C4D Hub: Understand and engage stakeholders

What is it?

Stakeholders are people, community groups and institutions with a stake in the C4D initiative and the associated research, monitoring, evaluation and studies. It is important to ensure their active participation before, during and after the evaluation. In cases where this is not possible, one alternative would be to involve representatives who can advocate on their behalf.

General information

The main page on Understanding and engaging with stakeholder provides a detailed description, options and advice of a general nature. This page is a recommended background reading before considering options to apply to C4D. 

Understanding and engaging stakeholders and C4D

Applying the C4D principles 


This task is a foundational task when taking a participatory approach to R,M&E of C4D. A participatory approach, as advocated in the C4D Evaluation Framework, is dependent on good understanding of stakeholders and on meaningful and active engagement with them in planning, framing and implementation. This sets a foundation for a 'transformational' level of participation in R,M&E.  


The stakeholders in complex social change processes may be a changing group of people. Their ideas, motivations, priorities, commitments and openness to adaptive C4D action may also change in response to the changes in the social system. Stakeholder mapping processes can help with engagement, especially where there are multiple stakeholders with different values and information needs. 


To effectively implement the C4D Evaluation Framework, a receptive organizational and community context and culture is required. Staff of organizations at all levels and relevant community members need to be willing to engage in constant reflection and learning from R,M&E in order to continually develop and improve organisational systems and C4D initiatives. This is dependent upon meaningful stakeholder engagement in the beginning and continuing throughout implementation. 


Ensure an equity lens when thinking about stakeholders. Make sure you are not just working with the easy-to-reach groups. Think about differences in voice and power within each stakeholder groups. While the inclusion of representatives can be a good way to ensure integration of marginalised voices it can also be problematic. Are representatives truly representative or are there differences in power and class within the group they represent? Is there a risk of wealth-bias, literacy-bias, roadside-bias and other biases identified by Robert Chambers?


As part of understanding and engaging stakeholders it can be useful think about accountability in a multi-dimensional sense, including accountability to donors (upward accountability and reporting), and accountability to colleagues, partners and collaborators and communities (horizontal accountability).

Recommended options and adaptations for understanding stakeholders in C4D

General stakeholder mapping options

Several good options that would work well for C4D are listed on our website

Mindmap with sticky-notes  

This is a more visual process for stakeholder mapping. It is useful when identifying stakeholders is more difficult, and you need to work with partners in participatory and visual ways to unpack interconnections and perspectives. It is consistent with the C4D Evaluation Framework in the following ways:

  • participatorythe visual and tactile nature of the approach means this mapping process can be undertaken with a range of partners
  • complexthe visual and moveable nature of the approach means it is useful when there is a need to unpack complex interconnections and different perspectives


The IDEAS Guide (developed for practitioners implementing small-scale media and communication projects) Modules 3 and 4 provide guidance on Stakeholder Mapping.   

Borrowing the concept of 'Boundary Partners(/Actors)'

A key concept in Outcome Mapping is the 'Boundary Partners', sometimes referred to as 'Boundary Actors'. Boundary Partners(/Actors) are a subset of an initiative's stakeholders. Boundary Partners(/Actors) are the people, groups, or organisations that are directly engaged in the initiative, and who can be influenced through the initiative, and who in turn can influence outcomes that are outside the control or influence of the initiative. Focusing on Boundary Partners(/Actors) is consistent with the C4D Evaluation Framework in the following ways:

  • realisticfocusing on boundary partners (in addition to immediate beneficiaries) is a more realistic and practical response to the potentially huge numbers of stakeholders
  • complex: relationships with Boundary Partners/Actors in Outcome Mapping are understood to be dynamic and change over time


Recommended options and adaptations for engaging with stakeholders and C4D

General stakeholder engagement options

Several good options that would work well for C4D are listed on our website. Most of these are geared towards engagement by evaluators in preparation for a discrete study or evaluation, but similar techniques could be used to begin or continue engagement. 

Understand stakeholders

  • Community Scoping: developing a more in-depth understanding of a community of interest by providing information about its social diversity, history, existing networks, and overall socio-economic characteristics.
  • Stakeholder mapping and analysis: identifying different stakeholders’ level of interest and influence.

Engage stakeholders

  • Community fairs: organising a community event with the aim of providing information about the project and raising the awareness of relevant issues.
  • Fishbowl technique:  managing group discussion about relevant issues. 
  • Informal meeting processes: a conversation between an evaluator and a key stakeholder that is not conducted in a formal way but is still seeking the same outcomes.

Adapting C4D approaches

C4D practitioners will already have many skills and techniques for facilitating communication and engagement, and these can be adapted for use with R,M&E stakeholders, including colleagues and partners. 

Module 1 of the Equal Access Participatory M&E toolkit ‘Effective communication, feedback and reporting systems in a PM&E process’ (access the full toolkit here) is a comprehensive (though quite long) guide on both analysing stakeholders and communication flows, and practical ways to build on this for ongoing engagement with stakeholders. This resource was developed in the context of a C4D NGO, so it is therefore highly relevant for C4D initiatives and is consistent with the C4D Evaluation Framework.

(Some of the content in this document also covers identifying key users and their uses, which come under the FRAME part of the Rainbow Framework).

Facilitating workshops for the co-generation of knowledge: 21 tips is a web resource that lists useful and practical tips on facilitating workshops. For understanding and engaging stakeholders, the tips include: 3) Use workshops to get to know key players face-to-face; 4) Co-convene; 7) Be prepared and optimally unprepared with the programme; 11) Identify key documents, encourage participants to study them in advance, and have them available; 12) Encourage multiple ownership and credit; 13) Set an informal atmosphere, and err on the side of informality; 14) Make good use of car and bus journeys!; 18) Use Participatory PowerPoint and 19) Think in advance about follow-up and seek agreement on actions. Click here to read a summary page the reviews this resource.


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