«Stakeholder analysis to support inclusivity of innovation processes in farming and food systems»

Margareta Amy Lelea, Guyo Malicha Roba , Anja Christinck and Brigitte Kaufmann. «“All relevant stakeholders”: a literature review of stakeholder analysis to support inclusivity of innovation processes in farming and food systems». 12th European International Farming Systems Association Symposium, At Harper Adams University, United Kingdom. See the references in the original publication of this text.

«Recent decades have witnessed a growing application of different forms of stakeholder identification and analysis in research fields such as public policy, international development, agriculture and environmental sciences. Particularly with transdisciplinary research, stakeholder involvement is necessary for knowledge integration and innovation co-creation. A stakeholder analysis is a way of identifying who is a stakeholder related to a specific issue or problem situation, and serves at making their interests, objectives, power dynamics and relationships explicit.

»Christopher Weible, working on marine resource management, emphasises that stakeholder analysis needs “to address a set of questions: who are the stakeholders to include in the analysis; what are the stakeholders' interests and beliefs; who controls critical resources; with whom do stakeholders form coalitions; and what strategies and venues do stakeholders use to achieve their objectives” (2006: 96).

»The first step of a stakeholder analysis is identification. However, stakeholder analysis must be done iteratively, in particular because the joint problem definition and the identification of stakeholders are circularly linked. This means the joint problem definition is influenced by the stakeholders contributing to it, and the way how the problematic situation is defined again influences which stakeholders are affected or can be affected by it. The emphasis on iterative stakeholder analysis is described by scholars from policy (Varvasovszky and Brugha, 2000) environmental sciences (Reed, 2009) and development (Zimmermann and Maennling, 2007).

»Problem definition

»In food and farming systems, those who describe a problem have bearing on what actors are regarded as within the system boundaries, and subsequently which of these actors will be thought to have a legitimate ‘stake’.

»Researchers typically describe a problem from the outset of research (usually during proposal writing); such problems may be deemed relevant in the scientific discourse of the researcher’s discipline or stated as a priority area for interventions in donor policies. However, researchers from other disciplines, as well as non-academic actors working at different scales, may have different perspectives on the same problem or issue. This is why transdisciplinary research strives to address real world problems that are important in the societal discourse, and to take the integration of various perspectives of the problem or issue addressed as a starting point for the research.

»In transdisciplinary research, the joint problem definition is, therefore, established as distinct phase in the research design and includes knowledge integration for problem identification and problem structuring (Hirsch Hadorn et al., 2008). Methods with which to achieve a common understanding of a problem can include creating system maps with stakeholders (Angelstam et al., 2013) and also problem and solution trees (Snowdon et al., 2008).

»Identification of stakeholders from multiple actors

»In transdisciplinary research multiple stakeholders belonging to a diverse set of actor categories need to be integrated, since their different perceptions, knowledge and relationships will contribute to finding solutions to the problem situation (Hirsch Hadorn et al., 2008). In such a situation, it is unlikely that there is one person who can oversee which actors need to be included (Müller et al., 2012). This is an additional reason why “identification of relevant stakeholders is not straightforward” (Cuppen 2009: 33).To overcome this difficulty, a stakeholder analysis can be done by a team because “a team can compensate for and neutralize individual biases and question untested assumptions” (Varvasovszky and Brugha, 2000: 340). In some cases these teams are composed of researchers or other related professionals. An example that initially used experts to generate a list, became participatory because each of the named stakeholders were contacted, “asking them for their opinion and allowing them to add or delete one or more stakeholders” (Stanghellini, 2010: 685).

»To start a participatory identification process, first a group of potential stakeholders can be identified by researchers either from literature, media, explorative research or other sources depending on the context and focus. For example, individuals and organizations active in an area or on a topic might be identified in secondary literature including reports from other organizations. Meetings could then be set up with organizations that might have lists of individuals that are active in the issue or area of focus. Typically, agricultural extension officers and other non-profit staff are approached. However, this might run the risk of reproducing information from the same people who are frequently put forward because they are considered ‘model’ farmers and therefore often called upon to act as representatives.

»Identification can also come from observation in places where people are active, such as in farmers’ markets, auction houses, community meetings and other places. From these observations, researchers can identify some of the people who are active in relation to an issue. Once a few people are interviewed, then a snowball approach can be used to ask for recommendations of other people to approach.

»Participatory stakeholder analysis can include sharing of decision-making regarding identification of actors, determination which of them are stakeholders, and selection of individuals to participate. Participatory actor maps can be used to facilitate identification using Venn diagrams or other communication tools (Lelea et al., 2014).

»Diversity of actors

»The multiple and diverse entry points described above can generate a more complete identification of who has a ‘stake’ and hence should be involved. In some cases, there are many individuals identified which can be grouped to create actor categories (and later stakeholder categories). However, it is more common that researchers or others doing a stakeholder analysis will start with an actor category such as ‘farmers’ or ‘traders’ and look for individuals that belong to this category. This bears the risk that one is not accounting for internal heterogeneity. Forming categories is used to reduce complexity.

»However, the criteria with which grouping is organized will have consequence on who is ultimately involved. For example, to what extent might the category of ‘farmer’ need to be broken down into subcategories to offer the needed diversity of perspectives? Determining the criteria for categorization should become an issue of discussion with stakeholders. Applying methods to critically analyze internal heterogeneity within actor categories lends itself towards crafting greater inclusivity by recognizing important differences. When regarding the social landscape, what is the “difference which makes a difference” (Bateson, 1972: 459) in a given context? Rather than assuming what differences matter based on pre-determined categories, create spaces in which participants can draw their own conclusions about which differences matter most in a particular time and place. As Sara Ahmed has written, we must “trace how the differences that matter between us, matter in some places more than [in] others” (1998: 197).

»Information about actor heterogeneity can be obtained though both individual interviews and group discussions. The transcribed text can later be coded for themes about important differences in the ‘actor landscape’. An important contribution regarding recognition of stakeholder heterogeneity has come from an example with biomass in the Netherlands where Q methodology was applied (Cuppen, 2010).

»In a stakeholder analysis, heterogeneity within a group needs to be acknowledged until the point at which differentiation no longer brings new perspectives. The questions are: To what extent is this heterogeneity important for the objective? What will be the implication of ignoring this aspect? For the sake of stakeholder analysis which enables inclusive innovation processes to move forward, there must be a willingness to reflect on this complexity and to make adjustments as feasible.

»Marginalized groups

»Marginalized groups are often understood as communities in society to whom full access to certain rights, opportunities or resources is systematically denied by members of other groups (e.g. Silver, 1994). In a broader sense, marginalization may also include that the contributions and needs of certain groups in relation to a problem or issue addressed are less visible compared to those of others. In agriculture, this might manifest as invisibility of marginalized groups who perform labor, such as in the case of migrant workers picking strawberries in California (Mitchell, 2003). Inclusion of marginalized groups can be difficult because their identification hinges on the ability of those involved to recognize inter-connections and on their efforts to intentionally seek out marginalized groups (Table1).

»There is convergence among these authors that seeking inclusion of marginalised and hard to reach stakeholders is both necessary and challenging. However, the necessity of including marginalized groups as stakeholders in research projects depends mainly on the project goals. ‘Inclusive innovation’ refers to the development of innovations for and by those who tend to be excluded by the general ‘mainstream’ of business or development initiatives (Heeks et al., 2013).

»These authors identify two key aspects in defining inclusive innovation: (1) A clarification as to which marginalized, excluded group is to be the focus of attention for an innovation; and (2) which aspect of innovation must the excluded group be included in (and in order to achieve what). The second aspect refers to the fact that an inclusive innovation may refer to the marginalized group as being innovator or as being ‘impacted’ by innovation; in other words, an innovation can be inclusive with regard to the process, or the outcomes, or both. Furthermore, the desired outcomes can be defined in many different ways. Inclusive innovation can mean that a marginalized group has participated in a project and benefited from it, for example, with regard to networks, capacity building and new insights. On the other hand, it could also mean that previously existing inequalities have been reduced as a result of the project, e.g. that the income of poor people has increased and inequality has been reduced (Johnson & Anderson, 2012). The latter would require a more systematic way of addressing inequalities beyond just ensuring participation. Richard Heeks and co-authors (2013), therefore, suggest a range of different levels of inclusion, each of which requires different steps to be taken in the course of the innovation process.

»Who represents?

»The concept of ‘representation’ arises because stakeholder categorization is used to create smaller groups for participatory processes. As discussed above, stakeholder categories such as ‘farmer’, ‘trader’, or ‘retailer’ cannot be assumed to have internal homogeneity. Furthermore, such categories do not immediately translate into people to collaborate with in transdisciplinary agricultural research. From operations and systems management, Matthias Müller and co-authors write, “in the context of collaborative research into societal problem situations, this difference [between abstract categories and individuals] is crucial, as the purpose of collaboration is to enlarge the epistemic base by using real persons…to represent the perspectives of abstract categories of actors” (Müller et al, 2012: 496).

»For this reason, we suggest acknowledgement of the implications of individuals’ positionality within the recognized internal heterogeneity of an actor category. As is emphasised in literature on situated knowledge (Haraway, 1988), relevance systems (Schutz and Luckmann, 1973), and emphasised in transdisciplinary approaches (Hirsch Hadorn et al., 2008), all individuals only every have a partial view.»

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