Minu Hemmati / Notes

The Project
Principles & Checklist
Ongoing Work
MSP Examples
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Multi-Stakeholder Processes: A Methodological Framework

Minu Hemmati, UNED Forum, 28 April 2001

Notes to the slides

1: Title

I will be presenting some of the preliminary results of a project, which UNED Forum has been undertaking between October 2000 and today.

While we have published all ongoing work and its various stages on the project website since December 2000, a first draft of the report went out for consultation in March this year to about 200 people (IAB, interviewees, etc), and we received over 35 comments from people from around the world – some giving general guidance and advice, some providing detailed input on the text. Before we put out the draft, however, Paul Hohnen reviewed it and provided very valuable and extensive input – thank you!

The background of the project is that we observe that there is a multitude of ongoing processes, mechanisms, structures of stakeholder involvement and collaboration –processes, which are linked to official governmental or intergovernmental decision-making, and those, which operate independently.

Governments and international institutions have expressed and are expressing the need for stakeholder involvement; e.g. in Agenda 21, in the Millennium Declaration, in addresses by the SG Kofi Annan, and so on.

However, there is a lack of exchange and sharing information about such processes. Also, many MSPs are being designed on a rather ad hoc basis, particularly those around governmental and intergovernmental decision-making processes.

Therefore, we’re putting forward a draft framework for designing MSPs, which we aim to discuss with you.

We believe that MSPs are an important tool for sustainable development.

Paul Hohnen has described MSPs as a "new species in the eco-system of decision-finding and governance structures and processes". We can also describe them as a new paradigm in democracy.

2: Project Goals

With out work on MSPs, UNED Forum is pursuing the following goals:

Develop a common framework that can be shared and promoted by stakeholders – consisting of a set of principles and a step-by-step guide to designing MSPs – these are in draft stages at this point and we want to discuss them with you.
Build a knowledge base to gather information about a range of examples; encourage exchange between people involved in them, making information available to those interested.
The ones we have looked at now are certainly only a glimpse of the full picture; and the analysis of examples needs to be deepened, too.
UNED Forum has a history of engaging in MSPs and promoting them, and we plan to facilitate more such processes in order to experiment on the basis of the current framework, gain more experiences, and review and refine the framework.

3: MSPs

First of all though, we need to clarify our current understanding of MSPs.

I cannot provide a one-line definition at this point, but some crucial characteristics:

MSPs aim to bring together all major stakeholders – in order to promote better decisions by means of wider input
MSPs aim to achieve equity and accountability in communication between stakeholders – in order to create trust between participants and stakeholder groups so that they can work together where necessary

4: MSPs (cont.)


involve equitable representation of participating stakeholder groups and base processes on democratic principles of transparency and participation- in order to ensure that all relevant views and pieces of knowledge and expertise are considered and  in order to live up to the values that we promote
develop partnerships, networks and collaboration … - in order to reduce the waste of time and other resources which are associated with processes that generate recommendations but lack broad support and therefore implementation
This includes that we not only need to learn to talk to each other but being able to engage in joint action for change towards sustainable development

5: Stakeholders

We talk about MSPs involving stakeholders – this is our understanding of the term ‘stakeholders’.

6: MSPs: A Spectrum

The term multi-stakeholder processes therefore obviously describes quite a wide range of processes or mechanisms - see list.

They are designed for independent stakeholder collaboration (such as GRI) and/or for involvement in official (governmental / intergovernmental) decision-making, such as the CSD stakeholder dialogues.

There is no one-size-fits all formula – which also means that some of the steps outlined in the current guide are obsolete to certain processes – e.g. dialogues won’t involve to agree rules for decision-making.

7: Building Blocks

In order to develop the draft set of principles and the draft step-by-step guide, we assembled a number of building blocks, which form the main body of the report:

Goals of MSPs

MSPs in the context of the ongoing debate on global governance and global governance reform – a chapter by Felix Dodds.

Terminology used describing various mechanisms of stakeholder involvement: e.g. hearings, statements, consultations, dialogues, new social partnerships, global public policy networks,…

Different types of MSPs: involving dialogue or more…: monitoring processes, implementation processes, which involve consensus-building and/or decision-making, etc.
We also identify something we would call "advanced multi-stakeholder processes" which involve all those components from dialogue to evaluation of joint implementation efforts.
MSPs also vary with regard to their level: local, national, regional international – and those, which involve several levels and even feedback loops between them (over time).

Value / ideological base: we have asked ourselves what’s the ideological base – what principles and values are referred to when discussing different kinds of stakeholder involvement, participation and collaboration between stakeholders – and came up with some core principles or values and some which can be derived from those (first and second tier concepts).

Scientific research: particularly in social and organisational psychology – on communication and decision-making in groups of high diversity. For example, we looked at findings on communication channels, group dynamics, formal procedures within groups, gender balances, power gaps, conflict resolution, consensus-building, decision-making – this review was done by Jasmin Enayati.

Finally, we looked at 20 examples of MSPs.

8: MSP Examples

The examples are listed here in alphabetical order.
As you can see, this is a wide range of examples at various levels and with different goals, time frames, linkage to official decision-making. Some are one-off events, some are ongoing over time, and so on.

Looking at the examples was done in a descriptive manner: analysing publicly available material (incl. existing case studies on those processes) and interviewing people via phone, face-to-face or email.
People interviewed do not constitute representative samples, and results are not meant to be representative in terms of views or assessments. The analysis was not meant to evaluate and assess example processes as to their effectiveness, legitimacy and other questions which affect their assessment – but to look at how people have gone about designing processes, conducting their communication, producing their documentation, impacting official decision-making and so on.

9: Principles of Stakeholder Involvement and Collaboration

Principles are listed here in alphabetical order. Certainly the list is not sufficient. Certainly some are overlapping.

These principles are those referred to within the current discourse on stakeholder participation and collaboration, by various stakeholder groups. They are being put forward as principles of engagement and operation – we believe they should be fundamental to MSPs in order to make them work in an appropriate way.

Also note that this these principles are to apply to independent processes as well as those around (inter)governmental processes – some will be superfluous for some processes.

Let me just pick out a few:

Effectiveness: MSPs promote better decisions by means of wider input. They also generate the commitment necessary through participants being able to identify with the process and its outcomes. Therefore, they are more likely to produce outcomes that are not only of better quality but also get implemented.

Equity: MSPs are aiming to level the playing field between stakeholder groups through equitable representation and agreed rules of communication and decision-making. Around official decision-making, traditional lobbying activities largely depend on the resources stakeholders have at their disposal and are therefore grossly imbalanced. Other issues of equity that MSPs address are gender and regional balance, appropriate respect for minority groups; and equitable access to information.

Transparency: MSPs create a shared space of stakeholders – preferably creating this space as a joint effort -; they agree processes of communication, decision-making, sharing information, and so on, within the group and towards the outside.

10: MSP Phases

The report and draft guide assemble quite a large number of steps and issues to be addressed when designing MSPs and aiming to "get it right".

Therefore, we divided the various steps and issues into 5 phases or stages – with an additional 6th category of issues / questions to be addressed throughout the process. Thanks to Rosalie Gardiner for suggesting this structure.

I want to give you an idea of some of the necessary steps and considerations by briefly going through the stages of the guide.
I’ll only point out a few issues within each stage and hope we can get back to those you feel are most important in our discussions.

11: 1. Context

Process design: As a general and very important point, we suggest to design an MSP in a joint effort of stakeholders. This can be done by - right from the outset – involving a group of stakeholders to design the process together. This is to ensure quality as much as generating commitment and legitimacy. Quality through conducting appropriate scooping of issues, developing workable goals and time-tables, and so on. Legitimacy through making the process transparent right from the start and ensuring participation of those concerned.

Linkage: it needs to be clear how input and work of stakeholders in official decision-making processes in considered and used. This is a weak point of many MSPs as there is a lack of transparency and clarity in many cases. This lack of transparency will draw people away over time. – I will come back to that point.

Identifying stakeholders: a crucial and very powerful question: who is actually going to be part of a process? This decision should again be made in a transparent way. It should be based on a careful analysis of which groups are affected and are affecting decisions and policies, who needs to be part of the solution, and so on. We believe it is not advisable to simply think inside the box of an agreed set of stakeholders – such as the nine major groups in agenda 21. Some issues are gender sensitive, some aren’t so much. Some issues require senior citizens, parliamentarians, faith communities or the education community to be involved.

Facilitation: a crucial question; the organizational back-up needs to be agreed and accepted by all involved; and to them it needs to be clear what they’re getting themselves into.

Funding: many processes lack proper funding and will therefore not be successful. This is not only a waste of resources but also politically not desirable as it might worsen conflictual situations when processes fail.

12: 2. Framing

Group composition: Ensure that all groups are equally represented; preferably have more than 1 person per stakeholder group. Ensure that stakeholder groups make transparent how they select their representatives.

Goals, agenda and time-tables need to be worked out by the group. If you work with an initial small group to design the process, this group can develop suggested goals and agenda, which will then need to be put to the group, discussed, possibly developed further, and agreed.

13: 3. Inputs

Stakeholder preparations: There are various options on how to go about stakeholder preparations – choices will depend on issues and levels, resources and chances to meet, how participants relate to their constituencies, and so on. For example, some processes operate with stakeholder groups preparing initial position papers, on the basis of wide consultations. Others prefer to first develop a common vision of where they want to go, and then start communicating the strategies they suggest on how to get there. Both options have pro’s and con’s and need to be considered and agreed when designing an MSP.

Agreed rules and procedures: The report offers quite detailed recommendations on ground rules of communication, consensus-building and decision-making – because we believe this is a crucial point. It is very important to agree those rules at the outset and allow for space to discuss them.

Power gaps: First of all: There ARE power gaps, for example between TNCs and local communities. It makes no sense to deny power gaps, the group should address the issue head-on and openly, and agree on what to do about them. The group cannot wipe out power gaps, but needs to find ways to ensure that they don’t affect the process in a way that undermines equitable participation, effective communication, quality outcomes, and commitments. There might be needs to actively ensure access to information, equitable representation, and capacity-building.

Capacity-building: might be necessary for one of more participating stakeholder groups, e.g. on complex international agreements and policies, complex issues, and so on. Possible measures need to be designed jointly by possible providers and recipients, and you need to ensure a budget for those measures as well as allow sufficient time for them.

14: 4. Dialogue / Meeting(s)

Communication channels: There are numerous options – from face-to-face meetings to online discussions, telephone and video conferencing, documents exchange, and so on – and any kind of mix of those. There are pro’s and con’s to each of them – again, it is crucial that the choices are being agreed, and that the resources and infrastructures are in place for all participants to be able to participate effectively via the agreed channels.

Facilitating / chairing: Similar to agreed ground rules of communication, we are putting forward quite a list of suggestion on how to effectively chair MSP meetings. There are choices to be made with regard to facilitators (outside professionals vs. experienced insiders). Any facilitator needs to be respected and acknowledged by all participants, she needs to be able to ensure equitable participation, drawing out quieter people as well as controlling those who speak too long or too often, encouraging constructive debate and challenging participants to be creative, to give to the group, to actively listen to each other, and so on. The group needs to build upon constructive exchanges before moving towards more contentious issues. Facilitators need to be able to "diagnose" correctly when a group is ready for a summary, for a decision, and so on.

Rapporteuring: Again, needs to be agreed by the group, and needs to be done by people who enjoy the trust of everybody. Providing draft minutes and documentation for comments is preferable, and it needs to be clear how comments are considered and used.

Decision-making: If part of the process, the group should refrain from entering too early into decision-making, and there are various measures to prevent that. Then there is the quite fundamental choice to be made between consensus-building and majority voting, and choices on how to deal with minority views. Again, these procedures need to be agreed by the group.

Closure: On the basis of well-defined goals, agendas and time-tables, MSPs will have clear cut-off points allowing for a timely closure of the process.

15: 5. Outputs

What are the outputs of MSPs??

First of all: documents! MSPs need to document their process and outcomes and disseminate them – to ensure transparency, to involve people in implementation, and to promote their outcomes generally.

If MSPs involve decision-making and implementation, they need to agree precise action plans, spelling out who is to do what and when and with who and with which resources. They should also look at setting up monitoring and evaluation processes, which might involve new players, independent of the previous process.

Some MSPs might lead to the conclusion that participants want to continue to dialogue – such as at one-off meetings – and/or to move from talking to joint action. They result in further or ongoing MSPs. In that case, the group has to engage in a new design process – not just continue as they’ve done before but consider how they want to set up the new process.

Impact: Those linked to official decision-making are designed to impact decisions – by means of wider input and more information available to decision-making. As I said before, there is a need for transparency and clarity on how input is being used.

Other, less measurable outputs are: When processes go well – increased trust between participants and between stakeholder groups; better decisions; and increased implementation.

16: Throughout the Process

There are several issues, which need to be considered throughout the process:

Meta-communication means communicating about how you communicate. Provide space for people to reflect upon the process they are engaged in is very important, throughout the process. An initial design might work more or less well, participants might perceive other participants as not following the rules, communication channels might not work, facilitation techniques might need to be changed, and so on. The process needs to provide space for such issues to be addressed by the group. This will avoid tension and frustration to build and help the group build trust and mutual understanding.

Relating to non-participating stakeholders and to the general public is an important component – to ensure transparency and legitimacy of the process and increase its impact. There is also a need to decide if inputs from the outside will be invited or considered and how that should be done.

17: General Considerations

Finally, I want to highlight some general key points:

It is important that all stakeholders are able to initiate MSPs. Some stakeholders will need support and capacity-building. At the international level, a trust fund or similar mechanisms could be established to allow stakeholder groups to apply for funds when they wish to initiate dialogues or collaboration with other stakeholders.

Designing and MSPs through an MSP process: very important to ensure legitimacy of the process, buy-in by potential participants, identifying stakeholders, appropriate scoping of issue areas etc.

Precisely defined issues: important to ensure that goals and agenda are clear, that criteria for closure are clear – that the group knows what they’re doing. Much confusion, suspicion, tension can arise when participants don’t work on the basis of a shared definition of the issues and questions in front of them.
This needs to be balanced with the learning approach – adapting agenda and issues might be necessary when participants find that new aspects should be included, others should be dealt with somewhere else, other stakeholder groups need to be invited into the process, and the like.

Learning approach: By learning approach we mean that the process, its design and structures should be adaptable. We also mean that participants need to take a learning approach: people who enter a dialogue with other stakeholders need to do so expecting to learn. Because they only provide one perspective (their own). Because they only have one piece of the knowledge and expertise. If they listen to others, who have other pieces of knowledge and look at things from different perspectives, they will lean from each other.

18: Outlook

A learning hub is necessary to look at more examples, to analyse examples in more depth, to further exchange between people who are involved in such processes, to experiment with different designs – and to promote the MSP concept.

A political debate – or, better: a political dialogue – is necessary to help build more consistent political will on how governments and intergovernmental institutions want to relate to stakeholders.
At the moment, it seems that different bodies and organizations are experimenting with different structures and mechanisms. And it is indeed difficult for stakeholder groups to understand what is expected of them, what they are being invited to do, and how reliable that role will be.
Most processes which are linked to official decision-making are purely informing. As I said, this informing role needs to be clarified and processes need to be more predictable and transparent.
Also, such processes could engage stakeholder more effectively – for example through challenging them to discuss implementation of decisions and policies, generate their commitment and partnerships for implementation.


We hope to discuss with you these questions as well as our suggestions we’re making on how to design MSPs and look forward to your comments, inputs and questions as we will aim to further develop the report and guide.

Thank you.


Contact Minu Hemmati and Felix Dodds for further information.