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Determining our levels of engagement

Engagement is the full range of our efforts to understand and involve stakeholders in activities and decisions in support of the change. Identifying our levels of engagement for any given stakeholder group will help us determine the activities required to optimize the use of our resources for best effect.

How can we determine our levels of engagement?

One of the first things is to determine the level of engagement needed with each stakeholder (or stakeholder group) for the purpose of implementing our change. We can add a column to the stakeholder list we previously created to include the level of engagement sought.

StakeholderSupporter / neutral / has concernsSupportResistanceLevel of influenceLevel of interestLevel of engagement sought

In deciding the level of engagement we can use the rubric below, based on our analysis of our stakeholders. Do we want to inform, consult, involve, collaborate, or co-create? We gain by approaching our stakeholders in different ways, depending on the impact of the change on them and their influence in the system. This also allows us to optimize where we direct our efforts and often limited resources.

Levels of engagement with stakeholders

Inform                 Provide stakeholders with balanced and objective information to assist them in understanding the problem, alternatives, opportunities and/or solutions.
ConsultObtain public feedback for decision-makers on analysis, alternatives and/or decisions.
InvolveWork directly with the stakeholders throughout the process to ensure that their concerns and aspirations are consistently understood and considered in decision making processes.
CollaboratePartner with the stakeholders in many or all aspects of the change process, including the development of alternatives,  identification of the preferred solution, implementation and reinforcement.
Co-create/co-develop/In a co-creative (or co-development) approach everyone is working toward the solution together. There is emphasis on pooling resources together and a common focus on a shared outcome among participants, as appropriate.

In a co-creative environment we strive to ensure everyone has psychological safety, so we can work together to allow the solution (the change) to emerge.

By giving space for the needs and desires of all participants, this type of engagement provides the surest chances of success for the change. It allows dialogue to occur, giving us the opportunity to create a vision together and avoid what we could call a “design-and-shove” approach. For co-creative processes to occur, special attention needs to be given to relationships among stakeholders.

To help us decide the level of engagement we can look back to our stakeholder impact analysis (see Section 4: Capacity, readiness and impact / Stakeholder impact analysis). Once we’ve determined which levels of engagement our various stakeholders will benefit from, we can better direct our engagement activities, as appropriate.

We can plot our stakeholders on a chart, such as the one below. These types of visuals are often helpful in briefing senior leaders. In the chart below we’ll notice that there is no quadrant for “co-create”. When we choose to co-create we go deeper than collaboration. The relationship among co-creators is regular, consistent and deep. It requires going beyond traditional engagement and forming an interconnected relationship (at least for the duration of the change).

To get to this level of cooperation, trust needs to be high and dialogue needs to be frequent. For more on generating trust and fostering dialogue, see Section 1: Deepening our understanding of how to navigate change / Building trust and modelling behaviour and Fostering a dialogue.

the level of potential interest and influence in four categories. There is an arrow on the left side (y axis) pointing up indicating the potential level of influence. There is an arrow on the bottom (x axis) indicating the potential level of interest. Our stakeholders are plotted in one of four quadrants.

Top left - high influence, low interest - consult. Stakeholders who need to be involved or consulted for decision and support regarding our work. Aim to keep them informed and satisfied. Use a selective investment of resources / moderate level of effort.

Top right - high influence, high interest - collaborate. Stakeholders we need to work in partnership with and actively engage. Focus most effort on this group. High investment of resources / high level of effort.

Bottom left - low influence, low interest - inform. Stakeholders who need to be aware of our work and kept informed of the main developments. Aim to increase their level of interest. Low investment of resources / low level of effort.

Bottom right - high interest, low influence - involve. Stakeholders we need to consider/involve for particular areas of our work. Nurture their interest in us. build relationships. Selective investment of resources / moderate level of effort.

Next steps

At this point we have a deep understanding of our stakeholders and the level at which we are going to engage them. Now we can think more deeply about how we are going to engage them.

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