Tool 6: Support Materials for Participatory Planning Processes


Note: Given the importance of participatory planning processes to the impact and integrity of WSIs, the project sponsors and partners are developing further WSI-specific guidance and tools that will be available online in due course.

Quick reference

Tool A broad overview of the importance of participatory planning processes to the integrity of WSIs, introduction to key principles and commonly used approaches, and useful reference material.
Related Key Activity
  • Define scope, objectives, and public interest benefits of the WSI.
Purpose Build legitimacy and credibility, and avoid conflicts and capture through balanced stakeholder engagement:

  • Identify interests and needs of affected stakeholders to inform the planning process.
  • Expand the knowledge and resources that inform WSI development and implementation.
Possible Users WSI facilitators, managers, and coordinators.
Level of Effort Inherent to the facilitation and management of WSIs.
WSI Phase Throughout the life cycle of the WSI.


Supporting Guidance

Poor stakeholder engagement can negatively impact WSIs in several ways: among other things, it can lead to inappropriate or uninformed design, undermine durable outcomes, and contribute to stakeholder conflict. Further, where affected stakeholders are not involved adequately, WSIs cannot be assured to act in the public interest, and the lack of gatekeeping may increase capture risks.

Conversely, the active involvement of stakeholders provides important knowledge about the WSI context, which is required to mitigate integrity risks. Good participatory processes pass a sense of ownership to those involved (or affected), and thereby establish the credibility and legitimacy of the WSI and contribute to sustainability and transparency. In addition, proper stakeholder engagement ensures that affected stakeholders are adequately informed about the initiative, its progress, and possible obstacles, which constitutes the basis for accountability of WSIs.

Those affected by the WSI and those influential to its successful outcome will need to be represented and engaged in appropriate ways. To further support WSI managers and facilitators with additional guidance around possible forms of communication and approaches for engagement, this section introduces selected publications that may be helpful in designing a WSI-specific stakeholder engagement strategy.

The CEO Water Mandate’s Guide to Water-Related Collective Action (2013) targets private sector stakeholders with an interest in corporate water stewardship. The document provides guidance on preparing for a collective action (e.g., what needs to be clarified and researched), as well as principles and structural elements for managing collective action, which can inform a WSI’s stakeholder engagement strategy. For example, the document provides an overview of categories of potentially interested parties (p. 19) that can be used as a starting point for the stakeholder mapping process. Advantages:
  • Guidance for stakeholder engagement specified to the conditions of WSIs
  • Case examples and lessons learned are documented as a practical reference
  • Needs to be partly adapted for communication with types of stakeholders other than the private sector
  • Specific interventions need to be established based on generic guidance and case examples
The International Council on Mining & Metals has provided a practical guidance to identify stakeholders, clarify their concerns and aspirations, delineate engagement objectives, and initiate iterative consultation, as well as to communicate intentions, evaluate progress, and maintain engagement. Although the document is not solely focused on the more formalized WSIs that are the subject of these guidelines, the guidance for stakeholder engagement provides practical steps relevant to participatory planning processes. Advantages:
  • Guidance specified to the conditions of WSIs that involve mining companies, with lots of relevant information for stakeholder mapping and context analysis
  • Step-wise guidance for stakeholder engagement at certain stages of WSIs
  • Abundant references to additional literature
  • Only parts of the guide (“external engagement”) are relevant for WSIs
  • Not all aspects of stakeholder engagement that are relevant for WSIs are addressed in detail
The AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard (AccountAbility 2011) provides advice on: (1) how to establish the necessary commitment to stakeholder engagement, and how to ensure it is fully integrated in strategy and operations; (2) how to define the purpose, scope, and stakeholders of the engagement; and (3) what a quality stakeholder engagement process looks like. The AA1000 Standard supports the implementation of criteria for quality stakeholder engagement by organizations, which equally apply to WSIs. Advantages:
  • Comprehensive, practical guidance for the design of stakeholder engagement strategies that contribute to enhance accountability of organizations and initiatives
  • Helpful, process-oriented elaboration of what constitutes good stakeholder engagement
  • Needs to be adapted from a primary focus on individual organization’s efforts to engage stakeholders to the context of WSIs
  • Specific requirements are needed to ensure stakeholder engagement contributes to the SWM needed (e.g., building on existing sector institutions)
Over recent decades, participatory approaches to forestry have been evolving in many parts of the world. The participatory and multi-stakeholder aspects of national forest programs have similar challenges as water-related collective action because stakeholders often have competing interests regarding both water and forest resources. The National Forest Programme and the Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations (O’Hara 2009) provide guidance on relevant tools and methodologies for stakeholder engagement processes, as well as a training manual on enhancing stakeholder participation. Advantages:
  • CTangible tools for stakeholder engagement suggested
  • Similar requirements for multi-stakeholder initiatives in forestry and water, both of which be considered as commons
  • Needs to be adapted to river basin and watershed management
  • Role of corporate stakeholders not specifically addressed



  • Tool 6: Support Materials for a Participatory Planning Process
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