Strategic Futures Analysis Techniques
A stakeholder is any person or organisation which can have an impact on the future of the issue being addressed. This can be the result of both direct and indirect action by stakeholders and may be either positive or negative. Stakeholders are also likely to be affected by the issues whether they, the stakeholders, are proactive or not.
The future will be influenced by the drivers of change and the responses and choices taken by stakeholders. In many cases policies or strategies being analysed will have the objective of influencing stakeholders’ responses (such as reducing obesity.)
It is therefore important to consider the attitudes and responses of stakeholder as part of futures analysis. This will help to inform policies or strategic choices; and help to see issues through ‘the eyes’ of stakeholders.
For any future there will be a number of key stakeholders. These are those that have a high level of interest in the issue and a high level of power to influence it.
When considering groups of people or organisations the impacts may vary greatly, depending on their current circumstance. Care in therefore needed when defining stakeholders.
The interest of and impacts on stakeholders may also vary greatly between different futures. For example the ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ in a green and sustainable future could be very different to those in a non-sustainable future.
Scenarios are a useful tool for building up a picture of the impacts for different stakeholders across a range of different futures. When using scenarios for stakeholder impact analysis it is import that those doing the analysis get into the scenario. They can then live that future for the stakeholder, review the negative and positive impacts and consider how they are likely to respond.
It is important that the reasons for the response are well understood as similar policies may have the same impacts and responses but for very different reasons. This is important for planning the delivery of a policy or strategy.
Thinking as stakeholders
There are a wide range of ways to understand the thinking of stakeholders, including consulting them, through interviews and focus groups. The Home Office research to support binge drinking campaigns is an example of this.
Stakeholders can also be exposed to different futures to elicit opinions but care is needed to convey these in a clear and compelling way. Multi-media can be a powerful tool for supporting this.
Forum theatre can be used to engage stakeholders or help others understand a future from their perspective. Actors play out a scenario and at the appropriate point ask the participants the script the next passage. This can be particularly powerful where the interactions between different groups of stakeholders are important.
Stakeholders may have significant impacts on shaping the future and respond differently depending on the future. They are therefore an important part of the system for futures analysis.