Many challenges are too deep and complex for a single organisation to deal with alone. A Multi-Stakeholder Process is a way that stakeholders, including local communities, businesses, governments, and civil society organisations can work together towards a common vision.

In conventional programmes, advocacy and consortia arrangements, we are working with multiple stakeholders, but each actor plays a particular role as defined from the outset.  In an MSP, there is much less control over the roles and the outcomes.  Instead, there is a large element of exploration, and each stakeholder defines its own role to a large extent.  An MSP is suited to trying to resolve complex, systemic problems.  It is not suited to projects with a linear focus and delivery, where everyone just needs to do a particular job.

Within a broader programme, an MSP can be used at various stages.

  • In programme design, an MSP can identify the issues that stakeholders find important to work on.
  • In programme implementation, an MSP can be a way to involve a broader set of stakeholders for scale-up, shared learning and/or stronger advocacy.
  • In planning exit from a programme, an MSP can explore how other stakeholders may be able to take forward the work of the programme.

This tool gives guidance on convening an MSP, by getting the appropriate stakeholders together and building a common roadmap.

Average time investment for using this tool

3-4 hours for preparing an outline plan. However, the MSP itself can be a multi-year process.

Who leads

Project manager

Who needs to be involved

Project team. In some cases, you may want to commission specific research.

Activity 1: Coordinating your MSP

Guidance on how to decide who to approach, and how, as well as tips on how to ensure smooth functioning of your multi-stakeholder programme.

Step 1: Stakeholder mapping/power analysis

First, we need to understand who the relevant stakeholders are.

Use the power analysis methodology (available for download on the GEM+ toolkit website) to map the stakeholders and how they influence outcomes. Make a note of each stakeholder’s objectives and strategies. Make a note of where you see synergy between the stakeholders for the outcome you are trying to achieve.

Step 2: Getting the right people involved

Based on the Power Analysis, select 20-25 people to involve in the MSP. These should be leading actors who can together achieve the desired outcome. MSPs can include more or less people, but 20-25 will ensure a good initial mix.

In most cases, you will need to include someone from the government, at the right level/department as appropriate for your desired outcome.

If possible, have a multi-stakeholder “convening team” of 3-5 people who are willing to play an active role in organising the MSP.  For example, this could be a private sector person, a government person, a donor person, and an Oxfam person.  This will make all stakeholders more willing to participate openly, without feeling that this work is only the work of your organisation.

Step 3: Designing the first MSP meeting

Have 1 to 1 conversations with each stakeholder before holding the first meeting.  Use this conversation to understand how the issue affects each stakeholder, and what outcomes they would like to see.  Use this information for designing the content of the meeting.

Adapt the length of the first meeting to these stakeholders and how much they already care about the issue.  For example, if the issue is fundamental to all stakeholders’ survival (e.g. extreme environmental degradation), then you can have a 3-4-day event.  However, usually, people are only willing to make time for 1 day.  Private sector people will often only participate for 1 day or half-day.  Set the length of the meeting so that everyone can participate throughout.

Download the complete tool below for tips for running your meeting.

Step 4: Roadmap the multi-stakeholder relationship

Based on the feedback from the first meeting, you will need to propose how to take the MSP forward.

Download the complete tool for examples on how you may choose to do this.

Step 5: Set the terms

The MSP should be run in a way that:

  • Earns the trust of all stakeholders
  • Keeps a healthy power balance between the stakeholders
  • Makes the MSP as efficient as possible.

Download the complete tool for more tips on how to achieve this.

Step 6: Planning times and resources

The time & resources needed depends on the type and scale of the MSP. However, there are some minimum resource requirements:

  • For any MSP, a key ingredient is staff time. Budget at least 20%-50% of two people’s time for 3-6 months in preparing, running and following up on the first MSP meeting. The staff time required for the remainder of the MSP will depend on the type and scale of the MSP.
  • The staff acting as convenor needs to be someone with good interpersonal skills, who is able to deal with conflict.
  • There needs to be budget for an experienced skilled facilitator for meetings.

Download the complete tool below.