Does better stakeholder engagement mean more valuable outcomes?
Our transport infrastructure is there to serve communities, support economic growth and improve lives. This wide remit means that there are many different stakeholders who could benefit from, be affected by, or just have a legitimate interest in planned road and rail projects. A successful outcome isn’t just about the relationship between customer and contractor.
Within customers’ organisations there will also be a range of stakeholders. Some will be directly involved, and some will be more remote but still invested in a successful outcome.
Effective stakeholder engagement is not a ‘nice to have’. It is essential to ensure that infrastructure projects deliver maximum lifetime value and the most beneficial outcomes for as many people as possible.
Major infrastructure works bring disruption along with potential benefits. It is entirely reasonable that people affected by projects are fully informed about the benefits the project will bring, which could include economic, environmental or societal outcomes. They also need to understand any risks and downsides if the project doesn’t go ahead. Because our transport infrastructure touches so many lives, directly and indirectly, there are many different types of stakeholder with different needs. Some will be directly affected by the project, either by the outcome or while work is being carried out. They are likely to have a useful input that could influence the design or the way that works are planned. Other people may just need to be kept informed about progress and coming activities.
The stakeholder profile will be different for every project so plans and protocols need to be adaptable. The engagement strategy for different types of stakeholder will need to be different and cannot be planned effectively until their needs and potential contributions have been fully analysed.
A comprehensive stakeholder engagement plan is needed for every project. The plan must explain how all stakeholders will be consulted and kept informed. This must take account of the different types of stakeholder and define specific protocols for each. Most importantly it needs to set out very clear responsibilities at all levels for ensuring that the engagement plan is followed and how success will be measured.
The engagement plan must also map out how key project information will be made available to teams, so they can answer queries promptly and provide reassurance where it is needed.
There are lessons to be learned from every project and stakeholder engagement is no exception. There will be things that went well and some not so well. Lessons need to be evaluated and documented at every stage – including post-project completion – so that we do a better job next time.