By the end of this lesson, you should be able to:
1. Discuss the importance of identifying and gathering input from stakeholders.

2. Identify stakeholder groups for a particular initiative.

3. Identify ways to get input from stakeholder groups.


With any initiative or endeavor, stakeholders are those with an interest or "stake" in the initiative in addition to those impacted by the initiative. This definition implies that someone may be a stakeholder, but might not realize it.

Often, stakeholders inform decision makers of how particular courses of action may adversely or positively impact them, but other times they may be silent, or may be interested in decisions that do not directly impact themselves.

Incorrect assumptions about stakeholders can lead to confusion. For example, a speaker might look into the audience and see no women, and then decide to make a joke about women that is derogatory, thinking that none present would be offended. The speaker would fail to realize that some of the men present may be offended by derogatory remarks made about men, women, those of any race, etc. The speaker used group membership to make an assumption about interest in a matter, and was mistaken.

Failure to correctly identify stakeholders early in a decision making process can lead to overlooked interests. But mere identification of stakeholders may not be sufficient if their interests are to be considered during decision making.

Do not confuse stakeholders with shareholders (Richards, 2004): stakeholders have an interest in the concern; shareholders own a part of the corporation. Thus, shareholders are typically one group of stakeholders in corporate decisions. But one's obligations to shareholders are different from the obligation to other stakeholders.

The New York State Teacher Certification Examination for School Building Leaders is proof that some feel the ability to identify stakeholders is important for school leaders. However, it characterizes stakeholders only as those threatened by decisions:

"demonstrating knowledge of how to identify stakeholders who may find changes threatening and develop strategies for addressing their concerns and issues" (NYSDOE, 2006, p. 6).

Stakeholders include those who have a stake in an issue, not just those who will likely be negatively disposed to a decision. 

Identifying Stakeholders

Business Contexts

The World Bank (1996) suggests that stakeholders be thought of as "those affected by the outcome - negatively or positively - or those who can affect the outcome of a proposed intervention" (p. 125). In their contexts, they suggest these be identified from:

  • government agencies

  • directly affected groups

  • indirectly affected groups

But they also suggest that stakeholder identification is context-specific, so their identification should be guided by one's common sense and observations.

Stakeholders in Education

Clabaugh and Rozycki (1999) suggest that there are stakeholders of curriculum development, including the following:

  • Students

  • Parents

  • Teachers

  • Administrators

  • School Board Members

  • Outside Interest Groups

However, this list does not cover others who might have an interest. Such groups could include:

  • Alumni

  • School Support Personnel

  • Taxpayers

  • Parents of those who are not yet students

  • State Officials

  • Vendors

  • Authors

  • Associations

But this list is incomplete, as well. Furthermore, the category of "outside interest groups" can include a broad range of professional, secular, political, and social groups.

The actual list of stakeholders would likely include the names of particular associations, companies, civic groups, and characteristics of people (such as those in a certain age group.) That is, unlike the above lists, there would be specifics.

Stakeholders or Advisors? In education and some other contexts, there may be a tendency to confuse a list of stakeholders with a list of advisors or advisory board members. To avoid this, think about "who has a stake" in a matter, versus "who will provide information and advice" in the matter. A curriculum expert from a different state may be on an educational advisory board, but not otherwise be a stakeholder. A toddler in a school district may be a stakeholder, but would not serve at that age on a curriculum advisory board.

Who Identifies Stakeholders?

Managers, those leading initiatives, and other administrators may seem like the logical choice for the ones responsible to identify stakeholders. However, these leaders may not be in touch with the variety of interests in their project, seeing it instead from their own perspectives.

When a group or board identifies stakeholders, they have the advantage of multiple viewpoints. However, in some instances this could still result in too narrow a list.

One broader approach to stakeholder identification can be seen the Ka'u to South Kona Water Master Plan in Hawaii, where one of the tasks was to "Undertake a community consultation and public participation process to identify stakeholders, and to conduct interviews, special interest group meetings, and general public meetings" (Hawaii County, 2003, Scope, 2).

The decision about who should identify stakeholders should be made in regard to the nature and context of the initiative, and in light of previous related initiatives and their practices.

Models for Collecting Stakeholder Information

After stakeholders have been identified, their mere existence and identification may, and some say should, alter plans for the undertaking. However, this is a passive role of stakeholders. A more active model would include methods for gaining information from stakeholders to inform the process. There are many ways this could be done, from informal meetings, to inclusion of stakeholders on advisory committees, or even including a much more structured approach. One example is seen where Kelsey and Pense (2001) adapted a model suggested by Guba and Lincolk for collecting stakeholder input. Those working with stakeholders are advised to read Kelsey and Pense's methods and findings.

Stakeholder Impact Analysis

After stakeholders have been identified, which might be an on-going process, their interests and concerns should be brought to bear on the decision making at hand. Charles Hill and Gareth Jones (cited by Pressley, 1998) identified the following steps of "stakeholder impact analysis":

  • "Identify Stakeholders

  • Identify Stakeholders’ Interests and Concerns

  • Identify Resulting Claims Stakeholders Are Likely to Make

  • Identify Most Important Stakeholders (From Organization's Perspective)

  • Identify the Resulting Strategic Challenges" (Slide 5)

Literature Cited

Clabaugh, G. K., & Rozycki, E. G. (1999). The foundations of curriculum. Retrieved from August 23, 2009 from

Hawaii County. (2003). Ka'u to South Kona water master plan. Hawaii Co., HI: Author. Retrieved August 23, 2009 from

Kelsey, K. D., & Pense, S. I., (2001). A model for gathering stakeholder input for setting research priorities at the land-grant university. Journal of Agricultural Education, 42(2), 18-27. Retrieved May 22, 2007 from

New York State Department of Education. (2006). New York State teacher certification examinations: Educational leadership assessments: Field 100: School building leader, Part one - Field 101: School building leader, Part two - Assessment framework. Retrieved May 22, 2007 from

Pressley, M. M. (1998). Chapter 2: Stakeholders and the corporate mission. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin. Retrieved August 23, 2009 from

Richards, I. (2004). Stakeholders versus shareholders: Journalism, business, and ethics. Journal of Mass Media Ethics, 19(2), 119-130.

The World Bank. (1996). The World Bank participation sourcebook. Washington, DC: Author. Retrieved August 23, 2009 from

All information is subject to change without notification.
© Jim Flowers
Department of Technology, Ball State University