimacy: Policies and decisions are more likely to be seen as legitimate and fair if they involve input from a broad range of stakeholders.
- Improved Services: Engaging with stakeholders can lead to better services that are more responsive to the needs and concerns of the community.
- Fostering Innovation: Stakeholders can bring new ideas and innovative approaches to the table, which can help government departments and agencies improve their operations and services.
In short, engaging stakeholders enables government departments and agencies to better serve the public interest, enhance the quality of their work, and build trust with the communities they serve.
Stakeholder management software is designed to address these challenges to empower effective public engagement.
It’s never too late to improve your approach
to government stakeholder management
Our team is here to help if you want to know more about proven tools and best practices for managing government stakeholders more effectively. We’re happy to answer all your questions or even give you a demo.