Over the years, stakeholder engagement has become an essential aspect of policy making, having significant impacts on economic growth and development. Governments around the world are increasingly recognizing the importance of involving stakeholders in policy development to ensure effective implementation and achieve sustainable results. Globally, many countries have become pioneered in the stakeholder engagement process in launching successful policies.
Stakeholders are individuals, NGOs, civil society, private or public sector companies or any entity with a stake in and participation in the policy outcomes that are to be implemented at any level. It is a process by which one considers their needs and views about a particular policy which may lead to better results, thus increasing the legitimacy and success of policies taken by government bodies. Within governance theory, the stakeholder approach argues that sound governance aims not just to meet the objectives of shareholders or members but also to have regard to the interests of other individuals and groups impacted by the performance and conduct of an organisation, including the public at large. From a ‘stakeholder view’, governance is concerned with achieving a balance between business and social goals and individual and communal goals.
Effective stakeholder engagement can help organisations improve understanding and decision making as well as overall governance and organisational effectiveness. Acknowledging and affording stakeholder groups a meaningful voice provides some checks and balances, creating a productive two-way dialogue with those impacted by and contributing to a policy. Hence, increases a sense of participation and belonging, and improves democratic accountability.
There are various instances where stakeholder opinion is taken into account when developing policies: For instance, in the Higher Education sector, the Ministry of Education formulates, implements and reviews policies related to universities and colleges. A program is developed which engages employers, academics and industry associations to design and implement training programs that meet the labor market needs. This approach has ensured that the skills taught are relevant and in demand, resulting in a better match between the labor market needs and workers’ skills.
Governments are continuously engaging stakeholders through consultative meetings, proactive communication or by submitting feedback through their websites. In the pandemic era, they engaged stakeholders in developing a regional cooperation program for migrant workers in the labor market. Within the framework of encouraging small and medium enterprises, the Ministry of Trade lead the process of developing strategies for enterprise development. This included strategies for emerging projects for both small and medium enterprises as well as the industry sector feedback for the design and operation of SME policies and programs. Today, governments provide innovative digital engagement tools, inviting its citizens to identify opportunities and challenges in shaping the country’s future. These efforts aim to increase stakeholder engagements while enhancing more effective policies that contribute to achieving Sustainable development goals.
The benefits of stakeholder engagement in policy making and governance are numerous. First, it leads to more effective policies that can be successfully implemented. Stakeholder participation ensures that the outlined policies are designed according to the needs and requirements of the involved individuals and sectors at all levels. Hence, increasing its legitimacy and acceptance. Second, stakeholder engagement can increase innovation and creativity in policy development in the long term. Involving a diverse group of stakeholders brings in new perspectives and ideas that may not have been considered. Otherwise, it leads to more sustainable and effective policies in the long run. Third, it increases acceptance and trust of the regulations and laws. When stakeholders participate in policy development, they feel their voices are heard and needs are considered, increasing the ability to implement them. Fourth, effective engagement helps translate stakeholder needs into organisational goals and creates the basis of effective strategy development. Discovering the point of consensus or shared motivation helps a group of stakeholders to arrive at a decision and ensures an investment in a meaningful outcome. Indeed, without internal alignment you cannot build an effective policy or implement change. On the other hand, lack of stakeholder engagement can have immense consequences for organizations, governments and regulatory bodies, leading to a waste of both time and resources.
After long and in-depth research into how to make policies sustainable and successful in the long term, many entities have realized the importance of stakeholder engagement. Today, governments are advocating for the engagement of all stakeholders from the public and private sectors, civil society associations and other stakeholders to reach the sustainable development goals and successfully implement the policies that were made years back. Many policies fail to live up to their potential because stakeholder engagement was not recognized as an integral part of the process. When each stakeholder understands the vison and the part, they individually play in meeting their objectives, policies will be smoothly integrated, creating collaborative partnerships as well as enhancing progress across all sectors.