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MSc Cohort undertake a classifying stakeholders activity

In one of our recent weekly sessions on our postgraduate course in Place Management and Leadership, we explored stakeholder theory and a number of methods of classifying stakeholders with our students. Place managers and leaders work across a number of partnership and other governance structures and are used to collaborating with a diverse set of organisations and individuals. The group looked at a number of published studies and research that identified that this is rarely straightforward, that stakeholders are far from being a homogenous group, and that managing (recognising) conflict and dealing with subversive attitudes or caustic behaviour, is often, all part of the job.

In the exercise, we asked our students to identify stakeholders they worked with in a particular place or in a particular project. 156 different stakeholders were identified by 13 students. On average, each student identified 12 stakeholders, across public, private, voluntary, public/private partnerships, and public/private/voluntary partnerships.

Public sector stakeholders were the most common (40%), followed by private sector stakeholders (35%), voluntary sector (15%), private/public partnerships (7%), and lastly public/private/voluntary partnerships (3%). These stakeholders were further categorised these using a framework developed to use stakeholder interactions to identify collaborative/caustic behaviours and supportive/subversive attitudes (Le Feuvre et al, 2016). Nearly 70% of stakeholders were identified as having collaborative behaviours – in other words, their interactions with other stakeholders were positive. However, 30% were classified as having caustic behaviours – their behaviour towards some or all other stakeholders was negative and/or destructive.

The same split was seen in the attitudes, with nearly 70% having a supportive attitude towards the partnership and its objectives, and 30% having a subversive attitude – they (secretly) disagree with the objectives and wish the partnership to fail.

When we drilled down to the sectoral affiliations of the stakeholders and whether or not their behaviours were positive or negative, then all stakeholder types, apart from the public/private/voluntary partnerships were more likely to be positive than negative. Likewise, in their attitude they were all more likely to be supportive than subversive, again, apart from the public/private/voluntary partnerships. As we only had 5 of these in the sample, then it is dangerous to generalize, but perhaps this is an example of where diffuse interests and role ambiguity acts as an inhibitor to effective partnerships. In the case of a PPV then you have one, already, diverse partnership effectively joining another one (as a stakeholder).







Public (N=62)





Private (N=55)





Voluntary (N=24)





PPP (N=10)





PPVP (N=5)






Public sector stakeholders were the most collaborative, and public/private partnerships the most supportive. In terms of achieving partnership outcomes, supportive attitudes are more important than collaborative behaviours. Stakeholders could be supportive of a partnership and its goals (attitude) but also can exert caustic or confused behaviour towards fellow stakeholders within the partnership (Le Feuvre et at, 2016). This is consistent with the notion of “social untidiness” (Brand and Gaffikin, 2007), who embrace inter-stakeholder conflict in favour to maximise the chance of positive partnership outcomes. As such, building attitudinal buy-in for place stakeholders is deemed more crucial.

This activity was undertaken as part of the weekly learning programme on our postgraduate course. Click here to learn more about our postgraduate courses in Place Management and Leadership


Brand, R., & Gaffikin, F. (2007). Collaborative planning in an uncollaborative world. Planning Theory, 6(3), 282–313.


Le Feuvre, M., Medway, D., Warnaby. G, et al. (2016). Understanding stakeholder interactions in urban partnerships. Cities, 52, 55-65.


About the author


Formed in 2006, the Institute of Place Management is the international professional body that supports people committed to developing, managing and making places better.

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