A good stakeholder analysis has always been an important part of policy or strategy development, especially in the area of futures thinking. Understanding whose interests to take into account, their motivations and concerns, helps you design an approach that is more likely to be acceptable, supported and effective. Over the years we have recognised that “stakeholders” extend more widely than the central decision-makers and power-brokers. Whether out of a genuine desire to be inclusive, or a more cynically self-interested wish to defuse opposition, addressing the needs of wider civic society has become a major element of stakeholder analysis.
Development Government policy already has to assess the impact of policies on the defined “protected characteristics”. We would imagine that the list of those to be considered (who are ”stakeholders” in a sense) will only increase. In Australia, North and South America, the rights of indigenous peoples are increasingly protected, though the worldview underpinning the word “indigenous” remains in place. (Rather then the indigenous being a departure from the norm, they are really the default population, with the colonial immigrants being the deviation).
Widening “stakeholders” to include those as yet unborn is also an increasing trend, as is demonstrated in the Welsh Government’s Minister for Future Generations. Futures thinking is by definition concerned with change and how it affects people. Major trends and issues like Climate Change, development of AI, geo-political dynamics all dramatically affect future generations and so it is almost obvious that someone should be advocating for their interests.
Where there is no formal advocate, people are turning to the law. A 2021 case in Germany’s constitutional court ruled that: “one generation must not be allowed to consume large portions of the CO2 budget while bearing a relatively minor share of the reduction effort, if this would involve leaving subsequent generations with a drastic reduction burden and expose their lives to serious losses of freedom”.
Then there are the rights of animals. Are they “stakeholders” too? We are used to protected habitats, but should their general needs be properly represented too? In 2008, a parliamentary commission in Spain granted apes the rights to life, liberty, and protection from torture.
With the emerging threat of eco-system collapse, biodiversity should also be considered a stakeholder, especially in the area of urban design. Some have proposed a variation of the “participatory ladder” (Sherry Arnstein):
- non-participation: manipulation and therapy
- tokenistic participation: informing, consultation, placation
- citizen power: partnership, delegation and citizen control.
Acknowledging an active role for biodiversity as a ‘non-human’ stakeholder is a step towards proactive choices that enable ‘biodiversity inclusive design’.
Others go further and argue for a greater differentiation of non-human stakeholders, with different characteristics, vulnerabilities, and needs.
Specific examples of these approaches include:
- Arguing that “sustainable development” initiatives in the Amazon rainforest simply imposed one technology rather than another, researchers suggest the forest should have the right to representation in court.
- Whanganui River in New Zealand became the first river in the world to finally be represented in court winning a million dollar pay-out from the Government.
- The “Rights of Rivers” campaign created a declaration stating that all rivers are:- Living entities; Entitled to fundamental rights; Entitled to legal guardians – and that: These rights shall extend to the health of watersheds and river basins; Indigenous communities will be represented in river guardianship; All states will implement these rights and provide the resources necessary to ensure they are realized.
If futures thinking is to explore the possibilities of change it is clear that we need to expand our thinking to recognise that the very essence of a system can also change.
Written by Huw Williams, SAMI Principal
The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.
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