Stakeholders engagement

Cross-steps. Engaging stakeholders

Stakeholder engagement is an essential component of most policy or planning processes. This is surely true for adaptation, considering its cross-cutting and cross-sectoral nature. Engaging stakeholders in the adaptation processes holds a great value in providing an opportunity for learning about the climate change and about the need for climate action. Participating in the development of adaptation plans, or climate action plans and projects helps create a climate-literate community ready to face demanding challenges that the climate change is posing to the entire society. Adaptation is of interest to a wide range of stakeholders, which are expected to participate in the co-generation of the needed knowledge and of the decisions to be taken along the entire process. Stakeholder engagement plays an important role for all of the adaptation steps (as remarked in the description of each of the steps). However, there is a clear need to focus their contribution, in particular to get the most benefit from the engagement process. Stakeholder participation needs to be organised since the very beginning (step 1) and should be entrusted to communication and mediation experts. A well-designed engagement process is expected to pay attention to transparency, open communication, trust and relationships, clear identification of roles and responsibilities, and commitment of all participants. 

  • Why and when stakeholder engagement is important?

The adaptation process shall be open to stakeholder contribution in any step. However, involving stakeholders in all of the activities is hardly possible. Major benefits can be obtained by clearly defining the objectives of stakeholders’ engagement and by identifying when their contribution is most beneficial for the process. The decision on when to involve stakeholders is context-specific, although we can expect this being particularly important for the following activities: sharing data and information on the climate change hazards and risks, identifying climate change impacts of priority importance, co-creating the vision driving the adaptation, setting objectives resulting from the vision, sharing experiences on adaptation options, proposing specific adaptation measures, designing the monitoring, reporting and evaluation (MRE) scheme and creating the governance scheme for the adaptation to the climate change. Stakeholder engagement does not end with the approval of the adaptation plan but is also crucial for successful implementation and monitoring phases as well.

  • Who should be involved?

Stakeholder mapping and analysis aims at identifying who should be involved in the adaptation process. It is useful to inform all the participants what are the interests and positions of the stakeholders and their mutual relationships. The selection of the stakeholders has to be based on transparent criteria and aim at ensuring a balanced participation of different categories, including administrations in charge of adaptation at different levels (from local to national, if needed), different departments of the same organisation, sectoral authorities, academia and research institutions, NGOs, other interest groups and representatives of the business sectors. There is no ideal number of people to be involved; it is recommended to balance the need to give voice to all different categories with the indication to keep this number small enough to increase efficiency of the process and commitment of people along the entire duration. Once the stakeholders have been identified, the related level of involvement has to be clarified, ranging from information, bi-directional communication, consultation, co-creation, co-decision, etc. Such level will be different for different stakeholders and can even change over the course of the process. However, defining the roles and responsibilities for each stakeholder since the beginning is essential to increase the success of the stakeholder engagement. Finally, it is recommended to make use of the existing stakeholder platforms (for example some cities may have already established a stakeholder-based process dealing with sustainable development or urban planning). 

  • Providing evidence of the use of stakeholder contribution.

To increase trust, stakeholders need to be regularly informed about the use of the results of their participation. Adaptation shall be a co-designed pathway, and the resulting strategy or plan a shared outcome of all involved stakeholders. Different methods and instruments can be used to document the discussion, such as minutes of the meetings, handouts, posters or infographics summarising the key results achieved, dedicated web-sites, etc. It is also important to define the required level of formalization of stakeholder inputs. When the stakeholder participation deals with sharing of knowledge and experiences in general formalization is not needed. However, when participants are expected to bring on the table their strategic interests and express the related objectives, a higher degree of formalization might be required. The decision about the level of formalization is, however, case-specific. In some contexts informal processes can be preferred to prevent blocked positions and avoid active participation being discouraged. 

  • Developing a communication and awareness-raising plan.

Successful communication of the climate change adaptation is often the key to ensure public support, further strengthen public participation and increase awareness about the climate change challenges and possible solutions. A robust communication plan is needed to convey major findings of the adaptation process to different target groups. Elements to be considered include the following:

  • clarify the terminology; the meaning of terms such as vulnerability, risk, mitigation, adaptation may not been obvious to everyone
  • shape the conveyed messages in an user-oriented way (in terms of language, contents and format) considering that different target audiences need different approaches
  • together with results, communicate also the related assumptions and uncertainties (e.g. on future climate change scenarios and projections)
  • focus on examples and good practices rather than on methodological and theoretical aspects
  • make the best use of a mix of communication approaches (direct involvement, mass-media, internet, social media) and means (short text, graphic information, video, audio, narrated stories at meeting, etc.) to maximise the number of people you want to reach

Outcomes stakeholder engagement:

  • Document depicting stakeholder mapping and analysis 
  • Document planning stakeholder engagement activities
  • Documented evidence of the results of the stakeholder engagement process
  • Communication and awareness-raising plan on adaptation

CASE STUDY: “Climagine”workshops from ŠKC Coastal Plan.