Why consult with stakeholders?
There are many individuals and groups associated with schools and many of these people are likely to have valuable ideas to contribute to schools. Because they are close to your school they also have a vested interest in its success. The more you involve these people in contributing to the direction you wish the school to take, the more ownership they will have of the final ‘product’ and the more loyalty for the ‘brand’.
Generally when schools talk about their stakeholders they are thinking of the board, parents, staff and students; however, this excludes many important and valuable groups from providing input to your strategic planning and thinking.
Stakeholders also might include:
- Old Scholars
- Business owners
- Employees who take students for work experience, for example
- Community groups
- Community leaders
- Experts on educational issues, such as university personnel
- Professional Organisations
- Partners or potential partners
- Potential enrolments.
Consulting with a wide variety of stakeholders has much to offer your school. Widespread consultation:
- Increases the quality and quantity of input and reduces the chances of ‘group think’. It is possible that those closest to the school are also those most resistant to change. A broader perspective challenges traditional thinking and increases the likelihood of more creative decision-making and problem solving.
- Encourages ownership of school goals. The more opportunity people have to shape the direction of the school, they more likely they are to be satisfied with the final product. All of the conventional wisdom, as well as educational research, tells us that ownership of decisions and strategies is essential for take up of a plan.
- Increases the chances of success. The more commitment you have to a plan the more the people involved are motivated to make it happen and the more interest others have in monitoring its success.
- Widespread consultation improves relationships. Genuinely seeking and valuing the input of others increases self-esteem and improves relationships. It also reduces the chances of misinformation and complaints of lack of transparency.
Schools can consult in a variety of ways: by surveying as many stakeholders as possible; by providing opportunities for one on one meetings; by organizing focus group consultations with a small group of stakeholders.
Surveys are cost-efficient and provide quantitative information. One-on-one meetings build personal relationships and provide deep, quality and detailed data. Similarly, focus group consultations bring together people, often from the same representative group (e.g. parents) to present the point of view of a particular category of stakeholders and provide qualitative data.
All of the data provided from a wide cross section of stakeholders feeds into the school’s strategic planning and thinking, and increases the chances of accessing quality data for quality decision making.