Stakeholders can be defined in the simplest terms as individuals or groups who affect or are affected by a policy, following Freeman’s (1984) classic definition of stakeholder as "any group or individual who can affect or is affected by the achievement of the organization's objectives."  In the public sector, “organisation” is understood to include a wide variety of political bodies, government institutions and other entities involved in the policy making process. Stakeholders can be both internal to the government (e.g., the government organisations responsible for policy implementation) or external to it (e.g., the industries, communities, or individuals to be affected by government actions or rules). Most private sector definitions mention similar stakeholder categories such as companies and their employees or external entities such as suppliers, customers, governments or creditors. In the public sector, the definition of stakeholder often emphasises categories of citizens defined by demographic characteristics, life stages, interest groups, or organisational boundaries (Bingham, Nabatchi, and O’Leary 2005; Ackerman 2004; Yetano, Royo, and Acerete 2010). Stakeholders can be involved at any point in the policy cycle from framing issues to evaluating results.

Various structured approaches exist to identify, select and prioritise relevant stakeholders (Bryson, 2004). These techniques focus attention on the interrelations of groups or organisations with respect to their interests in, or impacts on policies within a broader political, economic and cultural context. These techniques also provide ways for analysts to understand stakeholder power, influence, needs, conflicts of interest, and changes in stakeholder types or interests over time. Selection of stakeholders often rests on two foundational considerations: information and power or influence. Certain stakeholders should be involved if they have information that cannot be obtained in other ways or if their participation is necessary for successful policy implementation (Thomas, 1995).


Ackerman, John. 2004. “Co-Governance for Accountability: Beyond ‘Exit’ and ‘Voice.’” World Development 32 (3)

Bingham, Lisa Blomgren, Tina Nabatchi, and Rosemary O’Leary. 2005. “The New Governance: Practices and Processes for Stakeholder and Citizen Participation in the Work of Government.” Public Administration Review 65 (5): 547–558.

Bryson, John. (2004), "What To Do When Stakeholders Matter," Public Administration Review

Freeman, Edward. (1984), "Strategic Management: A Stakeholder Approach," Boston: Pitman

Thomas, J. C. (1995), Public Participation in Public Decisions, San Francisco CA: Jossey-Bass

Yetano, Ana, Sonia Royo, and Basilio Acerete. 2010. “What Is Driving the Increasing Presence of Citizen Participation Initiatives?” Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy 28 (5): 783 – 802.

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