Multi-stakeholder Processes

My work includes designing, facilitating, coaching, and evaluating multi-stakeholder processes - initiatives or projects that bring together a diversity of people and interests. These include governments, intergovernmental organisations, non-governmental organisations, women's networks, research institutions, indigenous peoples groups, private sector companies, trade unions, and others.
I am mostly supporting processes that aim to achieve change towards sustainability, justice and peace. And I am most interested in projects that aim to use dialogue - rather than debate or negotiation - to create shared understanding and joint vision, genuine commitment and reliable active engagement.

I believe we don't know the solutions and answers to the incredible challenges we're facing today. Yet while we do not know much, we are more likely to move towards understanding contexts and systems, develop "solutions", build courage and commitment, and gather the power for change, when we join together. Hence, "doing dialogue" and creating spaces for putting our minds and hearts together is what attracts me most.

I also believe that we do not know if and how we can sustain sustainable systems, should we succeed in creating them. It is likely that we will have to learn and change continuously, adapting to changing conditions as all living things do. Hence, continously doing dialogue for learning and change, and including all expertise and interests, seems what we should practice.

I believe that it is important to continue learning, researching and evaluating processes of multi-stakeholder dialogue. However, I favour an action learning approach, based on real engagement of all, rather than assuming a somewhat outside, observational stance. In turn, practitioners need peer groups and coaches that help them reflect and improve their practice.

In my book from 2002, I defined multi-stakeholder processes (MSPs) as "processes that aim to bring together all major stakeholders in a new form of decision-finding (and possibly decision-making) on a particular issue. Ideally, they are based on recognising the importance of achieving equity and accountability in communication between stakeholders, involving equitable representation of different stakeholder groups and their views. They are based on democratic principles of transparency and participation, and aim to develop partnerships and strengthened networks between stakeholders. MSPs cover a wide spectrum of structures and levels of engagement. They can comprise of dialogue (in the sense of exchange towards mutual understanding), or grow into processes of consensus-building, decision-making and implementation. The exact nature of any MSP will depend on the issue, the participants, the time-frame, available resources, and other variables. MSPs are an important tool for sustainable development.
Stakeholders are those who have an interest in a particular decision, either as individuals or representatives of a group. This includes people who influence a decision, or can influence it, as well as those affected by it."
(Hemmati 2002: Multi-Stakeholder Processes - Beyond Deadlock and Conflict. London: Earthscan)

My experiences working with multi-stakeholder processes include: 

  • Leading a project on developing a methodological framework for multi-stakeholder processes, looking at principles and practical guidelines, based on analyses of values and ideology, relevant social scientific research, and the global governance context. The process included researching 20+ practical examples, an international research & policy workshop, and consultation with 200+ expert individuals, and resulted in a book Multi-stakeholder Processes for Governance and Sustainability – Beyond Deadlock and Conflict (Earthscan 2002).
  • Preparing a report on Participatory Dialogue and Social Integration (2007) for the United Nations Department for Economic and Social Affairs, Division for Social Policy and Development. 
Previously member of the UN DESA Expert Group "Dialogue in the Social Integration Process: Building peacueful social relations - by, for and with people", convened in November 2005.  
  • Serving as an Expert Group Member to the Aarhus Convention Secretariat, 2004-2006, regarding guidelines for stakeholder participation in international policy-making forums.
  • Co-coordinated the Generative Change Community, which focused on the connection between personal and societal change and on the potential for transformative dialogic processes to generate radical change on a global scale.  

  • Developing SD2 Partners - Stakeholder Dynamics for Sustainable Development, a consultancy that helps companies to understand, adapt to, and effectively use their dynamic stakeholder environment. SD2 works to enable clients to act rather than re-act, using a targeted approach that focuses on identifying economic consequences in relation to stakeholder engagement, leading to improved corporate strategy and risk/opportunity management.
  • SEED Initiative – Supporting Entrepreneurs for Environment and Development, 2001-2006: co-developing and co-coordinating an international aware scheme for sustainable development partnerships and a partnership itself (governments, IGOs, business, NGOs). Working with SEED Award winners, 2004-2007: supporting winning partnerships with advice, brokering, capacity development, e.g. Cows to Kilowatts (Nigeria); Water For All (Bolivia); Seabuckthorn in Mustang (Nepal).
  • International Freshwater Conference, Bonn 2001: process design, facilitation, team development.
  • International conference and multi-stakeholder dialogue on freshwater at Swiss Re, Zürich, since 2001: process design and facilitation. Member of the Jury of the international Resource Award for Integrated Watershed Management
  • Rainwater Harvesting in Ethiopia, 2007/08 (Swiss Re award winner): evaluation and future planning (multi-stakeholder process design).
  • Designing and co-coordinating (with Robert Whitfield) the Implementation Conference: Stakeholder Action for Our Common Future, held in Johannesburg in August 2002, a multi-stakeholder process and conference that resulted in 25 concrete stakeholder partnership initiatives towards the implementation of sustainable development in the areas of freshwater, energy, food security, and health. Preparations involved extensive networking, facilitation and brokering of partnerships among stakeholders, governments, and intergovernmental bodies. Co-managed an international team of 20+ staff; worked closely with external researchers, professional facilitators, and knowledge management experts. 2000-2002. 

  • Center for Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability CCRS at the University of Zürich, Switzerland: Scoping the feasilibility of initiating stakeholder dialogue with the finance sector, October - November 2003.
  • Ecoagriculture Partners, since 2002: helping to initiate the partnership; serving as a board member since 2004, and Chair of the Board since 2010.
  • Working with Bayer CropScience to develop the company’s sustainable agriculture strategy with internal and external stakeholder consultations, 2002-2005: process design and facilitation.
  • Leadership for Conservation in Africa, since 2006: supporting process and meeting design and facilitation;  designing a leadership development programme at regional level.
  • Towards a Low Carbon Economy, a process convened by the German government to explore potential exchange and collaboration with key developing countries, since 2008: process design and facilitation.
  • The World Resources Institute / The Access Initiative, since 2008: designing & faciliating a re-envisioning process of this multi-stakeholder change initiative focusing on implementing Principle 10 of the Rio Declaration; moderating international board meetings.
  • Participating in the Change Alliance as a member of the support group that helps guide and develop this learning and action network on multi-stakeholder processes for systemic change.
  • Supporting the Stakeholder Engagement Process that the Kuoni Group, a globally active tour operator headquartered in Switzerland, has begun in 2010. I work on process design and facilitation, as a consultant to Adelphi Consult. A small Inner Circle of internal and external stakeholders and experts is helping to guide the process; a Wider Circle of stakeholders on water and tourism issues helped to identify suitable activities for Kuoni.
  • Training on multi-stakeholder processes, e.g. at the Plant Science Center at ETH / Technical University Zuerich, Switzerland (from 2011); the World Peace Academy at the University of Basel, Switzerland (2011); or with the ISO process on social responsibility (2004).