Step 2: Assess relevant stakeholders

1.1 Allies & Supporters

The obvious starting point in the above exercise is to identify allies, such as other business organizations (some of whom may be members, others not). These are likely to be strongest in their support of the EO's proposal (this area of coalition-building is dealt in Advocacy Tool 7 in Part two of the toolkit)

Second are broader allies who share an interest in the EO's issue. For example research institutes & thinktanks. Such institutions may already have research information on the issue. Some of these other allies may not want to lobby openly for a particular position, but may provide other means of support to the EO such as data and research.

There may also be some other allies who are not automatically obvious but could provide useful assistance. For example, on some issues forming cross-border coalitions can be a powerful way of ensuring consistent messages are communicated to more than one government.


Business Unity South Africa (BUSA) has heavily promoted the importance of trade to the South African economy. In particular, it has advocated the importance of improving trade facilitation as a key for the growth of the region. BUSA have taken public positions on the need to improve the workings of the Southern African Free Trade Area (FTA). It has identified through its members difficulties in accessing up to date information on the tariffs applied by SADC countries. BUSA specifically proposed the establishment and maintenance of a database for the region that could facilitate information flow. It has done this in concert with other regional EOs.(1)

Having allies is critical for an advocacy initiative. Experience has shown that the joint efforts, skills, and resources of several organizations and individuals are more likely to minimize risk, draw attention to key policy issues, and result in successful policy changes. An alliance or coalition with other organizations or individuals that pursue the same policy change is normally built upon specific policy issues and goals.

Once a policy change has been achieved, a coalition may cease to exist or may instead continue to address other joint policy concerns. The coalition may or may not be a partnership, as this depends on the extent to which principles of partnership are part of the relationship. The EO should be aware, however, that a coalition can be a short-term relationship based on a specific policy issue, and once the goals have been accomplished, that relationship may end.

  • Which other organizations, groups, and individuals are concerned or already acting upon the same policy issue?
  • Do coalitions exist or do they need to be established?
  • Is it better to partner with the existing efforts of a collaborator organization?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of forming alliances or coalitions with each of them?
  • Do other organizations see the EO as a value-adding partner/ally to their efforts?

1.2 The middle ground – 'Uncommitted stakeholders'

Ministries, departments and agencies can fall into any of the above categories (see Figure 1) depending on the issue. It is not unusual for different government departments to have different objectives from other departments. They can be allies or opponents.

This complex picture of stakeholders is positive for the EO, because it illustrates the wide range of possible coalitions and common interests that can be influenced as part of the stakeholder management strategy – even with unlikely allies.

This suggests that successful stakeholder management should not exclude any interest a priori, but the EO should seek allies among all groups, including women's representative groups. The complexity of stakeholders' interests provides many opportunities for the EO to build winning coalitions.

1.3 Opponents

It is important to keep in mind that not all stakeholders in a particular group or subgroup will necessarily share the same concerns or have unified opinions or priorities.

Part of refining an advocacy strategy is finding out who may oppose the EO's policy goal and this is just as important as identifying allies. The EO can be more effective if it understands its opponents' reasoning and why they might feel threatened by its proposed policy change.

An advocacy strategy may include messages and activities targeted at opponents. In that case, opponents can become a secondary audience for the advocacy initiative. It is important to assess whether there is anything that can be done to persuade opponents to change their opinions, or at least neutralize their influence on the policy change the EO wants to pursue.

  • Are there any organizations, groups, or individuals that oppose the proposed policy change?
  • What threat do these organizations, groups and individuals pose to the success of your advocacy initiative?
  • What can you do to reduce the influence of opponents?

No group of stakeholders is monolithic. Each category of active stakeholders may have subgroups opposed to each other. Strong opponents of a proposal can be weakened by splitting their ranks and seeking allies within their ranks.

For example, "trade unions" may generally be against an EO proposal to increase "working time provisions" in the retail sector, i.e. longer opening hours. But due to increased competition from retailers in other jurisdictions, which is negatively impacting on retail outlets near border areas and putting pressure on jobs, unions and workers in those areas may support the EO's proposal after all.

1.4 Identify positions (and potential positions) of stakeholders

The "Stakeholder Grid" (Figure 2 below ) is a useful mapping tool to situate who is important to the EO's policy goal, and where to exert influence in order to achieve policy objectives. There are three elements involved in using this grid:

  1. List the actors and stakeholders regarding a specific policy issue.
    The aim is to identify those opponents who are not unmovable, allies who may waver in their support, and stakeholders who are involved but uncommitted.
    Successful advocacy is characterized by building relationships with different groups of allies to change incentives, opportunities, and capacities, and progressively bring in wider groups of stakeholders until a winning coalition is created.
  2. Assess the relative position of actors and stakeholders regarding the issue. Are they for or against the issue? There could also be other stakeholders whose interests are unclear and remain neutral throughout the policy debate. A mark ("x") is used to indicate the position of each actor in the grid.
  3. Determine how to influence the actors or stakeholders who are negative about a proposed policy or solution. A choice needs to be made on whether to apply incentives or pressures in order to neutralize opponents, or to identify empathic arguments to change their opinions. The arrows represent the intended movement as a result of influence. Figure 2 is an example of how an 'influencing chart' can be used in mapping out the positions of key actors and stakeholders, as well as determining ways to influence specific actors and stakeholders.



Figure 2(2)

There is a wide variety of groups that benefit from the status quo. Protection of each group's benefits produces resistance.

Elements of the private sector may well be against the proposal. Certain professions, such as lawyers and notaries, who stand to lose direct personal income from the change, will be opposed.

Stakeholder analysis should assist in this prioritization by assessing the significance of the EO's proposal to each stakeholder group from their perspective, and vice versa. It is important to keep in mind that the situation is dynamic and that both stakeholders and their interests might change over time.

What are the direct interests of each stakeholder to the EO’s proposal? List each stakeholder from Step 2 “Assessment Summary” and their direct interest in the issue
Which stakeholders can best assist with the early scoping of issue and impacts?  
Who strongly supports the changes that the EO’s proposals will bring and why?  
Which stakeholders could be targeted for support?  
Whose opposition could be detrimental to the success of the proposal?  
Who is it critical to engage with first, and why?  
What is the optimal sequence of engagement?  

(1) and

(2) Based on models by Richard Beckhard, 1987.