Stakeholder Engagement

 

Informed, engaged stakeholders can be instrumental in the delivery of sustainable events. Successful leaders have the ability to connect with people and organisations in their value chain and motivate them to exceed normal expectations and work responsibilities to deliver exceptional results. In his book Strategy for Sustainability, Adam Werbach highlights that: ‘Sustainability demands engagement, and engagement in turn facilitates greater sustainability’. This is especially true in good sustainable event management.

Good stakeholder management involves taking a strategic view of the alue chain to understand and leverage benefit from the organisations’ sphere of influence. Planners need to look upstream and focus on suppliers and service providers, and downstream to focus on employees, clients, sponsors and partners.
As depicted in the above diagram, an organisations’ sphere of influence is strongest at the center and then weakens as the amount of administrative control becomes reduced.

Building effective relationships with stakeholders

The ability to engage and work effectively with the value chain is an important management skill. Six key stages of effective stakeholder engagement are identified as most pertinent:

Analysis: Research and document key stakeholder interests, needs and expectations. Define priorities and align with strategy.

Connect: Proactively reach out to key stakeholder groups, not just friends but also critics of the project whichmay include NGOs andmedia within the local community.Advanced practitioners use existing networks to reach out and connect to a broader audience.

Share: Transparently share objectives, challenges and issues during the earliest stages of the project. Make the sustainability vision actionable and easy to understand. Avoid overly technical or time-consuming communication.

Listen: Create effective communication pathways and systems to listen to stakeholder issues and concerns. Systematically discuss these issues in the planning process and integrate where viable.

Collaborate: Involve stakeholders in strategy sessions and integrate them into existing processes, or create new ways to solicit and include stakeholder issues and ideas. Form new and sometimes unusual partnerships, for instance, invite members of the value chain into the governance structure and monitoring of the performance of the project.

Manage: Dedicate sufficient and appropriate resources to manage the engagement process. Hire skilled sustainability professionals or train event project managers. Resilience and determination are key traits observed on the road towards sustainability. Successful organisations ensure that the sustainability team is sufficiently empowered and financially supported. For BS8901, key meetings and dialogue with stakeholders should be documented in a stakeholder register.