Stakeholder Engagement for Government: Best Practices

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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. 

Why is stakeholder engagement important for government departments and agencies?

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.

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 thus 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.

Challenges of effective public engagement

Governments must manage large numbers of stakeholders and huge territories. Employees may be spread across multiple regions and offices. Everyone may all be working toward the same goal, but not necessarily with the same tools or processes and very often not in the same local context. This makes managing the vast quantities of communications relating to public engagement extremely difficult. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has further intensified these challenges. Governments may now have fewer resources at their disposal to dedicate to engaging stakeholders, even though this dialog is essential in order to guide government action and maintain social cohesion.

Even when not in the grips of a global pandemic, government departments and agencies often cite the following challenges: 

  1. Managing enormous territories with large numbers of stakeholders efficiently
  2. Understanding local contexts
  3. Identifying and proactively addressing risks, misconceptions, and concerns
  4. Keeping stakeholders appropriately informed
  5. Providing a better public service through a user-driven approach
  6. Maintaining a clear record of who did what, and when
  7. Establishing trust with stakeholders
  8. Measuring and analyzing efforts
  9. Coordinating team in an efficient way 

How governments can improve stakeholder engagement practices

Thanks to advances in technology and the shift to digitalization, businesses around the world started adopting stakeholder management software nearly two decades ago.

For the most part, however, governments have only recently started to view such tools as essential. While certainly accustomed to engaging with stakeholders, many government organizations are still struggling to establish and maintain open, inclusive, and transparent processes that encourage participation and enable more representative decision making, as promoted by the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Many governments still lag behind when it comes to implementing stakeholder engagement best practices, which are based on the proven 3-stage methodology of “plan-engage-measure.”

While most departments and agencies involved in public engagement do follow these stages to varying degrees, few do so in a systematic and standardized manner. 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.

Stakeholder management software is the solution. It allows stakeholder engagement and community involvement teams to manage all stakeholder data, engagement plans and related activities according to a proven methodology and from a single, centralized database. It 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.

From a day-to-day perspective, stakeholder engagement software breaks down silos and improves productivity by keeping all information at your fingertips. At a higher level, it provides organizations with an easy framework to implement a structured and standardized approach to stakeholder engagement. Advanced stakeholder software is extremely feature-rich while remaining intuitive and user-friendly, even to those with limited computer skills.

All of these benefits apply equally to government organizations and will help strengthen their stakeholder engagement practices.

Create a solid stakeholder engagement plan

This guide offers a step-by-step approach for building an effective stakeholder engagement plan and increasing your chances of successful project delivery. You should consider your stakeholder engagement activities just like you would any other business function – one that needs to be carefully managed.

Concrete examples of how governments can use stakeholder engagement software

  1. Easily pull up lists of relevant stakeholders by project, location, topics of interest, etc.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. Use the stakeholder mapping tool to assess stakeholder by level of interest, influence, and priority, along with their multiple roles, relationships with other stakeholders, affiliations, etc.  
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. Communicate with stakeholders using their preferred method of communication (like SMS), without losing sight of the communication.
  8. Use the GIS mapping tool to map infrastructure and create buffer zones around assets to visually identify affected stakeholders and potential issues.

How Borealis stakeholder engagement software can help

A growing number of governments around the world now 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.

Get started with
Borealis stakeholder engagement software today!