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Conducting a Stakeholder Analysis

Created Mar 22 2021, 8:18 PM by Communities Reinvented
  • Start a CoP


  • A Stakeholder Analysis is the process of identifying people who are involved with or have influence on or are affected by your community of practice.
  • A Stakeholder Analysis is important to better understand your audience, secure key support, gain early alignment on goals, and help address issues or conflicts early on
  • To conduct a Stakeholder Analysis, determine who your stakeholders are, group and prioritize the stakeholders,  determine how to communicate with and win buy-in from each group

What is a Stakeholder Analysis?

A Stakeholder Analysis is the process of identifying people who are involved with or have influence on or are affected by your community of practice and grouping them according to their levels of participation, interest, and influence in the community. It is also used to determine how best to involve and communicate to each of the stakeholder groups. You should carry out a Stakeholder Analysis before you start the actual process of creating a Community of Practice (CoP). 

Why is a Stakeholder Analysis important?

A Stakeholder Analysis is important for several reasons, including:

  • To better understand your audience - Your audience is not homogenous nor is it totally a set of individuals each and every one with a set of unique characteristics. There will be similarities amongst them (young/old, low income/high income, secondary education/tertiary education, and so on) and a Stakeholder Analysis enables you to start categorizing your audience along different criteria. A Stakeholder Analysis raises awareness of and gives you useful information about key potential members who you can then approach for support and alignment on critical goals.

  • To secure key support - You can approach key influencers, executives, team and project leaders, and other valuable stakeholders in your organization for help early in the project. You can then leverage their knowledge, wisdom, and influence to help set the direction for your CoP and ensure its success. Enlisting these individuals early also increases the chances of gaining their buy-in, their feeling of ownership, and of earning their ongoing support. The Stakeholder Analysis helps you determine who these influencers and other key stakeholders are.

  • To gain early alignment on goals - Having identified those different stakeholders up front, you can bring them into early-stage meetings to secure alignment around  the community’s strategic objectives and plans and helps ensure that everyone starts the formation of the CoP on the same page, that is, with a clear and common understanding of what success looks like, and in many cases, their responsibilities for helping ensure that success.

  • To help address conflicts or issues early on - Without a Stakeholder Analysis, you and your team could be far into the development of a community of practice before you realize that a key person in your organization—perhaps a team leader in a different but related division - does not see value in your initiative, might see it as a threat to other priorities, and might prefer to redeploy resources to other projects. Such a person might actively work to thwart or derail your project. If you had conducted a Stakeholder Analysis beforehand, you might have identified this team leader as potentially important to your project’s success. You could have then presented your plans, listened to the objections, and worked to earn their support or their agreement not to obstruct.

How do you conduct a Stakeholder Analysis?

Stakeholder analysis exercises will vary between organizations and within organizations, but we recommend the following steps: 

1: Determine who your stakeholders are.

Start by brainstorming with your CoP Core Team a list of all possible stakeholders for your CoP. You can refine the list later, but you do not want to miss a potentially key stakeholder early on.

The list of potential stakeholders could include individuals from:

  • Internal
    • Executive staff
    • Marketing
    • Finance
    • Legal
    • Operations
    • Procurement
    • Heads of all affected business units
    • Project team leaders
    • IT
  • External
    • Funding institutions
    • Consultants
    • Country officials 
    • Country politicians
    • Counterparts in other organizations

2: Group and prioritize these stakeholders

After completing the brainstorming session, you should have an extensive list of which people and teams will be your defined stakeholders. Next, you need to start categorizing them in terms of their influence, interest, and levels of participation in your project.

One approach, which is detailed in the book “Making Strategy: Mapping Out Strategic Success”, groups stakeholders into four categories:

Power Interest Grid Example 2 Graphic by ProductPlan

  • Players: High-power, high-interest individuals with whom you will want to collaborate and keep fully engaged.

  • Subjects: Low-power, high-interest stakeholders who can offer great insights and ideas for the project but whom you don’t need to always say yes to.

  • Context-setters: High-power, low-interest stakeholders (heads of departments, for example) who can have a lot of influence over the project but do not want to be involved in the details. Keep them up to date.

  • Crowd: The crowd consists of low-power, low-interest stakeholders. These individuals require some ongoing communication about the project’s progress but probably the least important of all stakeholders.

3: Determine how to communicate with and win buy-in from each group

Having built your list of stakeholders in their respective groups or categories, you need to determine how to best earn the ongoing support of each of these stakeholder types. You will want to ask yourself questions about your stakeholders such as:

  • What motivates each stakeholder?
  • What other priorities do they have, and how can you align your community with those priorities, and even use the community to help achieve those priorities (or at least ensure that the community won’t threaten them)?
  • Will this stakeholder likely have a positive view of your community? If not, what can you do about it?

In summary, Communities of Practice require participation, guidance, and approval from a wide range of people across the organization. If they don’t understand or agree with the project’s objectives or execution plan, any of these stakeholders can slow down or even prevent your community’s success. However, if you enlist their help and approval from the outset, you can convert many of these individuals from naysayers to supporters of your community, which is why it is a smart strategy to conduct a Stakeholder Analysis before launching any community of practice, so that you can identify all potential stakeholders and earn their support.

This article is part of the WBG Communities of Practice Toolkit licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The toolkit features practical resources to help you develop impactful Communities of Practice. 📖 Learn more about the Toolkit.  ▶ Access the Toolkit