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Getting The Right Stakeholders In the Room

This guide is built on practice, designed for people who are actively applying these principles within their work. These reflective exercises provide space to exercise co-design concepts, to appreciate prior successes and failures, and adapt proactively.


For the following exercise, think back to a recent project—or think forward to an upcoming one. Who were, or could be, your partners? Who was, or could be, missing?

Stakeholder mapping can help you answer these questions, and determine ways to mediate dynamics among them. We recommend that after this initial reflection now, you return to this tool multiple times as your project progresses.

This is not a form: Your responses below are for your own reflection and will not be submitted or saved here. Use the text boxes or print the worksheet to sketch out your answers.

Brainstorm and list your stakeholders. Think about your intended beneficiaries, the operational actors who will implement the final design, and other people and groups in the ecosystem that have a stake in your work.


Effective co-design isn’t just about getting stakeholders in the room; it’s about getting the right stakeholders, and the right balance of perspectives. Furthermore, involving stakeholders in the design process shifts the power dynamics of traditional service delivery by inviting those with lived experience but less authority to define the ways it will work. But inclusion alone doesn’t make power dynamics go away. In fact, it multiplies them. With any group of stakeholders, there are existing relationships and ways of interacting that will carry over into co-design, and facilitators should invest a fair amount in understanding these dynamics and mediating them at the outset.

Give yourself enough time to learn about all your participants, ask yourself which perspectives may still be missing, and recruit others to join as necessary. Consider the following types of stakeholders and how their relationship to the project and its goals may dictate how you should attempt to engage with them:

  1. Intended Beneficiaries

  2. Operational Actors

  3. Ecosystem Actors

Want a quick refresher on the theory and stakeholder types? Check out the whole argument here.