In this blog post I discuss our work on improving stakeholder involvement in government decision making. The Journal of Business Ethics published this in July 2020.
Understanding The Views of Stakeholders
A major problem in government is understanding the views of its stakeholders. A stakeholder is those who are impacted by, or can impact, the activity. Unfortunately, governments often do not properly engage with stakeholders. As a result stakeholders struggle to make their voices heard. Indeed, many people deserve to have their voices heard. Yet traditional government policy does not fully represent all people and groups. (For more on improving public policy see here)
Our paper just published online by the Journal Business Ethics seeks to address this. To help improve the quality of stakeholder engagement in public policy. Engagement has to go a long way beyond just asking citizens over a certain age to cast the occasional vote. At the risk of returning to unpleasant subjects consider the Brexit vote. Asking a question is one thing. Another thing entirely is to know what the alternatives really entail.
I was lucky to be able to work on this with my co-authors. Jennifer Lees-Marshment, at the University of Auckland. She is an expert on political marketing and management. My other co-author was Aimee Huff, at Oregon State, an expert on qualitative work. Working with colleagues outside my traditional area allowed me to participate in some really interesting research. Research beyond my typical focus.
Principles For Improving Stakeholder Involvement In Government Decision Making
Jennifer had conducted extensive discussions with policy makers. This formed the basis of our thinking about how to increase engagement.
We, therefore, asked:
- Who should governments seek to involve?
- How should they be involved?
Firstly, engagement should be Broad. We suggest that all relevant parties must be engaged. This includes all those with a moral claim to be involved. Moreover, governments should include those with a strategic claim to be involved. By which we mean those who can help make policy happen.
Secondly, engagement must also be Deep. There are a lot of policy questions that need more than just a knee jerk reaction. Most of us do not have the knowledge to meaningfully discuss medical ethics. As such, we need a lot of background support to get us to a place where our thoughts are cogent.
Finally, the engagement needs to be Continual. This implies that it isn’t enough to ask people and then never go back to them. Perspectives change with time and knowledge.
A Department For Engagement
To create the sort of broad, deep and continual engagement needed we suggest changing government. Creating a permanent department responsible for engagement. Engaging with the public by government is challenging. We hope our article provides a step on how to improve it.