Stakeholder Engagement Manual

Research output: Working paper


This report been prepared as a deliverable for work package 2 of QuInnE – ‘Quality of Jobs and Innovation Generated Employment Outcomes’. This is an interdisciplinary research project investigating how job quality and innovation mutually impact on each other and the effects that this interaction has on job creation and the quality of new jobs. A key premise of the project is that for its findings to be effectively translated into practice, key stakeholders need to be engaged at all stages of the project. The purpose of the report is to evaluate the strategy of QuInnE in this regard, how this related to the impact generated by the project, reflect on the lessons learnt from the project experience and give guidance on these issues to other researchers and the Commission in the future.

The report discusses briefly some of the scholarly discourse on how knowledge production might usefully be conceived, articulates the QuInnE strategy and the premises on which it is based and then proceeds to map out its realisation for the various activities of the project. The report also evaluates how and whether the stakeholder engagement it identifies has contributed to a number of impact measures. Finally, the report also proposes a number of tools for the mapping out of such stakeholder engagement and evaluating impact. These tools are proposed as being transferable to other projects in working life and policy research which similarly aim to promote stakeholder engagement and the identification and evaluation of consequent impact. A broad discussion of these issues is positioned in relation to the idea of engaged scholarship which, in similar vein, advocates a collaborative approach to the design, development and diffusion activities within a research project (Van de Ven, 2007).

The main empirical content of the report is twofold. First a number of accounts and vignettes of stakeholder engagement are presented. This is done by focusing on input measures, that is, the efforts of each of the national teams charged with engaging stakeholders at various stages of the project. This material is presented on a country-by-country basis. Secondly, the findings of the project are presented in terms of measures of impact on policy, scientific production and workplace practice. These findings are presented as output measures on an impact-by-impact basis across the project by drawing on data supplied by the project’s work package leaders.

At the time of writing this report it is still too soon to make definitive claims on many of the impact measures. But it is possible to make claims about potential impact on some of the measures and how these might be achieved. A useful concept for understanding this is that of pathways to impact, that is, a specification of the processes through which different types of impact might be realised, the productive interactions, the sub-processes, the delivery mechanisms and measurable impacts in each case. The report presents many examples of these which do lend support to the claim that concrete impacts are contingent on stakeholder engagement.

On the other hand, although the project did indeed set out with the ideal of engaging with all relevant stakeholders throughout all the various stages and activities of the project, this was easier said than done. In this respect a number of difficulties materialised. Firstly, we discerned in some cases what might be called ‘psychic distance’, the fact that the methodology and work packages were pre-designed and led by teams in different countries meant that many stakeholders and stakeholder groups were more ‘arms length’ than would normally be the case (e.g. on a country-specific project), thus rendering stakeholder engagement somewhat redundant on some activities. A further issue was project length, the timescale for the project was longer than is normally the case for many research projects – and the varying speeds on the different work packages meant that coherent updates ‘across the project’ were difficult. Finally, there was an evident issue of high turnover amongst the personnel of some bodies from whom the project engaged stakeholders, notably government departments and business organisations, meaning that there were absences at meetings and securing new participants from the same department/organisation was a challenge, despite undoubted interest in various different parts of QuInnE.

The overall picture of stakeholder engagement in the field of research highlights the importance of relevant access and a formulation of the research question that is in line with the questions stakeholders have concerning the economy and the labour market. However, in many cases it proved difficult to engage stakeholders in line with the project design. A number of lessons can be learnt from this:
• Stakeholders are not necessarily interested in engaging in research projects before they produce results. Such engagement then depends largely on previous contacts of the research team with stakeholders and the level of trust they have built up. The process of tracking down appropriate stakeholders in some cases was convoluted and/or elusive. In some cases this can only be done after certain findings are generated.
• The precise constellation of stakeholders will vary from setting to setting not least because of different institutional arrangements in eg industrial relations systems.
• A further factor explaining the difficulties in stakeholder engagement was the extent to which collaborative research traditions have taken root. This varied noticeably across the project in terms of country and in terms of the academic disciplines from which the QuInnE national teams were composed.
• A key factor that determines the success of a project and its potentiality for impact is the significance of timing. Sometimes it’s not enough to have an idea, however exciting and persuasive, if no-one is listening. In effect a number of things have to align for academics to conduct impactful research – they have to have ideas, and policymakers and practitioners have to have a need to listen. In this respect the initial bid for the QuInnE project was submitted at a moment in time when the European Commission was looking for ideas to improve innovation, for example, because the then existing ideas had failed to deliver. At the same time, trade unions and employers, in the UK for example, after years of neglect, were being urged to embrace the issue of job quality.
• Finally, it is simply unrealistic to expect many concrete impact measures to be demonstrable within the normal timescale of a Horizon 2020 project (36 months). Genuine impact on many if not most measures, as usually defined in the literature, can only be assessed some time after the termination of a project. On the other hand, speculative claims about potential impacts can be made, and the routes to achieving these can be specified.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Business Administration


  • Collaboration, Stakeholder engagement, Impact, engaged scholarship
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages55
Publication statusPublished - 2018
Publication categoryResearch

Publication series

NameQuInnE Working Paper
PublisherQuinne project

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