top of page

ACD Conversation Lab 19: Stakeholder Mapping

Image source: Prosperah

Our 19th Conversation Lab, held on May 8th, delved into the vital practice of stakeholder mapping and its significance in all engagement and co-design processes. We were joined by Susanne Müller, an experienced Community Engagement Specialist. She has a background spanning the private and third sectors, particularly in renewables and active travel, who offered valuable insights on this critical step of the engagement process.  The conversation provided a platform to discuss methods, skills, and the significance of stakeholder mapping by addressing the following two questions:

Why is stakeholder engagement mapping important? and
What methods have you used and what skills are needed? How can we avoid pitfalls?

The overarching theme of engagement strategy remained in focus during the conversations of this session, referencing primarily the RIBA Engagement Overlay that ACD -together with RIBA and SUSTRANS- recently co-authored and published. The Overlay aims to provide guidance on engagement practices through each RIBA Plan of Work stage, to ensure successful and collaborative project outcomes. At its very core, it is a movement toward a more meaningful design process that fosters long-term stewardship and care for the buildings and spaces we inhabit.


The Importance of Stakeholder Engagement Mapping

Through brainstorming discussions in two separate break-out rooms, stakeholder engagement mapping emerged as a critical step in the co-design process that enables practitioners to navigate the complex landscape of varied interests, agendas, and perspectives. Participants emphasised the importance of inclusivity, diversity, and representation in stakeholder involvement, highlighting the need to consider diverse viewpoints for successful proposals and long-term social benefits, and the importance of doing so as early as possible.

‘By treating communities as professionals and prioritising meaningful engagement, practitioners can overcome common misconceptions and ensure that all voices are heard’, a participant noted

. Mapping was also identified as an important tool in understanding which groups the engagement process should be targeting and immensely helpful for setting priorities within varied agendas that different stakeholders might have. 

A key ingredient in planning and delivering successful engagement is being aware of all the different components that are part of the process. In order to identify all the terms that are commonly used with clarity - such as co-design, stakeholders, engagement plan, and many others-, ACD included an extensive Glossary within the Engagement Overlay. These terms are based on the RIBA Plan of Work terms of reference with some derogations 

been developed for this overlay, and you can access it by downloading the file here

Methods and Skills

Image source: Consultation Manager

During the conversation, participants shared a range of methods and skills that they find essential for effective stakeholder engagement mapping. Engagement method refers to the specific approach or technique used to involve people/groups in a project, like a survey, whilst skill, refers to the competencies, abilities, and qualities that individuals or teams should have to carry out effective engagement.

Some methods discussed included:

  • researching previous projects and engagement processes that have already been  carried out,

  • identifying the strong existing community networks (i.e. ‘gatekeepers’) who are likely to participate more actively,

  • equally identifying ‘hard-to-reach’ groups and considering engagement methods to encourage their participation,

  • organising walking and talking workshops and actively listening to people’s lived experiences, 

  • using both simple methods; maps, paper, pens, and digital resources, such as ONS demographic

  • identifying tensions within diverse stakeholder groups, 

  • attending diverse local events to broaden engagement, and 

  • ensuring tailored content is used for specific areas or groups accordingly, for example, if the area has limited internet access, more paper-based work should be used.

One common pitfall identified by many participants is the tendency to repeatedly engage with the same groups. This can lead to difficulties in broadening the pool of engagement beyond what are often referred to as the ‘usual suspects’, potentially resulting in certain demographics being underrepresented. As practitioners, it is crucial that we not only acknowledge this challenge, but actively try to ensure equal representation of all interested parties.

Another significant challenge is the lack of literature and evidence addressing how cognitive and emotional biases impact stakeholder engagement. This, coupled with the lack of information on successful applied examples, makes it difficult to discuss engagement strategies with clients. Without sufficient evidence and case studies, it becomes challenging to effectively advocate for inclusive engagement practices and to tailor strategies to specific project contexts.

In her closing remarks, Susanne emphasised the importance of starting stakeholder mapping early in the project's inception and maintaining a structured document to track stakeholder information. Regular reviews of the map are necessary to ensure its relevance and accuracy as the project progresses. Additionally, she highlighted the significance of personal engagement, urging practitioners to leave the desk and actively engage with stakeholders in person, where meaningful stories and insights emerge.

Useful links shared at the event


bottom of page