When developing engagement plans, it is also important to consider factors that can impede the ability of stakeholders to engage and to address these in the plan. As engagement takes place, and as stakeholder engagement practice matures, the owners of the engagement may involve stakeholders in drafting the engagement plan. Stakeholders shall have the opportunity to provide input into the indicators. Indicators allow an organisation to measure and evaluate the progress towards achieving quality stakeholder engagement, to identify areas for improvement and to demonstrate the value added through engaging with stakeholders. Indicators can be quantitative or qualitative and shall help to demonstrate impacts for the organisation as well as the stakeholders involved in the engagement process.
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When developing engagement plans, it is also important to consider factors that can impede the ability of stakeholders to engage and to address these in the plan. As engagement takes place, and as stakeholder engagement practice matures, the owners of the engagement may involve stakeholders in drafting the engagement plan.
Stakeholders shall have the opportunity to provide input into the indicators. Indicators allow an organisation to measure and evaluate the progress towards achieving quality stakeholder engagement, to identify areas for improvement and to demonstrate the value added through engaging with stakeholders.
Indicators can be quantitative or qualitative and shall help to demonstrate impacts for the organisation as well as the stakeholders involved in the engagement process. The indicators may be new or existing within the organisation. Resources are required for the engagement process itself, but also to make the necessary changes in response to the outputs of engagement.
Therefore, it is important to consider the resource requirements of these. Resource requirements should have been developed and documented in the engagement plan.
The resources required for the engagement process will include the financial, human including capacity building and technological resources required by those carrying out the engagement, as well as by the stakeholders invited to participate. Stakeholders may wish or need to be compensated for their time as well as for expenses incurred in order to participate in the engagement.
Any financial support should be designed in such a way that it does not represent a potential conflict of interest. Engagement owners may hire third-party facilitators to conduct an engagement process.
This is a valid approach and can help to guarantee that stakeholders are expressing their opinions without fear and restrictions. In this case, the selection process must be based on an objective evaluation of the capacities and acceptability of the facilitators. The engagement should not proceed if the necessary resources are not committed.
The owners of the engagement shall work with the stakeholders to respond appropriately to these needs in order to enable effective engagement. Engagement processes are likely to involve a variety of people with different levels of expertise, confidence and experience.
It is important to appreciate that some individuals and groups may find it difficult to take up an invitation to engage, or that circumstances may hinder them in fully contributing to the engagement. This might, for example, be due to language, literacy, disability or cultural barriers, problems of distance or lack of time, or gaps in their knowledge about a specific issue. The owners of the engagement may need to address capacity gaps of stakeholders to avoid their exclusion or to prevent them from disengaging.
Adequate capacity to engage can help to reduce engagement risks. The owners of the engagement should consider involving external parties where this would benefit the engagement. They shall establish a robust framework for risk assessment that is coherent with the risk management approach of the organisation.
Risk management enables better decisions - from setting corporate strategy, to meeting compliance requirements, to operational management to implementing stakeholder engagement. It represents good management practice. With a robust process to identify, assess and address risk, organisations can make better quality decisions. With regard to stakeholder engagement, this translates to effective engagement planning, anticipating potential negative outcomes and focusing on areas for opportunity and positive relationship building.
This profiling risk assessment should look at the risks that are outlined in figure 9 on the left side, which will influence the scope, level and method of engagement. The owners of the engagement should understand the potential for conflict as fully as possible, and should have detailed profiles available for facilitators.
If conflict resolution is not possible because of entrenched positions, the method of engagement may have to be changed or adjusted. Bilateral engagement may be more productive than a forum discussion. Where there is the potential for conflict in an open forum, special care should be taken to select a facilitator who is neutral and credible to all parties. It is not always possible to engage with unwilling stakeholders. This may require an adjustment of the scope, purpose, level and method of the engagement.
Full consultation may not be possible, but it may still be possible to keep the stakeholder fully and transparently informed. In multi-party engagement, it will be important to ensure that the views of a key stakeholder unwilling to engage are included in the discussion and debate. Weak or marginalised stakeholders may have very valuable input to offer. In a multi-party engagement, the facilitator must ensure that balance of input is encouraged and maintained.
A risk assessment with regard to internal ambitions and perspectives is an important balance in the risk assessment process. Risks related to reputation impact and potential non-compliance are notably important. A number of the relevant risks are outlined in figure 9 on the right side. It is recommended that an organisation leverage any risk assessment framework that is used to manage business and financial risks within the organisation.
This will ensure a coherent approach at an organisational level. Invitations should be sent to named individuals rather than to an organisation. If the person invited is not the appropriate contact, then the stakeholder should be given the opportunity to nominate the relevant individual.
Similarly, if an invited stakeholder organisation ceases to exist, the involvement of new or equivalent organisations should be explored. The owners of the engagement should be aware of cultural differences and customs when inviting people.
The owners of the engagement should consider using a range of means to invite participation, including: social networks, relevant media, mailing lists, telephone calls and personal visits. The owners of the engagement should follow up appropriately.
The owners of the engagement should strive to organise the engagement around the availability of key participants. Comprehensive and balanced briefing materials shall be made available to participants in good time and shall take into account any relevant language, disability and literacy issues. Briefing materials should be made available to participants in good time to allow them to read and digest the information.
It may also be useful to prepare participants with pre-meetings, informal conversations and training. Briefing materials should be presented in a format that is accessible and that clearly highlights the key points.
The owners of the engagement should take into account any relevant language, disability and literacy issues or technical restrictions in case of online engagements. Summaries should be provided where this would prove useful. The owners of the engagement should also consider involving stakeholders in the development and identification of briefing materials.
The ground rules shall be agreed by all participants. Ask others questions instead of stating untested assumptions about them. During the engagement, as a result of stakeholder input, it may be appropriate to revise the purpose and scope of the engagement.
During the engagement the owners of the engagement, or the facilitator working for the owners, should be watchful for and immediately identify and address the root cause of any potential issues. The owners of the engagement or facilitator should ensure all views and discussions are captured as appropriate.
With the agreement of the participants, audio, video or photographic records of the engagement may be made. The action plan shall provide a response to all outputs. The action plan shall be developed in consultation with those who will have responsibility for implementing it. The owners of the engagement should respond to every output, giving reasons for the chosen decisions and actions, even if they do not carry out everything that is proposed or recommended.
It is important that reporting back to stakeholders is done in an inclusive and consistent way so that all participants receive consistent feedback.
AA1000 Assurance Standard
The AASES has been developed in consultation with and has been welcomed by practitioners, policy and operational researchers, civil society and business leaders and representatives from other standards bodies. The AA Stakeholder Engagement Standard provides a basis for designing, implementing, evaluating and assuring the quality of stakeholder engagement. It has been designed to be multi-purpose, not just for sustainable development, and can be used by businesses, civil society, public bodies and multi-stakeholder networks and partnerships. The AASES is relevant to micro-level engagements as well as macro-level engagements on major societal concerns and applies to businesses, civil society, public bodies and multi-stakeholder networks and partnerships. It also supports developments in other areas such as quality management, transparency, reporting and governance.