Keywords: stakeholders, stakeholder engagement, application, applied research, stakeholder theory, sustainability, students, higher education, green economics, stakeholder involvement, sustainable development, partnerships
Perceptions of stakeholder engagement – just what is it really?
There is a wealth of literature available that discusses the theory of stakeholder management and engagement, and even lively debates about partnerships, but what does this all mean to the people who will be delivering it in the future, in particular, the students in higher education today. This paper is a meta-analysis which utilises material gathered through the use of class-based activities (debates, exercises and games) from undergraduate cohorts over a three-year period. The activities were designed to extract and collate student perceptions of stakeholder involvement. The research found that involving stakeholders was a complex activity with no easy solution and no single answer, and came to the realisation that what may be highly appropriate on one site was not easily transferable elsewhere. Whilst identifying the negative attributes of stakeholder management was an easy task, thinking through how to apply stakeholder engagement in a real life situation, especially when considering the sustainability agenda, was much more difficult. The majority felt that the current level of stakeholder involvement adopted at development sites was in reality inadequate (and found to be less 'engaging' than publicity material may suggest) and that more should be done to encourage partnerships and higher levels of engagement.