AMP Toolbox

Stakeholder Workshops
 Note: description of this tool is adapted from the FAO –EAF tool box.

Steps that may require organising stakeholder workshops are those for which participation with stakeholders is really important, such as Steps 1, 3 and 5.

Give guidance for the organisation of stakeholder workshops. These should provide an appropriate forum for the identification, discussion and resolution of issues using input from multiple stakeholders or groups. These types of forums may be necessary for completing a number of different activities and steps during the policy process.

Initiating the policy-making process can often require questioning and potentially changing embedded social institutions that relate to how the marine environment is governed, the attitudes that are held by the participants and other stakeholders, and the way we use and integrate scientific understanding into political decision making. To effectively bring about such change requires stakeholder input. The most viable option is therefore to find the best way for the parts of society that will be affected to work together with government in a partnership arrangement to solve the policy issues. Holding stakeholder workshops is a very good way to initiate or contribute to the formation of partnership approaches.

A stakeholder workshop involves a meeting of multiple stakeholders to:
  • Involve these stakeholders in improving situations that affects them
  • Form useful social interaction that enables different individuals and groups, who are affected by an issue or initiative, to enter into dialogue, negotiate, learn and make decisions for collective action
  • Get government staff, policy makers, community representatives, scientists, business people and NGO representatives to think and work better together
Workshops can combine training, development, team-building, communication, motivation and planning and usually have a clear purpose or output that is to be generated through the workshop process rather than just being an awareness raising exercise. Participation and involvement in workshops increases the sense of ownership and empowerment, and facilitates the development of the organisations and individuals involved. Workshops are effective in helping to manage or facilitate change, achieving improvement and particularly the creation of initiatives, plans, process and actions to achieve aims. They are also good for breaking down barriers, improving communications inside and outside of agencies, groups and communities.

The main steps for running a good workshop are:
  • Determine who should be at the workshop.
  • Ensure a suitable date is set (there are a number of specific tools to assist set dates see Source of information below).
  • Send out an agenda or topic or background material early enough for comments and for participants to have read the material.
  • Use a suitable venue that has all the necessary equipment and that is close to the place where participants are staying.
  • At the opening of the workshop, explain the background and context of the workshop, and the intended outcomes.
  • Get participants to introduce themselves and, if appropriate, conduct some sort of ice breaker that establishes rapport among participants and generates some laughs.
  • Explain the agenda and process of the workshop, as well as the role of the facilitator.
  • Invite participants or representatives to make a statement about what they would like to see achieved in the workshop.
  • Run the series of activities that will enable the objectives of the workshop to be achieved (there are several specific participation tools to assist with this – see Synergy section below).
  • Clarify the outcomes of the workshop and agree upon future actions.
  • Ask participants to provide an evaluation of the workshop (optional).
  • Close the workshop by inviting participants to say what the workshop has meant for them.
  • Write up the workshop and provide a report to participants as soon as possible.

The complex and difficult problems that are identified by the policy-making process may require innovative solutions which are best generated when diverse stakeholders are able to meet, share experiences, learn together and contribute to decisions. Moreover, the ultimate success of any potential way forward lies in developing the collective commitment and capacity to turn ideas and plans into action by all stakeholder groups. This can be achieved by facilitating workshops that involve multiple stakeholder groups, which is essentially a form of social learning.

The workshop venue and the setup of the room should be conducive to good discussions. If it is in a lecture-style room this will reduce input. Try and have a surrounding or U-shaped design and avoid having all the different groups sit together – mix them up so that they will interact.
Have the venue close to the place where people are staying in order to avoid loss of time in getting people to the workshop on time. If there are more than 15 people having breakout sessions, try and get more input from those who will not talk in bigger groups. This is especially relevant if one or two people are expected to dominate the discussions.

Workshops can be intensive and tiring. Don’t forget to give participants regular comfort breaks to stretch their legs, have a drink or get some fresh air.

Workshops are the most common form of consultation to gain input from a wide variety of stakeholders.

This should be read in conjunction with the tools for facilitation. Specific tools are designed to facilitate workshops (e.g. brainstorming, component trees, risk assessment etc). One workshop may be able to assist a complete number of policy steps including scoping, issue identification, risk assessment prioritization and management options – or some subset of these.


Low, high
The cost will be determined by the people who have to attend, their capacity to attend, the location where it needs to be held, the cost to get everyone to the place and the cost of the venue in the event that a professional facilitator is required.

The costs can be very low if everyone is local and the venue and facilitator are in-house. It can be very expensive if many people must travel some distance to an expensive location or where a formal venue (e.g. hotel) is used with a professional facilitator and the workshop technical equipment needs to be hired.

Some level of facilitation skills and experience is required.

Background Requirements
Low – moderate
No additional knowledge than what is already available is needed, but in some cases importing expertise from outside may be useful.

Moderate - high
This should provide a reasonable level of participation but will not include everyone if they are not able to attend.

Time range
Short – moderate
The workshop may take from only a few hours to one or two days to run, but it may take months to organise.

Source of Information
  • Workshop tips
  • Date planning tools
With all the different calendars, making appointments to organise people to attend a workshop can often be a huge task. There are web tools that make the process a lot easier. Someone chooses a number of suitable dates, and stakeholders can indicate which dates suit them: Meeting Planner, event planner as Doodle.


When you are holding stakeholder workshops, it is important to run them effectively and efficiently. Below are some universal tips to help any workshop run more smoothly.
  • Prior to the workshop, identify and agree the aim to be addressed. You can invite suggestions from stakeholders if appropriate. This can sometimes maximise commitment and empowerment.
  • Make sure you think through the structure of the workshop and have all the materials ready before you start.
  • Consider carefully who to invite to the workshop. Try to get as many of the right people as possible in the same room. Determine who needs to attend the meeting. This can include those who are essential (if they cannot attend, the workshop should not proceed), those who should attend but are not critical and others who are essentially optional. A stakeholder analysis may be needed to determine who is needed.
  • Set a suitable date and venue for the meeting and issue an agenda. Is there any background information you can send to participants before they come to the workshop? This is a good time to send it.
  • The agenda should define the purpose of the meeting. List the agenda items and time allotments, and include any reference materials that should be reviewed prior to the meeting.
  • Have the agenda and meeting goals on a blackboard or flipchart in the meeting room. This will help keeping the team members focused on the tasks at hand. Follow the agenda and start and end on time.
  • Think about the atmosphere and group dynamic you want to set with your participants. Are you looking for a straightforward, business-like and direct approach? Or will your participants feel more comfortable in a creative, relaxed and fun atmosphere?
  • Make sure you have a range of materials to use during the session. Put together flip charts, notebooks, sticky notes, coloured markers, sticky tape, pens and pencils for the stakeholders to use.
  • Your meeting should have a facilitator – either the meeting leader or another designated individual. The role of the facilitator is to keep the discussion focused on the topic, stay on the agenda and stay on time. The facilitator controls the meeting by establishing time limits, listing specific agenda items, defining the purpose of the meeting and controlling the discussions.
  • Make introductions, make team members introduce themselves and say where they work or what they do.
  • Use a warm-up activity, sometimes called as an icebreaker. This activity serves two purposes: 1) it promotes participation and communication; and 2) it encourages stakeholder team-building.
  • Have the team members develop and agree meeting ground rules. These agreements establish norms for participant behaviour and define how the meeting will be conducted.
  • Encourage participation from all stakeholders ensuring that any person or group dominates the discussion.
  • If decisions are to be made, determine how this will take place. There are a number of methods to make decisions ranging from voting to building consensus. A majority vote decision method requires support from more than 50% of the members of the group and can be accomplished through voting, either by a show of hands or by written secret ballot. One method is to use the stick dot approach.
  • Keep the discussion focused on the agenda items to avoid investing time in discussing items that are extraneous to the agenda. The comments may be interesting, but they are not likely to be productive for the meeting’s goals.
  • Park issues that are important, but unrelated to the specific agenda in a “parking lot” by recording them on the flipchart or blackboard for future consideration or agendas.
  • Prior to adjourning the meeting, summarise the results and conclusions from the meeting; record any actions or assignments, the person who is responsible for completing them, and the timeline for each action.
  • Use a check-out to end the meeting. A check-out is an opportunity for stakeholders to share their thoughts on how the meeting went, what worked well and what could be done to improve future meetings.