Important Ideas: Stakeholder and Capacity-Building

Stakeholder – A stakeholder is anyone who cares about a particular project or institution. Stakeholders in a new housing development might include neighbors of the new development, local businesses, the company doing the developing, local and national housing authorities, people who want to live in the new development, and the owners of the land where the housing will be built. The word stakeholders is actually literal – everyone who has a stake in what’s going on. It seems like jargon, but I am not sure it is.

Stakeholder is a word people love to hide behind. It’s easy to say you’ll involve stakeholders in your decision-making without seriously thinking about who those stakeholders are or how you’ll involve them. You can claim you’ve met with “stakeholders” and make it sound comprehensive, when you’ve only included a few of the people who care about your project. (If you’re being particularly transparent, you call them “key stakeholders” to justify your limited outreach.)

Capacity Building
– This is another term which means something important and is often used as a shield. In its simplest form, capacity building is teaching; when you take it further, things get more complicated. (For one thing, you need to give people tools they can use to keep learning.) The idea of capacity building is that even with enough people and enough money, you may not be able to govern, solve problems, or function. One example would be FEMA in the Katrina response – they had money and staff but weren’t able to actually provide rapid emergency help. They lacked the capacity to do hurricane response. If, say, Switzerland’s national emergency operations center sent people to do a series of workshops for FEMA officials, monitored the agency, and took them through some disaster response exercises, that would be capacity building. And next time a hurricane hit hard, FEMA could use the resources it already has to help hurricane survivors in a timely way.

(this entry is dedicated to pragzz)
(Photo credit: AlphachimpStudio)