Stakeholder Analysis


Stakeholder analysis is a tool used to identify and understand those that have an interest or stake in an issue. Stakeholder analyses can be conducted using many different social science methods such as interviews, surveys, observation, and content analysis of public meeting records and other documents. Less formal stakeholder analyses may be achieved by simply consulting with local experts familiar with a situation and the stakeholders. Stakeholder analysis can be especially useful in the context of collaborative and participatory processes where all stakeholders in an issue are convened to discuss issues or make decisions.

General Information

Stakeholders are generally defined as those individuals and groups that perceive themselves to be impacted, either positively or negatively, by a decision or outcome and therefore have an interest or stake in that decision. Stakeholders are also those that have influence or power in a process. Stakeholders' interests in an issue can be monetary, professional, personal, cultural, or can arise from a host of other motivations. Stakeholders in natural resource management scenarios often include resource users, businesses, local residents, interest groups and NGOs, government agencies, community/civic organizations, Native American tribes, and academic institutions.

Stakeholder analysis helps to identify the stakeholders in a particular issue and to understand the motivations, desires, influence, and other characteristics of those stakeholders. A stakeholder analysis typically begins with identification of the stakeholders in a situation. This is done using local knowledge of the situation, analysis of stakeholder participation in similar issues, direct interaction with the public in order to identify stakeholders, or allowing stakeholders to self-identify. Additionally, there are many frameworks, checklists, and other tools available that can assist in identifying stakeholders.

Next, if greater detail is needed, social science methods may be employed to gain a better understanding of the stakeholders. Interviews, surveys, focus groups, observation, content analysis of public meeting records and other secondary information, and other methods may be used to generate detailed descriptions of individual stakeholders or the groups that they represent. In-depth stakeholder analyses may use a combination of social science methods and can help address your questions on:

  • basic stakeholder characteristics such as contact information, affiliation, position, level of influence, and likely degree of involvement in the issue
  • the organized groups that stakeholders represent, for example the group's mission, membership, key contacts, history, authority, scope of influence, and likely degree of involvement in the issue
  • stakeholders' position on an issue (e.g. in favor of permit issuance or opposed to permit issuance)
  • stakeholders' interests in an issue (e.g. improving water quality, preserving aesthetics, increasing property value)


Stakeholder analysis can be done quite informally, or can be conducted more rigorously if great detail on stakeholders is needed. For example, simply identifying and inviting stakeholders may be all that's needed for a small group discussion on a non-controversial topic. For larger group discussions, discussions on controversial topics, decision-making processes, or detailed assessments of the state of natural resources, however, in-depth stakeholder analysis can be valuable. Detailed information gained through a more formal stakeholder analysis can be used in a variety of ways, from deciding where and when to schedule a single stakeholder meeting to designing and tailoring long-term collaborative and participatory processes in which stakeholders play a key role.


  • Can be performed using widely available secondary data sources such as public records, Web sites, and media reporting

  • Results of analysis may be useful for multiple purposes

  • Interaction with stakeholders during analysis may help to build rapport and generate public support

  • Can help in designing more efficient and effective collaborative processes


  • Expert consultation may be required for in-depth analysis

  • Individuals may not accurately represent or have the support of groups to which they belong

  • Analysis does not necessarily help to predict stakeholder behavior

  • Results of analysis will likely need to be revisited after much time has elapsed

Expertise Needed

A basic stakeholder analysis can be carried out with little more than access to secondary information on your situation and stakeholders, or access to someone with an expert understanding of the situation. In-depth stakeholder analyses that employ social science methods and demand interaction with stakeholders may require consultation or guidance from a social scientist. Your particular situation will determine the quantity and quality of information that you need on stakeholders.

Related Tools and Methods

Content analysis, a type of secondary data analysis, is used to analyze text, including, interview transcripts, newspapers, books, manuscripts, and Web sites to determine the frequency of specific words or ideas.
Focus groups involve a structured process in which a number of participants, typically 8 to 12, are asked their opinion on predetermined questions.
Interviews are a method of eliciting answers to predetermined questions from one individual at a time. This method is used for gathering specific pieces of data for information analysis.
Observation is an information-gathering technique based on personal or recorded observation through systematic documentation of visible social activity and behavior.
Use of data that was collected by individuals other than the investigator. This includes newspapers, census data, maps, etc. Secondary data analysis is often a starting point for other social science research methods.
A standardized list of questions that may be administered formally or informally by mail, telephone, Internet, or in person to collect specific information from multiple individuals.

Resources: Websites

  • The World Bank Group provides a similarly detailed overview on who are stakeholders, what is a stakeholder analysis, which four major attributes are important to consider in analysis, when to conduct a stakeholder analysis, how to collect data and which methods are appropriate, and identifying and designing a strategy for analyzing the data. 

  • The World Health Organization provides a comprehensive Stakeholder Analysis Guideline (Schmeer, K.) that leads to user through planning and process, adapting tools, identifying stakeholders and collecting information, and analyzing information into meaningful findings.

  • The Department of Environment and Primary Industries (Victoria, Australia) provides a Stakeholder Matrix for analyzing players, outcomes, potential uses, and expected timeframe to complete the analysis.

  • The Manchester Metropolitan University created a Stakeholder Analysis Toolkit that briefly highlights what a stakeholder analysis is and why it would be conducted, and provides an on-going example to highlight the pieces of the analysis.

  • Research to Action provides a basic introduction to who a stakeholder is, what a stakeholder analysis does, and why the analysis is useful.