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Engagement of stakeholders is almost always a challenge for International development projects and emergency responses. Genuine involvement of even the beneficiaries is typically limited. The organizations engage mainly with national and local authorities during project design. The assumption, often erroneous, is that these national authorities represent the final beneficiaries.


Limited time and limited resources are two constraints on stakeholder engagement, but a third and important limitation is the understanding of beneficiaries. Projects and specific interventions are conducted without any prior knowledge from the very people the organization claims it wants to help. Our Stakeholder Engagement Strategy is meant to ensure genuine engagement.


Stakeholder engagement strategy (SHES)

Sociodig has developed a simple and effective SHES that can be adapted to all types of intervention, according to the timeframe and budget availability.


For short term project

The SHES is to Sociodig’s Frequency-Listing strategy. Frequency listing is simply the compilation of lists of recommended local leaders. Sociodig uses Frequency listing to rapidly identify grassroots leaders, what we call notab (notables). Depending on the time available, the lists are gathered during rapidly assembled focus groups conducted in the target region—not simply in the nearest town or with local officials but in the specific target region and with potential beneficiaries at every level. Time permitting—as in pre-crisis preparation and disaster risk management projects--the frequency lists can be collected through statistically representative survey samples. Even in these cases, however, a series of rapidly organized, on-the-ground focus groups are conducted with the target beneficiaries to learn about their ideas and opinions. When appropriate, the input from beneficiaries is included in the project; when inappropriate, the input is refuted with clear explanations.


Focus groups are also conducted with the authorities as well as with project staff of humanitarian aid organizations operant in the area. These focus groups are conducted with the same goal of gathering ideas and input, and then either accepting or refuting proposals with clear explanations and feedback.


For long term projects

A baseline socio-economic survey enables project staff to engage with beneficiaries. Socio-Dig holds data validation meetings during which findings from the survey are presented to stakeholders with highly graphic and animated presentations customized to illustrate survey findings. Sociodig uses a portable video screen, high-density video projector, powered with a super-quiet generator to present the findings to stakeholders, making interpretation and understanding easy to all stakeholders regardless of language or educational level, it being critical that all the parties have the same basic understanding of the findings. Those meetings are conducted on-site with the following stakeholders:

  • The national authorities at capital level and the donors

  • The local authorities

  • Members of civil society and other private actors

  • The population including beneficiaries at village and hamlet level


Stakeholders are asked about challenges they must face at each level of disaster response or project implementation and their recommendations regarding,  

  • What must we do?

  • What should be expected from these activities?

  • Who will be responsible for each result?

  • When will this happen and in which sequence?

After informing stakeholders and getting their input, it is then possible to design a viable participatory monitoring plan.



  • Multilateral and Bilateral Donors

  • Private donors

  • Media

  • Non Governemental Organizations


  • National / Local administration

  • Civil Society

  • Private sector

  • Churches

  • Local communities

For the International stakeholders:

  • Between donors and media communication will follow social trends, for example, the ecological consequences of climate change on the poorest communities.

  • Between Donor and National administration, some level of political and procedural clarity (transparency) could be the main aim.

  • Media are mainly looking for good material for communication. It is unfortunate that bad news is often preferred to successes. Anyway, they are dependents on the contributors and other taxpayers to survive.

  • For the contributors they represent the donor electors or contributors, they would be concerned by feedback and good management of the funds in a general context of fraud that has been plaguing the industry lately.

Communication only is not sufficient: engagement requires vision sharing, presentation and response, conflict and resolution.  International stakeholders must engage strongly the national stakeholders. If we want to see successful solutions and the creation of effective organizational strategies, they must demonstrate commitment and gain the confidence and trust of the beneficiaries. This is only accomplished when we include the beneficiaries and other stakeholders in the decision-making process. It involves listening and explain our decisions and actions.


The NGOs have the main task of understanding intimately the local interactions and power repartitions within the local stakeholders. Through a direct engagement strategy that exposes each stakeholder’s position as clearly as possible. This engagement should state the activities, investment and methodology that the project proposes. Interaction must allow for correction of the implementation planning in accordance with the SH expressed concerns.

  • National administration authorizes the NGO intervention. It is possible to include NGO action in the national planning for development.

  • The local administration should detach one permanent personnel to be the counterpart to the NGO management staff. At least one civil servant should follow up directly the evolution of the project and participate in the engagement exercise between the NGO and the local stakeholders.

  • Civil society members (clubs, local associations, coop. Etc), the private sector entrepreneurs (merchants, substantial landowners, company operators etc.), churches or religious leaders and the major’s part of the local population are often intertwined but also competing for powers within the community.

  • The beneficiary population is often the weakest voice. But they have leaders, religious and non-religious. They have businessmen and entrepreneurs and they have the expertise and inner knowledge of their situation. If other stakeholders hope to see a successful project, they must be fully included in the process.


Implementation Strategy


Phase 1: Frequency Listing for Local Leaders.

The main task in accomplishing an enduring engagement with beneficiaries is the identification of representatives who have extra-ordinary confidence of other members of the population. In Haiti, these individuals are referred to as notab (notables), best characterized as individuals who, regardless of wealth or official position, are called upon to resolve disputes.  The identification of notab is accomplished using « frequency listing technique » developed by Socio-Dig. 

Phase 2: Baseline survey.

Requires enumerators, a good questionnaire and several open focus groups. Once established the baseline gives a perfect tool to identify useful indicators that will build the operational monitoring process. This is the core of a potentially successful project.  However, if limited finances do not permit a baseline survey, it is possible to depend Phase 4, below.

Phase 3: Validation.

Through a series of meetings with the various groups of stakeholders (see above) the results of the baseline are explained and submitted to the beneficiaries for validation. Free expression from the real stakeholders present the possibility of collaboration and confidence between the project staff and the population. This is when true engagement occurs. The enthusiasm from the usually passive beneficiaries is often surprising to international stakeholders.

Phase 4: Feedback focus groups.

Once identified and gathered according to geographical practicality (we engage true beneficiaries and stakeholders, but long trips to such gatherings must be avoided). An explanation is given about the project. Time should be allowed to collect their thought and opinion about the activities proposed. Ideally, if a baseline was conducted before the project proposal, the findings would provide a perfect starting point. Enough meetings should be held to create a working relationship. Topics presented include gender, conflicts, land management, identification of vulnerable households and individuals, and protocol for division of emergency resources.

Stakeholder Engagement Strategy
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Vid 1. Stakeholder Engagement Strategy - Implementation phases

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