In development, when conceptualizing and designing interventions, various approaches are feasible as the best routes for maximizing impact however; experts often recommend multi-stakeholder approaches as best practice. The choice of approaches for delivering social interventions by corporate organisations geared towards contributing to sustainable development has been a reoccurring topic for debate and conversations by practitioners and academic scholars over the years.
A quick look at the concept of what a multi stakeholder approach to sustainable development is; the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) highlights some critical areas to consider which are instructive to any similar process. They are: Engagement, Collaboration, Guidance and Partnerships. Although these pillars focus more on the SDG outcomes and the attainment of global agendas; it pre-supposes that the core stakeholder groups who are to come together each time are similar to those required for almost any meaningful intervention or development agenda.
In the recent months and weeks, so many conversations about multi stakeholder efforts have been rehashed and these inform this article. Most recently, one of the most recognizable business leaders in the sustainability and social development space in West Africa, Yaw Nsarkoh, representing one of the most sustainability-conscious brands, re-iterated this at the 2018 ACT Foundation Dialogue where he participated as the Keynote Speaker. From my experience, listening to such speeches encourages me to continue the daunting task of designing and implementing multi stakeholder approaches to solving societal challenges. This is because to attain any form of development that can be considered sustainable or that will be sustainable over a mid to long-term period, no other option suffices. Even the most touted Public-Private Partnership (PPP) approach has seemingly overlooked community involvement from time to time.
Putting to practice
For instance, let’s consider an intervention informed by a prevalent social challenge by a brand that decides to ‘do something’ about this. How can a multi stakeholder approach to tacking this social vice be designed? What are the most important areas to note at this point?
In design thinking, therefore, the scope of the challenge must be identified almost immediately – with authoritative data – as much as possible in addition to whom the primary and secondary stakeholder groups are. Questions such as these must be answered: how deep does this social problem cut – through how many sectors and across what core stakeholder groups? For instance, in considering the target communities, should these be informed by the best locations to leverage visibility to certain stakeholder groups (in some cases, the biggest or poorest local markets – cities, urban centres, rural areas etc.), or dominance in social trends that put targets under pressure or further expose them to triggers and risk factors that deepen the social problem?