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3 i’s advanced stakeholder analysis

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

I recently updated my guide on How to do stakeholder analysis to analyse publics and stakeholders against three criteria: interest, influence and impact. However, I have kept my entry level tool as simple as possible, combining the last two criteria into a single column, so that it remains quick and easy to use. This move is part of a collection of research projects in which I’m developing the 3 i's approach to impact in collaboration with Helen Kendall (the post-doc who will be lead author, who is currently on maternity leave) and many other good colleagues. We started by testing the new “impact” criterion in a project about obesity and health, and are now testing how deep we can get people to analyse within each of the 3 i's in two environmental governance projects. Initial indications are really positive, and this guide will enable you to try this out for yourself. If you do try it out, please let me know, and there may be a possibility of adding your work as a further case study to the paper we’re writing about the method.

Have a look at the updated stakeholder analysis guide for an introduction to each of the three criteria. Here, I want to focus on taking each criterion and going as deep as possible, based on the theoretical literature that my colleagues and I have been reading and writing on the ways in which stakeholders can in theory engage with research (see further reading below for the papers we’ve written so far on this as a team).

Using the 3i’s to go deeper into stakeholder analysis

The analysis proceeds by asking three questions. Notice that each question is asked in both a positive and negative form:

  1. Interest: Who is interested in your research and what is the nature of their interest, or who would you like to be interested (based on their influence and/or impact) who is currently disinterested, and why are they not interested?

  2. Influence: Who has the power to facilitate or block the generation of impacts from your research (indirectly)?

  3. Impact: Who is likely to benefit most from engaging with your research, and whose interests might be compromised or harmed as a result of your work?

Figure 1: The 3i's framework for stakeholder analysis, showing two levels at which the relevant interest, influence and impact of different stakeholders may be considered

Next, the analysis considers two levels of interest, influence and impact, asking questions that uncover deeper, often hidden dynamics that might be driving what you see on the surface of the analysis (see Figure 1 above):

  • Interest considers the stated interests and preferences of those who are interested or disinterested in your research, and then considers a deeper articulation of (often implicit) underlying (transcendental) values, beliefs and norms that may underpin those interests or drive the disinterest.

  • Influence considers explicit, hierarchical “power over” forms of influence (typically characterized by control, instrumentalism, and self-interest), and more implicit, personal and transpersonal “power with” forms of empowerment (typically characterized by dialogue, inclusion, negotiation, and shared power). In both cases, influence can be to facilitate or block change.

  • Impact considers those likely to directly benefit most or be negatively impacted from engaging with the research, and helps ensure hard-to-reach groups are not further marginalised, whilst identifying and mitigating the risk of negative unintended consequences for stakeholders. Using the concept of benefit to define impact, the impact criterion asks why and how stakeholders might benefit or be negatively impacted by engagement with the project or its research. Like the other two criteria, impact can operate on two levels. First, the criterion can be used to identify immediate impacts from engagement, whether these be benefits (such as the formation of new networks, capacity, knowledge or skills) or negative impacts (such as causing offense, misunderstanding or disengagement). Second, the impact criterion may be used to consider the longer-term, putative benefits or negative impacts that may arise as a result of achieving those initial benefits. These may include more instrumental benefits, such as new policies, or economic, social, environmental, health or cultural benefits arising from the engagement of those stakeholders. The inclusion of impact is consistent with Freeman’s (1984) definition of stakeholders as those who are affected by or can affect change, making explicit the potential for positive benefits or harm to arise from their interests and influence (or lack thereof). It is also important to emphasise the need to regularly revisit the analysis to capture new stakeholders as they become relevant to the research, and to ensure that engagement with research remains targeted to the dynamic needs of changing stakeholders and publics.

Based on this framework it is possible to propose a stakeholder typology, based around six functional groups of stakeholder.

Try it yourself: 3i’s stakeholder analysis workshop facilitation plan

To try this out for yourself, download this new draft 3i’s stakeholder analysis template (pictured below) from Google Sheets:

Go to Google Sheets, and in the Google Sheets menu go to File > Make a copy

3is  analysis blank template

You’ll need to print off the headings and blow up the table onto flip chart paper, placing the printed headings at the top of the columns you draw on the flip chart paper (like the image at the top of this guide). I’ve copied the facilitation plan for the workshop I ran with Regina Hansda last week, implementing the full framework below. A few introductory remarks to help make this work effectively:

  • As you’ll see, it is important to make sure you’ve got ethics approval from your University to do this, as this is a social science research method, and you’ll need to provide everyone with a consent form, ensuring that they are fully aware of how you will use the data. Confidentiality is really important in any stakeholder analysis, as you will be sharing opinions about organisations and possibly individuals, which may or may not be flattering, and may cause embarrassment (or worse) if put into the public domain

  • I usually invite between 3-5 stakeholders who I think have a deep and wide knowledge of the other stakeholders in my research, but you can do this with a larger group if you want. However, avoid inviting all your stakeholders, as it is quite embarrassing discussing the relative interest, influence and impact on organisations present in the room, and this may compromise the quality of your data

Workshop plan

1. Introductions, ethics and consent forms, emphasising need for confidentiality

2. Introduction to the analysis:

  • Introduce stakeholder analysis as a method and clarify the scope of the analysis by geographical scale, sector etc. (where will you draw the line between who is clearly in or out e.g. national or sectoral boundaries)

  • Explain headings and method by doing a worked example through discussion with the group with an organisation that most people know something about in row 1 of the table

  • Individually, get everyone to identify additional stakeholder groups or organisations, trying to avoid creating duplicates, and work through the columns, discussing with colleagues where necessary (to save space and enable efficient working, either write directly on the sheets or use post-it notes with pens provided)

3. Checking:

  • All participants to check the work done by other participants, adding comments with post-it notes where there is disagree or don’t understand

  • Facilitated discussion of key points that people feel should be discussed as a group about stakeholders where there is particular disagreement or confusion and resolve these where possible (accepting differing views where it is not possible to resolve differences)

4. Categorisation:

  • Split into two (or more) groups

  • Each group has to come up with at least two ways of categorising all organisations

  • Encourage each group to check that all stakeholders identified in the table could fit into one of their categories, identifying new categories for stakeholders that do not fit in

  • Group discussion to choose the most useful classification for the purposes of your work together

5. Next steps:

  • What happens with this analysis – emphasise anonymity and care around sharing drafts electronically etc

  • When can people expect to receive the write-up

Equipment list:

  • Post-its

  • Flip chart paper

  • Flip chart pens

  • Blutak

  • Consent forms

  • Pre-printed large text table headers for stakeholder analysis

  • Selotape and scissors for attaching table headers

Further reading

Here are some of the things my colleagues and I have written so far about stakeholder analysis, that have informed the development of the 3i’s approach:


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