Identifying Current and Potential Stakeholders

Stakeholders are the people, groups, organizations and institutions affected by, have an interest in or are somehow involved in the issue being addressed. In an emergency, a wide range of stakeholders needs to be involved. The precise nature of these may vary depending on the type of emergency; however, regarding communication, there are some key categories of organizations and institutions that will need to be engaged, regardless of the type of outbreak.

Wherever possible, identification of existing and potential stakeholders should occur in the preparedness phase of an emergency. In this way, existing structures and coordination mechanisms can be mobilized quickly at the onset of an outbreak. Capitalizing on existing structures also supports the development of activities that are more likely to be accepted, owned and sustained by governments and communities.

During an outbreak, it is common to assemble structures quickly to deal with the emergency. Time constraints rarely allow for a review of existing structures and mechanisms on which to capitalize. As a key step in the preparedness phase, it is therefore important to identify stakeholders in advance and define how each can assist in the emergency response. Identification of coordination mechanisms, technical working groups and other relevant structures in advance allows for quick and early mobilization through these existing structures.

Frequently, lists and maps of potential stakeholders are already available in country. Approach the relevant coordination agencies, such as the United Nations Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and ministries, to obtain existing lists and identify the most appropriate partners for SBCC.

The list below can be used as guidance. It provides a brief description of the different categories of stakeholders that can support the communication effort and explains why each is important. The list is followed by a simple worksheet that will help you to start thinking about the partners that need to be implicated in an emergency communication response.

Government Institutions

Buy-in and support from government and policymakers are essential if the communication effort is to succeed. Engaging with the government ensures that activities and strategies are aligned with national priorities, and it allows for a more coordinated approach nationally. It is important to understand the coordination mechanisms that exist at and between the national and local levels (including communities). Understanding the leadership structures is crucial to ensuring buy-in and/or participation for all communication interventions.

Ultimately, close collaboration with the government will support the transformation of the country’s health system to deal with emergencies.

 Service Delivery

Within the service delivery system, numerous personnel are involved in providing or supporting the emergency communication response, including service providers and their managers, among others. Service providers and frontline health workers treat and support those affected by the emergency and can include both paid staff and volunteers, depending on the country context. They can therefore be key in delivering messages and supporting communities to take appropriate protective action. Frequently, health facilities operate at different levels – national, sub-national and local – and a range of different types of services exist. For example, government, private and faith-based facilities. Mapping out the different types of facilities, the levels at which they operate and knowing who is involved in the delivery of emergency services and what they do, will allow for a coordinated approach nationally and for the harmonization of practice, procedures and messages.

United Nations Agencies and Bilateral Organizations

In some countries, United Nations (UN) agencies partner with government ministries to strengthen capacity. Knowing the UN agencies that are most active in responding to the emergency – in communication, social mobilization and related areas – will sustain government support, help harmonize activities and avoid duplication. Similarly, bilateral organizations should also be considered, as they too contribute to building the capacity of government in specific domains that may relate to the emergency and to communication.

Non-Governmental and Local Organizations

International and local non-governmental organizations (NGOs), such as community-based organizations (CBOs) and faith-based organizations (FBOs), often work in the community and have earned the trust of community members. These organizations may therefore provide an effective entry point into communities. They may be more influential on the community due to their reputation and are likely to have resources and infrastructure on the ground to support the communication response.

Media and Communication Agencies

These may be government, private or not-for-profit organizations. They include all those agencies in mass communication – such as radio, television, social media and advertising organizations as well as individuals such as artists, graphic designers, bloggers, journalists and Public Relations (PR) professionals – who can help with materials development and message dissemination. Of particular importance are community radio stations that can disseminate information in remote areas and can broadcast programs that engage communities with walking microphones, public debates and question-and-answer sessions. NGOs that work with national and local media may exist in-country, and may assist with your identification and coordination of media actors.

Research Institutions and Universities

These institutions can prove invaluable in sharing and obtaining the epidemiological and social data necessary to develop appropriate communication strategies and to continually reassess and revise interventions.

Private Sector

In some settings, the private sector may have an interest in the emergency and related issues. As an example, soap manufacturers might donate soap to build brand awareness for their products. Some private organizations may support the emergency response thanks to their logistics or operational infrastructure and thus become instrumental partners in communication activities.

Individuals and Community Members

Just as important as obtaining government buy-in and support, is getting buy-in and support from community-level actors. Understanding the governance, management and oversight of health services at the local level, knowing the traditional and religious leadership systems, and identifying established community groups (i.e., women’s groups and youth groups) is important for working effectively with communities and conducting SBCC activities that are accepted by community members and supported by local leaders and champions. Ultimately, individual community members are the beneficiaries of a communication response, and hearing their views and concerns is vital to developing appropriate messages and activities. Identifying trusted representatives of a community and creating a constant, two-way communication process with them will help inform interventions according to community perceptions and needs. More information about the identification of trusted community representatives can be found in “Unit 3: Community Mobilization.”

When thinking of stakeholders, it is recommended that you build partnerships with organizations and institutions that operate at different levels of the social ecological model (refer to Learn about SBCC and Emergencies section of this I-Kit) as this can allow for a more comprehensive approach to SBCC.

Although lists of emergency stakeholders are probably available in country, below you will find a worksheet that helps identify those stakeholders that may be more appropriate for SBCC activities. This initial brainstorming exercise will assist you in thinking broadly about the range of actors that can support the communication response in diverse ways.