Stakeholder Engagement in Policy Development: Observations and Lessons from International Experience
Stakeholder engagement is a crucial concept in policy development –it usually determines the success of any policy development endeavor. Globally, it is becoming a widespread practice, especially in multicultural environments. The most obvious advantage of engaging stakeholders is the expertise that comes on board. By involving different players, the policy development process can take advantage of the skills and experiences of different players. The outcome would be policies that reflect the needs and concerns of those affected more comprehensively. Nevertheless, one must take caution to involve only relevant stakeholders.
It is also important to involve stakeholders for its own sake –that is, to create the impression that everyone is part of the process. It is common for stakeholders to disregard the merit of a policy, thereby rejecting it simply because they were not involved in the process (Burnes, 2015). Such participants can become stumbling blocks during the implementation phase of the policy development life cycle. As such, policy planners should consider involving them to minimize risks of rejection.
Although stakeholder engagement in policy development is a recommended approach, there are issues that participants must beware of. One of these challenges is the difficulty in reaching decisions. Typically, reaching an agreement becomes harder as the number of stakeholders increases. On the converse, it is easier to reach a final decision if there are only a few decision-makers involved. A high number of contributors can also affect the quality of the decision reached (Andriof & Waddock, 2017). Therefore, conveners of policy development agenda must ensure that all stakeholders invited to contribute have a specific role.
Other than due to slowed decision-making, why would one discourage stakeholder engagement in policy development?
Andriof, J., & Waddock, S. (2017). Unfolding stakeholder engagement. In Unfolding stakeholder thinking (pp. 19-42). London: Routledge.
Burnes, B. (2015). Understanding resistance to change–building on Coch and French. Journal of change management, 15(2), 92-116.