Stakeholder Analysis

Analyzing the stakeholders around your issue is another critical component to reach a viable advocacy strategy plan. As with almost all other analytical tools, there is no one point in time when we exclusively carry out this exercise. Nevertheless, we need to go through this exercise after setting our campaign objective(s) to help us anticipate the response of different people and groups to the objectives we set. Before we go into the details of analyzing the stakeholders, we should highlight the following principles:

● Engaging in advocacy means engaging in politics. Engaging in politics requires a robust analysis of power to understand who influences decision-making, why each stakeholder does that, and how they do it. In other words, effective advocacy requires a solid understanding of the power balance to allow for effective engagement in the politics behind policy-making.

● Analyzing stakeholders brings these linkages to reality. Your engagement in the political process and changing the power dynamics are crucial in and by themselves.

● It is imperative to remember that there are no permanent friends or enemies in politics. Your staunch supporters in one issue could be your worst enemy in another. It would be best if you always work based on this principle. You cannot take people for granted unless you approach them on each issue every time and secure their explicit support to your position on the issue. You may be surprised at finding unlikely allies and shocked at disappointing friends.

● Always remember that you are dealing with individuals and not groups. One of the very common mistakes is that we assume that institutions have one position. The reality is that within any institution, you can find contradicting opinions. The official position of an institution may be against you. But if you dig deep enough, you may find supporters within this institution whose voices are not loud enough. It is important to seek such individuals and check if they are willing to cooperate with you.

The following stakeholder categories (adapted from the Midwest Academy, are useful in giving us a way to analyze the stakeholders we are going to see in advocating for our cause(s): 


Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, defines Constituency as [1][1] Constituency (2007, December 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia a. Retrieved 18:53, January 16, 2008, from

“A constituency is any cohesive corporate unit or body bound by shared structures, goals, or loyalty. Constituency can also describe a business’s customer base and shareholders, a charity’s donors, or those it serves. The most common meaning of constituency occurs in politics and means either the group of people from whom an individual or organization hopes to attract support or the group of people or geographical area that a particular elected representative or group of elected representatives represents. “

In advocacy, constituents are those who support your advocacy cause, agree with you on your strategy, and work together to achieve justice in regards to this cause. The picture below shows those who agree with you on the end goal (having a mustache) but disagree with you on the strategy to achieve it (the mustache shape). Those people cannot be members of the constituency. In other words, Constituents are those who have the fight with you over the cause you advocate for.

Figure 15: Technical Idea: Iman Mandour & Nader Tadros; Artistic Idea: Golo.

Groups can fall apart over seemingly minor or even trivial issues! Note that the two groups support having a mustache! Some of our worst enemies agree with us on the end goal but disagree on the strategy.

As discussed, “constituents” is a political term meaning those who have the right to cast their votes. “Constituents” serves as the popular base for your issue in the advocacy context. In traditional social development, this category is frequently referred to as the “target group .”Changing the reference to the people supporting a cause from “targets” to “constituents” is significant in advocacy. Referring to supporters as “constituents” means that the advocacy leaders represent those supporters. It also means that the leaders are accountable to that constituency.

Advocacy constituents come from two different groups, the affected (those affected by the problem/issue) and the concerned (who are not affected but care much about the problem/issue and are heavily involved in addressing it.)  It is important to have the support of the concerned as an indicator that this cause is a just one. Nevertheless, those concerned should be careful not to fall into the trap of undermining the affected ones’ power. For example, white supporters in the civil rights movement received a much bigger share of the media’s attention than black people who suffered most from segregation and discrimination. It is always a challenge to redirect the attention to the affected ones.

Building a constituency and being accountable to it is an integral part of the advocacy model that we promote. In other words, if these efforts depend only on benevolent people who like to do good, even to the extent of risking their own lives for a cause, without building such a constituency, we do not view it as people-centered advocacy. 


Your advocacy campaign allies are individuals, institutions, and associations that are willing to provide you with limited support when asked. It is advisable to ration and be strategic about using these allies as you are unsure when to need them most.


In the context of advocacy, targets are the decision-makers whom you want to influence. Identifying the decision-makers is tricky, and there is no formula for finding it. Before this discussion, we must distinguish between a decision-taker and a decision-maker. A  decision-taker is the person who ultimately signs off on the policy or the decision. The higher the rank of the decision-taker, the more remote they are from making the decision. Being a person with several responsibilities, they would rather assign the formulation of the decision to one of their subordinates. The decision-maker is the person who prepares the decision for the official’s approval and signature. Your advocacy efforts should target the decision-maker with less advocacy effort directed at the decision-taker. Again, finding the real decision-maker is tricky as they are not necessarily officially responsible.

To further complicate the task, many decisions are officially made by a committee and not by an individual. Dealing with a group decision-making process requires we go back to the principle of analyzing group dynamics and finding out about the dynamics of decision-making within that group. In collective decision-making, such as in committees, some individuals are the ‘movers and shakers in that committee. It is hard to go against those powerful leaders, but it is not impossible. In other words, we need to analyze the politics of decision-making in that group. One of the fallacies we need to be aware of is the idea of “one person equals one vote.” In reality, votes are not equal. Each vote has its own power weight. Some committee members’ votes carry more weight than others. You know that a vote of a powerful member usually comes with others in their orbits. You will need to do your homework to understand the power dynamics in a group decision-making process. It is important to do your research and homework to identify the committee’s real decision-maker(s) in working with committee

  1. Advocacy “targets” is an umbrella that requires further analysis.
  • The “Primary Target” is the most influential person in making the decision. We need to know who that person is and how to influence their decision. We emphasize analyzing the position of the Primary Target as they play a crucial role in making the desired decision. The following is a tool to analyze the Primary Target‘s position towards our issue.
  • Secondary (Alternative) Targets are the competitors to the Primary Targets, but not as powerful. In case you encounter a serious problem with the Primary Target, you need to build up the alternative block with the support of the Secondary (or Alternative) Target to secure a decision in your favor.
  • Official Target: Often, the official target, or the person we should officially address, is not who makes the decision. Showing due respect to the official target is important to shield your campaign from the pitfall of ignoring the due process.
  • Support Targets also play a role in the decision-making process but are not the most influential. They are the other committee members who could show some support (or resistance) to the primary target. Re ch out to those targets to reduce any resistance they might show if they hear about your requests for the first time.
  • Access Targets are those who can give us access to the primary target. The s person could be the driver, the administrative staff, the spouse, or even distant family members of the primary target.


Opponents will not support your position and efforts in dealing with the issue. They are on a continuum of opposition. On one end of this continuum, you have those who trust you and see the need to address the issue but do not agree with your approach. On the other end, others do not trust you nor agree with you on the issue.

Opponents come in different shapes and with different levels of motivations and passions to be against you or the issue itself. The  Social Barometer and the Strategic Influence Grid provide you with some of these shades.

Fence Sitters

It is often not easy for people to take sides. Unless feeling strongly about something, people will tend to be neutral, at least in how they express their opinions. Think of ways to move these fence-sitters to your side and avoid losing them to your opponents’.

Relationships as a Point of Our Strength

In analyzing the stakeholders, it is very important to emphasize the importance of relationships and relationship building. Our relationships with others are one of the group’s key points of collective strengths. The more the group brings these relationships to the process, the better chance they can reach out to and influence all stakeholders.


1 [1] Constituency (2007, December 2). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia a. Retrieved 18:53, January 16, 2008, from