Presentation by Minu Hemmati

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Multi-Stakeholder Processes. A Methodological Framework

(Minu Hemmati, UNED Forum)

Minu Hemmati opened her presentation by giving an outline of UNED Forum's project on A Methodological Framework for Multi-Stakeholder Processes (MSPs): The goals of the project included developing a common framework which can be shared and promoted by stakeholders, building a knowledge base, and experimenting with MSPs.

She gave a definition of MSPs as processes of decision-finding (and possibly decision-making), which:

aim to bring together all major stakeholders; and achieve equity and accountability in communication between them;

 involve equitable representation of stakeholder groups;

are based on democratic principles of transparency and participation;

aim to develop partnerships, networks, and collaboration.

She defined stakeholders as people who have an interest in a particular decision, either as individuals or representatives of a group; and as people who (can) influence a decision and people who are affected by it.

Depending on the issues, participants, time-frame and linkage into official decision-making, MSPs can be processes of dialogues, consensus-building, decision-making, implementation and/or monitoring and evaluation.

Minu Hemmati went on to describe the various building blocks that mark the basis for the report: clarifying the goals and terminology of MSPs; putting them into the context of the global governance reform debate; outlining different types of MSPs; elaborating the value / ideological base; analysing scientific research on groups of high diversity; and studying 20 MSP examples in various areas and at different levels.

She listed the principles of stakeholder involvement and collaboration that have been defined in the report: Accountability; Effectiveness; Equity; Flexibility; Good Governance; Inclusiveness; Learning; Legitimacy; Ownership; Participation; Partnership; Societal Gains; Strengthening Institutions; Transparency; and Voices, not Votes.

The various steps and issues to be addressed when designing MSPs are divided into 5 phases context; framing; inputs; dialogues / meeting(s); and outputs - with an additional 6th category of issues to be addressed throughout the process, such as establishing procedures for meta-communication, and relating to non-participating stakeholders and to the general public.

The following issues should be carefully considered within the 5 phases:

  1. Context: process design; linkage to decision-making; stakeholder identification; facilitation / organisational back-up; and funding;

  2. Framing: group composition; goals; agenda and time-table;

  3. Inputs: stakeholder preparations; agreed rules & procedures; addressing power gaps; capacity-building

  4. Dialogues / Meeting(s): communication channels; facilitation / chairing; rapporteuring; possibly decision-making; closure;

  5. Outputs: documentation; action plan / implementation; possibly ongoing MS processes; possibly impact official decision-making.

At all stages, components of the process need to be agreed by participants. MSPs should be designed through an MSP process, for example, through a core group of stakeholder representatives who suggests a draft design and puts it to the group. All stakeholders should be enabled to initiate MSPs; some will need support and capacity-building. Making the process design itself a multi-stakeholder effort will help to ensure legitimacy of the process, increase commitment by potential participants, and help to identify stakeholders and scope of issue areas appropriately. It is also important to ensure that goals and the agenda, and criteria for closure are clear and agreed by participants. Much confusion, suspicion, and tension can arise when participants dont work on the basis of a shared definition of the issues and questions in front of them. This needs to be balanced with a learning approach adapting an agenda and issues might be necessary when participants find that new aspects should be included, others should be dealt with somewhere else, and the like. Such a learning approach also needs to be adopted participants; everybody engaging in an MSP should be prepared to learn.

Finally, she identified two necessary steps for the future: Firstly, a "learning hub" should be created to enable exchange of information and networking among those involved in MSPs. Secondly, there is a need for a political dialogue to clarify and develop the relationship between (inter)governmental decision-making and stakeholder involvement and collaboration in MSPs.

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Contact Minu Hemmati and Felix Dodds for further information.