How to get started with stakeholder analysis

Who is this for: Programme leaders, people supporting programme design process, people guiding project processes.

When you might need stakeholder analysis: During project idea development and the establishment phase; when wanting to use a co-design process; when reviewing stakeholder engagement partway through a project; when wanting to involve more diverse participants and knowledge sources.




Why involve stakeholders?

This depends on the kind of problem you are trying to address. For instance, addressing complex societal challenges needs the involvement of multiple perspectives and groups with influence on different aspects of the challenge. Similarly, if the goal of the project is to design or discover solutions to be used by farmers, industry, or iwi, they need to be involved with the project from the beginning to ensure that solutions fit with their needs and values.

You may already have strong partnerships built up over a number of years. In this case, involving your partners from the start of your idea development and giving them power over what is focused on and how it will be explored will help to benefit that partnership as well as your research.

In New Zealand, interactions between Māori entities and other groups are guided by Te Tiriti o Waitangi. Important principles distilled from this founding document include Partnership, Participation, and Protection. In light of this, Māori entities should be regarded as partners in research, rather than as more distant stakeholders.


What processes can help with this?

Taking a systematic approach to stakeholder and partner identification and engagement, also known as stakeholder analysis, can help with getting the right people involved in your project. This involves several steps:

  • Identify relevant stakeholders and partners for your project or area of study
  • Categorise and prioritize stakeholders
  • Make a plan for engagement and initiate contact


One way of doing this is to use a package of approaches in a workshop setting, that will:

  • Identify stakeholders and partners contributing to different parts of the existing system or new innovations – see a systems-inspired stakeholder analysis workshop runsheet and templates. These draw on aspects of the Multi-Level Perspective, a common theory for understanding systemic change.
  • Describe your challenge and context and identify stakeholders and partners associated with that challenge – for instance, the Actor Tree exercise in the Visual Toolbox for System Innovation

You can also put together your own approach to identifying and categorising stakeholders, using some of the following options.


Stakeholder identification

For stakeholder identification, it helps to start with some questions or categories, based on what you want to achieve through working with stakeholders and partners. It could be simple: ‘Who are the stakeholders relevant to our project area?’ or more complex, working through components of a supply chain or categories based on functions or attitudes. Examples include:



 Relevant approach(es)


 Creating change  Spheres of influence  Stakeholders’ position relative to the programme – who can be directly influenced by the programme and who/ what may be indirectly influenced
 Creating an outcome that interacts well with the system  Systems analysis  Stakeholders in different parts of the system
 Creating an innovation  Technological Innovation Systems  Stakeholders involved with functions needed for innovation development
 Getting diversity of input  Aligned vs. non-aligned stakeholders, systems analysis  Stakeholders with similar and different views and interests.


Other approaches could include talking to key informants, looking at media on the topic, and looking at stakeholders within a specific area. See Colvin et al's 2016 paper for more details.


Stakeholder categorisation

Once the potential stakeholders and partners have been identified, you will need to determine who is most important and relevant to your work. Using a categorising and prioritising process, based on dynamics or aspects relevant to your project, can help with this.


Attributes that can be used to sort stakeholders include:

  • Affecting, affecting and affected, affected
  • Power, legitimacy, and urgency
  • Influence, interest, and adaptation
  • Interest and influence
  • Alignment, interest, and influence
  • Power and dynamism

Other approaches may also include looking at the proximity of the stakeholders or mapping out connections between them.

You will need to think about which attributes are most relevant for your context. Once you have considered this, choose an approach that incorporates the most relevant aspects and feels intuitive and useful to you.


Stakeholder engagement

At this point, you should have identified key stakeholders and partners and can now plan how to engage. 

Your goal at this stage is to clarify who you need to make contact with, your purpose in doing this, and how you can do this. Tools that may be helpful at this stage include:

  • ‘Enlarged Empathy Map’ and ‘Credential Cards’ in Visual Toolbox for System Innovation – to develop a stronger understanding of your stakeholders before further planning and contact
  • Attitude and strategy matrix – identifies ideal strategies to take with stakeholders with different attitudes towards your project/ topic
  • Stakeholder analysis table for attribute and strategy – provides a list of questions to consider for each stakeholder and will assist in developing a communication and engagement plan
  • AgResearch impact planning tool – provides prompts for considering the role of different stakeholders at different stages along the research and development pathway.

Alternatively, some thinking about purpose and strategy, in conjunction with any stakeholder relationship managers in your organisation, may be sufficient preparation.

 Outputs you can expect:

  • A prioritised list of stakeholders and partners
  • A plan for who to approach and how.


Outcomes that may be achieved:

  • Identifying people and groups that may be important to your programme’s success
  • Diversifying the perspectives considered in your programme.


Articles and websites informing this page

 Approaches to stakeholder identification

Colvin, R.M., Witt, G.B., & Lacey, J. (2016). Approaches to identifying stakeholders in environmental management: Insights from practitioners to go beyond the ‘usual suspects’. Land Use Policy, 52: 266-276.


 Introduction to Technological Innovation Systems (TIS)

Hekkert, M.P., Suurs, R.A.A., Negro, S.O., Kuhlmann, S., & Smits, R.E.H.M. (2007). Functions of innovation systems: A new approach for analysing technological change. Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 74: 413-432.

Adaption of TIS into ‘Environmental Innovation Systems’:


​ Working with aligned and non-aligned stakeholders

Pathways Network (2018). T-Labs: A Practical Guide - Using Transformation Labs (T-Labs) for innovation in social-ecological systems, Brighton, UK: STEPS Centre. Retrieved from

 Stakeholder categorisation

Reed, M.S., Graves, A., Dandy, N., Posthumus, H., Hubacek, K. Morris, J., Prell, C., Quinn, C.H., & Stringer, L.C. (2009). Who’s in and why? A typology of stakeholder analysis methods for natural resource management. Journal of Environmental Management, 90: 1933-1949.

Tan, A. (September 2019). Some practical tools for stakeholder management. Brainmates Blog. Retrieved  from

Enrique Mendizabal. The Alignment, Interest, and Influence Matrix (AIIM). Guidance note for the RAPID project. Retrieved from​.

De Vicente López, Javier and Matti, Cristian (2016) . Visual toolbox for system innovation. A resource book for practitioners to map, analyse and facilitate sustainability transitions. Transitions Hub series. Climate-KIC, Brussels 2016. Retrieved from 

 Stakeholder engagement

De Vicente López, Javier and Matti, Cristian (2016) . Visual toolbox for system innovation. A resource book for practitioners to map, analyse and facilitate sustainability transitions. Transitions Hub series. Climate-KIC, Brussels 2016. Retrieved from 

Kennon, N., Howden, P., & Hartley, M. (2009). Who really matters? A stakeholder analysis tool. Extension Farming Systems Journal, 5(2): 9-17.

Varvasovszky, Z. & Brugha, R. (2000).  How to do (or not to do)… a stakeholder analysis. Health Policy  and Planning, 15(3): 338-345.