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Researcher Development

Researcher Development

Knowing your stakeholders

Stakeholders are people or organisations who have an interest in your research project, or affect or are affected by its outcomes. Stakeholders include those who are both supportive of your research, as well as those who may be less supportive or indeed critical of it.’  Vitae

Your research degree will have a range of stakeholders – they could include your funders, your supervisors, your workplace, your research participants or even your family and friends. Knowing your stakeholders is a fundamental part of project management, and keeping your research degree on track. To get to know your stakeholders, you should conduct a stakeholder analysis.

According to Vitae, the purpose of stakeholder analysis is to:

  • identify project stakeholders
  • determine what interest each stakeholder has in your project
  • assess how much influence stakeholders have on the project
  • consider how you will manage and communicate with different types of stakeholder.

To help you identify you stakeholders, we have identified three general categories of stakeholders in a research degree. Use these categories to identify and map out the stakeholders for your project.

  • Investors – people who held you establish the foundation of your work. These stakeholders are with you throughout your research degree and have an investment – emotional, professional or financial – in your project. Common investor stakeholders include: your supervisors, the University and your funders. Your family and friends can also be included here, as your support network but also as people emotionally invested in you and your project.
  • Participants – people who take part in the data collection or research project itself. They are actively involved in the project, but not at the same foundational level that investors are. Their role is normally transient in nature, engaging for a specific period of time. Stakeholders could be participants in the research project (interviewees, for example), volunteers you work with, and any other collaborators who participate in your research.
  • Receivers – these are stakeholders that could benefit from the completion and dissemination of knowledge from your research. Obviously this covers a wide range of people, including your investors and participants, but it’s good to focus on a couple of stakeholders you are doing the research for. This could include the wider academic community, but also the groups or communities your work is about.

Activity – Understanding their expectations

Alongside knowing who your stakeholders are, it is important to know what they expect from you and your project. Consider the stakeholders you have identified and complete the stakeholder analysis template. In doing so, consider: 

  • What professional, financial, or emotional interest do they have in the outcome of your work?
  • What motivates them most of all?
  • To what extent does needing to be aware of and respond to their interests and motivations affect your work and how?
  • What do they want or need from you?
  • How often do they want you to update or communicate with them, and in what format?
  • What level of influence do they have over your project? How involved are they in making decisions within the project?
  • Where might there be a conflict of interest or tensions between different stakeholders? How might you manage or mitigate this?

Activity – Assessing their influence

After you have completed your stakeholder analysis, you might find it useful to complete a power/interest grid. This will help you identify each stakeholder’s the level of interest in your project, and how to manage their expectations and involvement in the project.

  • Interest – the extent to which each stakeholder cares about the aims, objectives and decisions made as part of the project
  • Power – the extent to which each stakeholder can influence the project
Power vs Interest = Stakeholder Influence

Create your own power and interest grid to identify the influence of each of your stakeholders on your project, and how to manage their expectations and involvement in the project.

Managing your stakeholders is usually about effective communication. For each of the categories in the power and interest grid – keep satisfied, manage closely, monitor and keep informed – make some notes about how you intend to communicate with and keep you stakeholders updated on your progress. You may wish to be general – providing regular updates on twitter – or specific to the stakeholder – regular updates on progress in supervision. Don’t forget to include formal update points such as funder reports, MyPGR or the Annual Monitoring Review.

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