Why is it relevant?

Engaging relevant stakeholders is key to running successful Citizen Observatories. A fundamental part of stakeholder engagement is identifying key stakeholders and the larger context in which a Citizen Observatory is (being) embedded in order to know who, why, how and when to engage.

How can this be done?

Deciding which stakeholders are relevant for a Citizen Observatory can be quite complex, especially given that Citizen Observatories are typically linked to (local) issues and policy. Moreover, stakeholders from the same category, e.g. citizens, can play distinctly different roles in an observatory, e.g. as initiator, core community member or observer only and need to be engaged accordingly.

It is therefore important to carefully map the context of the issue and the key stakeholders in order to navigate these. Simple context and stakeholder mapping is a generic approach that is being used in many project-related contexts. It can help to identify and specify the social, economic, environmental and political setting of the observatory as well as the roles, relationships and agendas of different actors.

Context mapping and stakeholder mapping has been tailored and adapted to Citizen Observatories, given that Citizen Observatory characteristics add layers of complexity, for example by cutting across different environmental, political and administrative boundaries. The Ground Truth 2.0 context and stakeholder mapping approach captures relevant information for Citizen Observatories through team discussions or interview questions and combines this in a consolidated context and stakeholder map.

Stakeholder analysis for Citizen Observatories – Example from the Ground Truth 2.0 project

Source: Pfeiffer et al., 2016

The Ground Truth 2.0 project developed a generic stakeholder analysis for Citizen Observatories. This was applied in six countries (four in Europe, two in Africa), and the results identified ten main stakeholder categories. Stakeholders are deliberately listed as having more than one role (i.e., are placed in several categories), indicating potential role conflicts or the need to engage the same stakeholder for multiple reasons. Core stakeholders in any Citizen Observatory are citizens, scientists, (commercial) data aggregators, decision-makers and policy-makers. The ‘enabling environment’ category consists of stakeholders who either have a legal mandate or live in the project area. They influence how the activities of the Citizen Observatory are received, thereby enabling or limiting the impacts that the observatory can achieve. In contrast to the core stakeholders, the enabling environment can influence but cannot be chosen by the Citizen Observatory. ‘Market forces’ consist of those stakeholder groups that engage in direct economic (financial) transactions with the Citizen Observatory. Internal stakeholders (i.e. often partner organisations in a funded project, see inner circle) are important functional entities in the project or organisation. Typically, these are staff and managers of organisations, not all of whom are necessarily in favour of the observatory. This approach to stakeholder analysis can be applied in various geographical contexts and social settings and can be used with different types of issues.

The so-called PESTEL analysis helps to explore the Political, Environmental, Social, Economic and Legal boundaries of a given project. Adjusted to Citizen Observatories by Ground Truth 2.0 (see “Useful resources”), the following guiding questions can help to map the context of a Citizen Observatory:

  • Political and legal boundaries: What is the political structure in the observatory area – how many levels of government are there, and how do the various levels affect the CO’s issue? What are defining features, drivers and conflicts of the local political culture? How open is the system to participation? What legislation and regulation at what levels govern the issue addressed by the Citizen Observatory? What laws establish the rights and limits to citizen participation?
  • Environmental boundaries: In what landscape does the Citizen Observatory exist: are there defining features in the geography, climate, ecosystems or seasons? What are the ‘natural boundaries’ of the issues investigated by the Citizen Observatory: is it linked to larger-scale phenomena such as river catchments, ecosystems or habitats, weather zones, or migratory species?
  • Social/Cultural boundaries: What factors inform the identity of the local population? Is the population homogenous, or are there major ethnic or tribal groups, different languages, or religious, social or cultural sub-groups? Is local culture highly autonomous, or do other cities or countries serve as role models and trend setters?
  • Technical boundaries: Are there any specific aspects in the technical infrastructure, such as access to and use of technology, that need to be considered when designing the Citizen Observatory? Are there any particular local preferences for social media networks or popular local online communities?
  • Economic boundaries: What is the structure of the local economy, and how is economic power distributed in the project region? Are there major employers or concentrated industrial clusters, ports or special economic zones inside or outside the project area?

Depending on the local context, the Citizen Observatory’s issue and how the Citizen Observatory is set up, you may need to identify and engage stakeholders through a collaborative process. This step is particularly important when some but not all core stakeholder types were already identified or engaged during your prior community building process.

Collaborative mapping can be a fruitful way to build on existing networks and the local knowledge held within core stakeholder groups. To tackle this, you will first need to identify which stakeholder types you already have on board. It is useful to define who you will be working with if you have not already done so and ask: Who will the final community be? Who are the other stakeholders we still need to involve?

Typically your start point will include a majority from one or more of the following groups:

  • Citizens, grassroots, bottom up and community groups, and NGO’s,
  • Scientists, academics, professionals across disciplines, technologists, or representation from key scientific organisations, or
  • Policy and decision-makers, including local or regional authorities and representatives from municipalities

As you expand your stakeholder groups, there are a number of tools you can use in workshops – or equivalent online environments such as Miro and Mural – to identify stakeholders that are relevant to the context and focus of your observatory. These include Geographic Mapping and Commons Mapping (more on those here).

Useful Resources

PROJECT REPORTS: These Ground Truth 2.0 reports explain the context and stakeholder mapping approach, including the adapted PESTEL. They present the findings of the baseline context and stakeholder mapping per case in Africa and Europe as well as the subsequent updated analysis one year into the project.

SCIENTIFIC PAPERS: The Ground Truth 2.0 project produced this conceptual framework for context, process and impact analysis and applied it in two of the Ground Truth 2.0 Citizen Observatories, one in the Netherlands and one in Kenya to create a baseline.

CoP: The WeObserve Co-design & Engage Community of Practice brings together practitioners of Citizen Observatories and citizen science to share and learn different ways of engaging stakeholders in Citizen Observatories.

This work by parties of the WeObserve consortium is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.