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Tools for project planning in community development

Online Course Module 4 of 9

Using a stakeholder Analysis to identify key local actors

This is Module 4 of our free online course, 'Tools for Project Planning in Community Development'. To visit the course homepage, click here.

An essential tool for effective project planning is the Stakeholder Analysis. It is a tool used by organisations to identify the people related to their project and to help develop strategies to engage these people in the right way. In most contexts community development projects will have a wide-variety of actors. 

As such, specifically identifying these stakeholders is essential to clarifying their role and relationship, as well as determining the variety of interests to which you will be accountable when developing or implementing your project.

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What is a stakeholder?

A stakeholder is anyone who has something to gain or lose from your project. They can generally be placed into three broad categories:

Stakeholders can be both internal or external to the project itself:

Internal -

People, groups or institutions who can significantly influence or are particularly important to the success of your project.


People and groups who are not directly involved in project design, however have influence over its success or are impacted indirectly (government, other NGOs)

Helpful Hint

Key Stakeholder:

Primary Stakeholder:

Secondary Stakeholder:

People or groups who are directly impacted by your project. These can be both;

  • Beneficiaries – Positively impacted

  • Dis-Beneficiaries – Negatively impacted

All other people or groups who have a stake or interest in the proposed project or are indirectly impacted by the project.

Stakeholders in all categories can be both positively and negatively impacted – it’s important to identify your likely critics so you can find strategies to help get them onboard.

People, groups or institutions who can significantly influence or are particularly important to the success of your project.

A Stakeholder Analysis will help with:

  • Identifying the stakeholders for a program or project, including both potential critics and supporters;

  • Identifying possible obstacles to project implementation;  

  • Grouping stakeholders by their level of influence, what is important to them, and/or what they could contribute to the process; 

  • Understanding how you can engage stakeholders to foster local ownership and create a sustainable development project.

Who should be involved when undertaking a Stakeholder Analysis?

Whilst the initial brainstorming-process might take place amongst your team, a Stakeholder Analysis is predominantly a participatory process that is best achieved by directly consulting with actual stakeholders. A great way to start your participatory approach is by holding focus groups or workshops with obvious primary stakeholders. These sessions are important because they will lead to the organic growth of your stakeholder list; with local beneficiaries identifying stakeholders that might not have been initially obvious to your team. Being open to inputs from beneficiaries and the broader community gives you the best chance of identifying all relevant stakeholders and accounting for any previously unforeseen connections, challenges and opportunities.

The first step is to identify the obvious primary stakeholders amongst your project team. Once you have identified obvious stakeholders, it’s time to get out into the community and consult directly with as many stakeholders as possible as outlined above. 

  • The best techniques for gathering information are workshops, focus group discussions and  1-on-1 interviews. 

  • Whilst the practicality of visiting all stakeholders may pose significant challenges, failing to consult key parties may skew the analysis and risk the efficacy of your project. 

  • Other ways you can contact stakeholders include e-mail, Skype, phone call or social media.

A useful tool to help the brainstorming process to identify stakeholders is the PESTLE model. This can assist you in working through possible categories where stakeholders relevant to your project may exist.

Using the P.E.S.T.L.E. Model to identify Stakeholder groups

Political Example: 

  • Relevant government departments who may be able to provide funding

  • Relevant lobby groups who might advocate for or against your project such as a religious group lobbying against a planned parenthood project

Economic Example: 

  • Funding agencies or donors who might support your work

  • Local businesses that might receive more (or less) business due to your project such as existing money lenders who might be negatively affected by a micro-financing program

Social/Cultural Example: 

  • Specific cultural or ethnic groups that might be empowered or marginalised by your project

  • Gender groups that might react differently to your project such as men looking unfavourably upon a project to promote women’s economic independence

Technological Example: 

  • Companies whose equipment you may need to purchase

  • Skilled tradesmen who may be needed to repair any broken equipment

Legal Example: 

  • Government departments who may be required to ‘sign-off’ on local projects

Environmental Example: 

  • There is a growing school of thought saying that the environment itself (and how it benefits or suffers from your project) should be considered a stakeholder

  • It may not be relevant to all projects, however for a project promoting solar powered cooking, one could consider the local environment as a stakeholder, as timber will no longer be required to cook

You can download a template for this tool here: Resource 9 - PESTLE Analysis. Use this resource as a guide when you are planning your own community development project.

Download Resource

Once you have your list of stakeholders, it’s time to start placing them in the three main categories: Key, Primary or Secondary Stakeholder. 

During this step, it is important to begin thinking about why and how each person or group is a stakeholder in your project. Next to each stakeholder, make a note of the specific interests they might have in the project and whether this is likely to be a positive or negative interest. 

Example: Throughout this module, we will use the example of a money lending program to help rural farmers in Ethiopia improve their irrigation systems to explore the use of a stakeholder analysis.

You can download a template for this table here: Resource 10 - Categorising Stakeholders Framework. Use this resource as a guide when you are planning your own community development project.

Download Resource

Next you need to rate your stakeholders in relation to their importance and influence. 

  • Importance – the priority given to satisfying the needs and interests of each stakeholder.

  • Influence – the degree of power which the stakeholder has over planning and implementation of intervention/activity.

Often you will find that the most important stakeholders, may have very little influence on the project’s success, and vice-versa. Whilst this can be frustrating when trying to stay accountable to different stakeholders, a detailed understanding of these power-dynamics will help you focus attention where it is needed most.

Helpful Hint

The opinions and influence of the most powerful and influential stakeholders can help shape your project. Including them early in your planning and design makes it more likely that they will support you and offer valuable input.

Example: An Importance and Influence Analysis of stakeholders relevant to the Ethiopian irrigation program.

Visualising the Importance and Influence of your stakeholders:

Once you have identified the importance and influence of different stakeholders, you can use an Influence/Interest-Grid to visually organise stakeholders according to their influence (power) and interest in your project. With this analysis you can gauge how influential the stakeholders will be on your project and then deduce the appropriate cooperation strategy.

The grid is broken up into four key areas with the stakeholders that fall in the top right corner being the most important to your project’s success. It will be important to create strategies to ensure these stakeholders support your project. Sometimes this will be related to existing relationship your team may have with influential actors, otherwise it might mean identifying important connections that need to be made in order to facilitate your work.

Based on the positions of stakeholders within the matrix, you can later determine the approach and cooperation model for each stakeholder.

Using an importance/influence grid is a great way to check whether you have correctly identified your ‘Key stakeholders’. These will generally be in the top right corner of your graph in the ‘Key players’ segment. If you notice a stakeholder form another category that is high in this section of the graph it might be worth re-considering whether they should be considered a ‘key stakeholder’.

Helpful Hint

Example: A Stakeholder Influence/Interest Grid for our Ethiopian irrigation program.

You can download a template for this tool here: Resource 11 - Stakeholder Importance/Influence Analysis. Use this resource as a guide you are planning your own community development project.

Download Resource

Once you have collected all the necessary information, you can put it together into a final Stakeholder Analysis that connects different stakeholders with your proposed project. 

  • Some of your stakeholders will be actors you have already established relationships with, whilst others will be groups or individuals you may need to reach out to. 

This final step will allow you to identify potential risks. understand how you are going to approach your key stakeholders for support and decide which of your team members is responsible for looking after each stakeholder.

Example: A small section of the completed Stakeholder Analysis from our Ethiopian irrigation program. When completed, there should be one line of horizontal analysis for each stakeholder.

You can download a template for this table here: Resource 12 - Stakeholder Analysis. Use this resource as a guide when you are planning your own community development project.

Download Resource

Finishing Up

The wider the scope of your project, the more people may be affected. As a result, your actions could have wide-spread impacts, and a variety of actors may have power and influence on your project, as well as be affected by it. Those actors could be champions or impediments to your work. Identifying different groups and needs early on can help you prepare an effective approach and ensure that appropriate levels of engagement are factored into your planning and design. 

Now that you have completed your Stakeholder Analysis, it’s time to start designing your interventions. In the next module, Module 5, we will use a feasibility study to identify the best type of intervention for your project.

Download Module

Download this module as a pdf to print and use as a guide when planning local community development projects.
Or download the full Project Planning Handbook here.

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Choosing the best intervention for your development project

Learn how to choose the intervention strategy that best meets the real needs of your community.

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