Stakeholder Participation – A Lesson to be Learned

Project leaders are sometimes reluctant to broaden participation in a project. Yet it seems so apparent to me that transparency and inclusion must be a fundamental part of any higher education market research project.

Participation in the process, attendance at focus groups and review of the research and recommendations all lead to a greater sense of understanding and accelerate the buy-in process among stakeholders – faculty, staff and administration. Skipping these steps does not streamline the process or make decision-making easier. It just shifts the time allocated to these tasks to later in the project as efforts are made to convince stakeholders about recommendations and actions.

Instead, seek stakeholder input; encourage stakeholder participation and include them, as appropriate, in the process. The outcomes and support will outweigh the time and minor inconveniences to be incurred during the project.

Why raise the topic now?

We recently completed a research project where the leadership team wanted to “keep this tight so it will be more efficient” – this is against our recommendations as higher education marketing consultants.

During the report presentation and review of next steps we heard a steady stream of comments about a lack of understanding of the project, its goals and how to prioritize and implement the next steps. Much time will be spent over the next couple of months backtracking to bring stakeholders up to speed with likely delays in the implementation leading to slowed progress in the adaption of the recommendations. This time could have been better utilized in the beginning of the project, working together to gain a better understanding of the project and desired outcomes.

This case study from Academic Impressions offers a similar perspective for the planning process and describes how to conduct a large group collaborative planning meeting

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David Black,

With nearly 30 years experience in educational marketing, enrollment management consulting and staff development, Dave directs market research with a focus on imaging and perception research, branding and positioning studies, market sizing assessments, and feasibility studies. He also leads focus groups and authors research, assessment reports and consults on enrollment management, marketing, organizational development, and collaborative team development.