ORGAPET Section A4:
Involving Stakeholders in Programme Design, Implementation and Evaluation

Johannes Michelsen
University of Southern Denmark

Otto Schmid
Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), CH

Christian Eichert
University of Hohenheim (UHO), DE

Victor Gonzalvez
IFOAM EU Group, Brussels

Nic Lampkin
Aberystwyth University, UK

Version 6, April 2008

A4-1    Introduction

Stakeholder participation is a broadly accepted concept in EU politics and in the domestic politics of member states. Stakeholders may be involved at any stage of policy development: preparing decision-making, participating in implementation and evaluating outcomes of political decision-making. The intensity of stakeholder involvement and the way it is carried out may vary between policy sectors and between member states. The purpose of this section is to give a general overview of different types of stakeholders and how they might be involved, with specific reference to the European organic action plan in particular and, more generally, with respect to organic farming policies. The EU organic action plan may be seen as part of an ongoing development of the Common Agricultural Policy that involves still more types of stakeholders.

Stakeholders include all those individuals, groups and organisations with an interest in a particular policy/programme/action plan. They include public agencies, private organisations (whether non-profit or profit-oriented), public and private enterprises and private individuals (EC, 1999: Vol. 6:37). Direct and indirect beneficiaries, programme administrators and taxpayers/citizens may have an interest. By definition, one or more stakeholders will be involved in all the different stages of a policy process starting with initiation of a policy (often involving private organisations and public agencies), via decision-making (involving public agencies assisting politicians and perhaps hearings of private organisations and private enterprises) and implementation (the interaction between public agencies and addressees of the policy, including individuals or enterprises) to eventual finalisation (public agencies assisting politicians).

Policy-making, implementation and evaluation can be seen as separate stages in one joint policy cycle as illustrated in Figure B1-1 or in successive policy cycles as described in Figure A4-1 below. The distinction of stages may be helpful for analytical purposes but could be difficult to use when analysing real policy processes because, in reality, the different stages may not be as separate as they are in theory – if, for instance, actions are implemented before they are decided on and then afterwards become part of an action plan (Peters and Pierre, 2006). It is thus worth keeping the full policy cycle or policy process in mind when considering the actual involvement of stakeholders in public policy-making on organic action plans. In what follows, the policy cycle is condensed into four main stages:

  1. programme design (which includes agenda-setting and policy formulation);
  2. decision-making;
  3. implementation; and
  4. evaluation.

Figure A4-1 illustrates that, in theory, an evaluation may trigger a feedback process by which a policy either reappears on the agenda of the original policy process, or may be moved to another policy process characterised by another context and content. It should be remembered, however, that an evaluation need not necessarily trigger a new policy process, whether linked to the original or new. Active efforts from one or more stakeholders are needed if an evaluation is to feed back into the policy process and these efforts might not be successful. In addition, a new policy process may take place where an existing programme is changed within a different policy context, whether or not a formal evaluation has taken place. Stakeholder involvement thus takes place through time, and conditions for involvement may change with changes in content and context.

Figure A4-1:    Stages in the policy process, within larger policy cycles – a theoretical model

Source: Eichert

In this section of ORGAPET, the aim is to consider the ways in which stakeholders may be involved in the four main stages of the policy cycle. Section B3  focuses on how stakeholder involvement has actually taken place and illustrates how this may be evaluated using specific examples.

A4-2    Role of stakeholders in policy

A4-2.1   Development of the CAP and stakeholder representation

The Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) is a major policy area of the EU, and organic food and farming became part of it during the reform introduced in 1992. The 1992 CAP reform may be seen as one of the first steps in a more long-term development of the CAP that involves a broadening of the types of stakeholders involved in policy-making and implementation. Up until the late 1980s, the CAP was mainly oriented towards the economic welfare of farmers and increasing and improving food production in member states. The policy was developed in close co-operation with affected interests, i.e. involving the EU Commission, agricultural ministries of the member states, and two main types of private interests in the field: farmers’ organisations (as represented in the EU by the COPA) and associated agriculture industry organisations (as represented in the EU by COCEGA) (Grant, 1997).

Demands for reform began in the 1980s. In some member states the agricultural sector and agricultural policy was criticised for ignoring other types of interest such as environmental degradation and the development of production surpluses in certain sectors. One aim of the 1992 CAP reform was to reduce public spending by changing and reducing payments to farmers. Another aim was to include new objectives of the policy – such as environmental protection/environmentally-friendly production and rural development. Support for organic agriculture was introduced as one of the new aims and has developed consecutively under the auspices of the CAP (Lynggaard, 2006). The reform of the CAP reflects the fact that the initial aim of food self-sufficiency in member states has been replaced by the need to control overproduction of food in member states and a growing food trade both within the EU and between the EU and the rest of the world. Hence, an additional political concern has developed for food policies aiming at protecting domestic and international consumer interests, not least with regard to food hazards (Marsden et al., 2000).

One of the implications of political change is that farmers and industries relating to agriculture are no longer the only private interests involved in agricultural policy. One reflection of this is that in some member states, agricultural ministries have changed into ministries for food, involving consumer interests in the work of the ministry, while in other member states agriculture ministries have merged with environmental ministries thus paving the way for involving environmental interests in agricultural policy. The changed political context of the CAP and member states’ agriculture policies implies that farmers’ unions and associated agriculture industries are no longer seen as the only legitimate private interests involved in agriculture policy-making. As a consequence – and depending on the policy context – other private organisations representing environmental, consumer, industrial, animal welfare, nature conservation, human health and other interests are included in decision-making and implementation of agricultural policy at both EU and member state levels. In the case of EU decision-making on organic food and farming policies, organic agriculture organisations are also involved.

The growing complexity of the content and context of agriculture policy – of which organic food and farming is part – implies a similar growth in complexity when policy-makers wish to include private interests in political decision-making and implementation. From a theoretical perspective, the two major reasons for public policy actors to demand private interest involvement originate in a) the wishes of regulators to include the expertise of private organisations as a source of information when preparing political decisions, and b) to obtain legitimacy among target groups not least important for successful implementation of policy decisions. Conversely, private sector interests may find it important to gain influence in policy decision-making and implementation, either to gain additional advantages or to avoid the public policy burdens that would have been the case, if private interests had not been involved.

The inclusion of private interests in policy-making is usually associated with the issue of stakeholder involvement. However, by definition, stakeholders include even public interests (EC, 1999, Vol. 6: 37). Hence, the complexity of including still more private interests in policy-making and implementation is increased even more by the involvement of still more public policy interests representing consumer, health, environment and other public policy interests in the political regulation of agricultural policy.

The increasing importance of stakeholder involvement in EU policy-making and evaluation is also reflected in Evalsed, the socio-economic development evaluation framework now in place for the 2007-2013 EU policy programming period. Evalsed argues, in particular, for increased stakeholder involvement in participatory monitoring and evaluation processes, giving it more emphasis than in previous evaluation frameworks (EC, 1999, Vol. 1: 21). It is argued that failure to include significant stakeholder interests could weaken evaluations through poor design or low credibility of the results. Incorporating the views of beneficiaries, in particular, into an evaluation by including their criteria and judgements, as well as their opinions, and accepting that their experience and benefits are the justification for programme interventions, is consistent with the logic of bottom-up, participative and decentralised approaches to socio-economic development.  However, Evalsed also recognises that there are potential downsides to stakeholder involvement, including:

A4-2.2    Good governance principles

The principle of good governance in the EU – in relation to the principle of subsidiarity – demands that stakeholders should be involved in policy-making and implementation. The EU Commission has outlined, in its white paper on European Governance (EC, 2001), a set of good governance principles aiming to “open up policy-making to make it more inclusive and accountable”. The involvement of all actors and stakeholders in the policy-making process (participation) is an important principle. In Eurojargon, stakeholders are defined as follows: ”Any person or organisation with an interest in or affected by EU legislation and policy-making is a 'stakeholder' in that process. The European Commission makes a point of consulting as wide a range of stakeholders as possible before proposing new legislation or new policy initiatives.”

While stakeholders may be involved in decision-making, implementation and evaluation, it is still open to political choice to select which stakeholders should actually be involved in any given case – increasing the involvement of stakeholders in EU politics does not imply that all organisations and agencies affected by some part of agricultural policy will get to take part in all policy decisions, implementation or evaluations. The issue is to define relevant stakeholders in each case, depending on the content and context of the policy issue, on the basis of consideration of any particular stakeholder’s importance to the policy issue and the contributions they can make in terms of information and legitimation.

There is also recognition of the importance of transparency and stakeholder participation within the Community (IFOAM EU 2006). The Århus convention: Directive 2003/35/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council, which aims at establishing good public influence in decisions concerning environmental issues, states: “Effective public participation in the taking of decisions enables the public to express, and the decision-maker to take account of, opinions and concerns which may be relevant to those decisions, thereby increasing the accountability and transparency of the decision-making process and contributing to public awareness of environmental issues and support for the decisions taken.”

The Commission has recently presented a European Transparency Initiative green paper (EC, 2006) as a part of the Partnership for European Renewal, which states: “The commitment to widen opportunities for stakeholders to participate actively in EU policy-shaping is one of the “Strategic Objectives 2005-2009” within which the European Commission launched a “Partnership for European Renewal”. In this context, the Commission emphasised, in particular, that “inherent in the idea of partnership is consultation and participation”. … By the same token, the Commission stressed the importance of a “high level of transparency” to ensure that the Union is “open to public scrutiny and accountable for its work”. …The Commission believes that high standards of transparency are part of the legitimacy of any modern administration.”

A4-2.3    Stakeholder involvement in international standardisation

The close connection between stakeholder involvement and the legitimacy of standards is also well acknowledged and stated by many researchers, e.g. “Additionally, legitimacy depends on the ability of the process to engage the stakeholders in a meaningful dialogue in which they feel ownership and the possibility to derive benefits.” (Vallejo and Hauselmann, 2004)

The importance of stakeholder involvement is also well recognised and given significance in several international fora, including the ISO/IEC Code of good practice for standardisation and the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards (ISEAL, 2005 & 2006), which states: “7.2. Interested parties shall be provided with meaningful opportunities to contribute to the elaboration of a standard.”

The WTO Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Annex 3: Code of good practice for the preparation, adoption and application of standards states: “Before adopting a standard, the standardising body shall allow a period of at least 60 days for the submission of comments on the draft standard by interested parties within the territory of a Member of the WTO. ”

Similarly, in the FAO Codex Alimentarius organic farming guidelines (2007, Section 5: 14), the need for stakeholder involvement is also acknowledged. For example, the criteria for new inputs state: “In the evaluation process of substances for inclusion on lists all stakeholders should have the opportunity to be involved.”

A4-3   Stakeholders relevant to organic action plans and policies

By definition, stakeholders include all individuals, groups or organisations with an interest in the policy field and the policy interventions which are projected/ implemented within it (EC, 1999, Vol. 6:31). A important distinction for policy-making is that of public sector stakeholders who, in principle, are governed by concerns for the public good as defined by the law, and private sector stakeholders who, by definition, are expected to pursue their own individual advantage and whose political interest lies in attempts to obtain political advantages or avoid negative political influences on their interests and activities. Among private sector stakeholders, a common distinction is between for-profit individuals and organisations and not-for-profit organisations attempting to promote public interests that are not primarily of a commercial interest, such as environmental concerns or health issues. A further distinction is between stakeholders that are affected either directly or indirectly by a policy intervention or programme such as an action plan. Directly affected stakeholders include the target group or addressees of the policy intervention; those indirectly affected are affected via the directly affected ones (EC, 1999, Vol. 6: 39). Usually, affected stakeholders are included in the policy process via interest or lobbying organisations such as farmers’ unions or trade organisations. Stakeholders thus include public agencies along with interest organisations representing private for-profit or not-for-profit interests.

The European Action Plan for Organic Food and Farming is based on the recognition of a dual societal role for organic farming:

In order to promote the development of organic food and farming, the action plan concentrates on proposals that emphasise three perspectives of organic food and farming:

These three perspectives, originally proposed by Alrøe and Noe (2008), are all highly relevant when public policy-makers ask for input from stakeholders with different types of expertise and power to legitimise policy in a way that is relevant to implementing the current European Organic Action Plan. In addition, the three perspectives are also relevant when looking for stakeholders to involve in organic food and farming policies in general, and in organic action plans with emphases other than that of the European Action Plan. The listing of the three perspectives only gives a general indication of the type of stakeholders to involve in organic food and farming oriented policies and action plans. As each perspective is to contribute to the societal role of organic food and farming, it is important to specify the contributions made by the organic food and farming sector. This involves a distinction between stakeholders who specialise in organic food and farming activities and those for whom organic food and farming is combined with non-organic activities.

Regarding the need for regulations from all three perspectives, there might be reasons to request framework rules: some guiding principles might be needed to define criteria for the acceptance or non-acceptance of substances or critical processes (organic value perspective); standards, import and inspection requirements might be needed order to safeguard transparency in the market place (market perspective) and for realising the potential for obtaining the public goods aspects (public good perspective).

The distinction between specialised or highly involved ('purely') organic actors and other actors is fundamental from a developmental point of view. It distinguishes between the specialist experience and knowledge of those working in organic food and farming only and those in the general food and farming sectors, from which future organic food and farming actors are to be recruited. The purely organic stakeholders have other, potentially opposite, interests to those that combine organic food and farming with non-organic activities (or exclude organic activities completely). One possible consequence of this distinction with regard to defining the basic principles of organic food and farming may be that purely organic stakeholders might wish to be less pragmatic than 'mixed' stakeholders about the fundamental features of organic food and farming, but more pragmatic when attempting to make organic farming or food processing feasible. At any rate, it seems relevant to expect that there may be clearly distinct interests with regard to definitions of basic principles, and that this may be relevant in dealing with public policy.

Regarding market perspectives, purely organic stakeholders might wish to sustain a clear separation of organic markets from other food markets, while the only option for the involvement of other market actors might be to mix organic and non-organic food processing and distribution, whilst maintaining a clear distinction of what can be labelled as organic. For several reasons – not least if the perspective is to achieve relatively fast expansion of organic food and farming – it may be relevant to involve both types of interests in developing public policy in support of organic food and farming.

Finally, the distinction between purely organic and mixed/non-organic stakeholders is relevant with regard to the public goods perspective. The issue here is that the public goods may be obtained by policy measures other than those involving promotion of organic food and farming. From a policy perspective, it is relevant to combine the insights of proponents of purely organic solutions with the expertise of stakeholders that are not entirely devoted to one type of solution.

Within each perspective, it is therefore relevant to distinguish between purely organic stakeholders on the one hand and those based on mixed or purely non-organic activities on the other, when considering the need for contributions to the policy process. Although some stakeholders may be purely organic, it is clear that there is a continuum of various levels of combining organic and non-organic food and farming activities, and dealing with the continuum might require consideration when characterising or selecting stakeholders.

The three perspectives and the distinction between organic and non-organic are all illustrated in Figures A4-2 and 3. In Figure A4-2, the three perspectives on the European Organic Action Plan are illustrated as three separate areas of a circle, although in practice there will always be some overlapping of these viewpoints. Alrøe and Noe (2008) use three overlapping circles and emphasise the importance of a poly-ocular approach. In Figure A4-3, each of the three perspectives are subdivided into two areas, signifying the distinction between purely organic stakeholders and stakeholders with a mixed or purely non-organic basis. Hence, any stakeholder may be linked to a purely organic or mixed position. An organic certification organisation is positioned in the purely organic section of the values/definitions perspective. Similarly, a large supermarket chain is in the mixed part of the market perspective. Finally, a general nature conservation organisation will be in the mixed part of the public goods perspective. Public agencies may be found primarily in the market and public good perspectives, in most cases mixing organic and non-organic activities.

Figure A4-2: Three perspectives on the development of the European Organic Action Plan

Source: Michelsen

Figure A4-3: The distinction between stakeholders with organic and non-organic activities

Source: Michelsen

Figures A4-1 and A4-2 may help in identifying relevant types of stakeholders. Given their characteristics, it is finally possible to identify the stakeholders with regard to their centrality in the policy process (Figure A4-4). Stakeholder centrality is based on any stakeholders’ possession of the two main resources relevant to the policy process: expertise of the policy issue and legitimacy (or authority) vis-ā-vis target groups. Here, Figure A4-3 illustrates that it is possible to distinguish between stakeholder resources that may range from being essential to being peripheral in the policy process. It is important to realise that the assessment of centrality is based on relevance to the policy under discussion and that this may or may not coincide with the importance that any stakeholder gives to organic food and farming in advance.

Figure A4-4: The centrality of the three perspectives of action plans to organic and non-organic stakeholders.

Source: Michelsen

From the outset, expertise in terms of the definitions of basic principles in organic food and farming may rest with purely organic stakeholders, who may possess full legitimacy among those target groups that are already part of the organic sector. However, different purely organic stakeholders may have varying types of expertise and different levels of legitimacy among the general public – and, here, the stakeholders with the highest levels of the most relevant expertise and legitimacy to potential newcomers should be considered essential, while others might be considered inessential or even peripheral to the development of the action plan. In addition, an action plan implies the need to expand organic food and farming and, thereby, to involve non-organic and mixed actors – whether public control agencies or general farmers’ organisations. Actors with non-organic or mixed activities may therefore appear essential for reaching policy goals, but only those with high levels of relevant expertise and legitimacy among the general public should be considered essential. Other actors might be considered more or less peripheral. Similar arguments may be made from the market or public goods perspectives, where the level of involvement of stakeholders with a basis in non-organic or mixed activities may be even higher than with regard to definitions of the basic organic principles.

The general considerations may be exemplified as follows. Regarding definitions of organic food and farming, essential stakeholders are those purely organic actors with the highest expertise in developing and using definitions and in coping with conversion to organic production in a way considered legitimate by both the organic sector and the general public. Other purely organic organisations may be less experienced or less legitimate and should therefore be considered as less essential. Non-organic and mixed organisations may be considered peripheral, unless their experience with, for instance, control issues is seen as a necessary precondition for achieving policy aims and their legitimacy among both the general public and the organic sector are high. In this case, they might eventually appear essential, even though they may oppose organic food and farming from the outset.

From the market perspective, essential stakeholders are found among those experienced in the types of market involved in the action plan. Once again, the experience of purely organic actors will vary and only those with experience of the markets dealt with in the action plan and considered legitimate by consumers and other actors in the market place should be considered essential. Other purely organic market actors might appear less essential and some might even appear peripheral. Non-organic and mixed actors may be considered peripheral unless their experience of the types of market dealt with in the action plan seems necessary for realising marketing goals and they appear to be legitimate as promoters of organic food to consumers in general and to purely organic actors. Such actors might then turn into essential stakeholders, even though they opposed organic food and farming development from the outset.

From a public good perspective, essential stakeholders are found among those experienced in promoting organic food and farming as part of their promotion of other types of public goods, such as concern for the environment or animal welfare. To become essential stakeholders, they must have been able to gain legitimacy both among the general public and in the organic sector. Essential stakeholders are those with the highest experience of promoting organic food and farming in the most legitimate way. Peripheral stakeholders are those to whom organic food and farming is not an issue, unless they have a high level of legitimacy among the general public regarding the types of public goods that appear essential for the action plan. In this case, they might even appear to be essential stakeholders, although they acted in opposition to the promotion of organic food and farming from the outset.

The considerations leading to Figure A4-4 are based on policy needs; there may, however, be two types of qualification to this reasoning. The first is that any stakeholder (even public ones) may adopt a strategy of not becoming involved in the policy process. Several explanations for preferring not to become involved in policies on organic food and farming are possible: one is that stakeholders foresee the loss of legitimacy among members if they become involved in politics and, consequently, they prefer a safe basis (in membership or main policy affiliation) to unsafe policy influence. The second qualification is that policy-makers may either choose to make policy without involving stakeholders, or that existing stakeholders do not appear sufficiently qualified to be involved in the policy process.

A4-4    What does stakeholder involvement mean and how can it be organised?

A4-4.1     Nature of stakeholder involvement

Involvement may be understood and carried out in quite different ways, ranging from the provision of information and providing opportunities to comment on proposals, to empowering stakeholders to make their own choices. It may also be undertaken in different phases/stages of the development of a programme:

a. Creation/design of a political programme, e.g.:

b. Contributing to the implementation of a policy programme:

c. Engaging in the conduct of an evaluation:

A4-4.2    Potential problems with stakeholder involvement

While the case for stakeholder involvement may be clear, some potential drawbacks have also been identified (adapted from Duttweiler et al., 2005; Thrupp et al., 2004), which go beyond the stakeholder selection issues discussed above and may be challenging to overcome:

It is therefore important that stakeholder involvement is managed carefully. Outreach and participatory processes need to be handled by people that are skilled in communication and in mediation or public relations.

A4-4.3   How can stakeholder involvement be organised as a process?

Obtaining and using stakeholder input will be a dynamic and ongoing process for the leading public agency/body and their partners, since stakeholders’ perspectives and public demands continually change over time. Similarly, the constituency of stakeholder groups also changes over time. Gathering and using information effectively is therefore a dynamic process, requiring flexibility and openness to learning. Flexibility in decision-making is sometimes limited in administrative structures, however, so the responsible agency/body will need to learn how to develop ways of dealing with changing input and demands (Thrupp, et al., 2004).

The most obvious mechanism for stakeholder involvement is 'at the table' representation. Such involvement is strongly encouraged but is not necessarily adequate. Consider a committee defined by a commodity: the range of potential industry sectors, related agri-service and food system interests, relevant policy-makers and regulatory interests, plus consumer interests makes it clear that relying solely on direct representation to gain programme guidance would be severely limiting.

Because stakeholder involvement, by its very nature, will show a convergence of broad interests, there must be mechanisms beyond direct membership to engage a broad range of stakeholders.  Methods might include:

Stakeholder involvement also requires bi-directional communication, not just one-way data gathering (adapted from Duttweiler et al., 2005).

A4-4.4 Participatory approaches to involving stakeholders

As argued above, participatory methods should be an integral part of the development, implementation and evaluation of any policy programme including organic action plans. Using participatory methods provides a useful way of:

Participatory methods have the potential to bring together information from a diversity of sources more rapidly and cost effectively than quantitative or qualitative methods alone. A particularly important contribution made by participatory methods is their role in the capacity-building of different stakeholders. Where and when sufficient attention is paid to this, participatory methods have the potential to build up the necessary information resources and networks for a learning process which will be sustainable beyond the term of the one particular impact assessment. This can include:

Thus, the costs of integrating participatory methods can be seen as a contribution to the development of action plans in themselves, leading to benefits with are much longer-term. These benefits include reducing the costs of project administration, reducing default by beneficiaries and making training programmes more attractive. These are, therefore, also a contribution to longer-term financial sustainability of interventions.

There are several methods that can be used to optimise stakeholder participation, particularly in the context of programme evaluation. According to Evalsed, many different labels have been attached to these participatory approaches, some with a long lineage in the context of third world development work. They include participatory learning and action, participatory rural assessment, rapid urban environmental assessment, rapid rural appraisal, and participatory action research and evaluation. The technique rapid assessment or rapid appraisal was developed in the 1970s and 1980s as an antidote or alternative to large-scale survey studies which were perceived to give insufficient attention to local knowledge. The method encouraged the active involvement of local people with perspective and knowledge of the area's conditions, traditions and social structure in data-gathering activities, using a variety of informal techniques that could be employed within a short timescale. Various forms of rapid appraisal are still being used in rural and urban settings. Rapid assessment process, for example, is an intensive, team-based ethnographic inquiry using triangulation and iterative data collection and analysis to quickly develop a preliminary understanding of a situation from the insider's perspective.

In contemporary evaluation practice, rapid appraisal techniques have evolved into newer forms such as participatory learning and action (PLA) (see also Chambers, 2002). Instead of outsiders trying to understand the knowledge of local people, PLA tries to facilitate local people to develop their capabilities. The emphasis is on participation as a systemic learning process linked to action and change. A key purpose of participatory evaluation is to enhance community and organisational capacity-building through fostering interactive participation and self-initiated mobilisation and collective action.

Participatory methods are therefore a diverse and flexible set of techniques for stakeholder involvement, characterised by a set of underlying ethical principles. The degree to which participatory methods realise their potential contribution depends critically on how carefully they are used (including the attitudes underlying their application) and in what context. There is no one set of techniques to be mechanically applied in all contexts for all participants, but a diverse range of possible techniques which need to be flexibly adapted to particular situations and needs.

In applying these participatory approaches, particularly in workshops or steering group contexts, a key issue is to ensure active as opposed to passive participation. Some specific techniques that can be used include (for more ideas, see Chambers, 2002 and specific organic farming policy-related examples):

A participatory process involving appropriate methods from those outlined above still needs to be carefully facilitated in order to make effective use of particpants' and organisers' time and in order not to raise unrealistic expectations or create tensions which cannot be resolved. It is crucial that the potential limitations on change and influence are clear to all those concerned, particularly in relation to resources available and the skills of development agencies. It is also important again to ensure fair representation of different stakeholders. A large number of published guidelines exist for facilitating participation and negotiation in interactive workshops and discussions, for example Cameron, 2005; Chambers, 2002; Hogan, 2003).

If views differ widely, help may be need to reach a consensus. Consensus decision-making techniques that might be used include colour card voting and Nominal Group Technique. The use of coloured cards for voting can help ensure efficiency in consensus forming, avoiding prolonged debates and conflict, and ensuring that all shades of opinion can be recorded. In a discussion context, a group member who wishes to speak holds up a card, for example:

For decisions following discussion, the facilitator articulates the proposal and calls for a show of cards:

The range of possible views that can be expressed can be extended by using additional colours of cards (EC, 1999 Vol 3:55-58).

Participatory methods also face a number of inherent challenges which need to be taken into account. Some of these challenges are common to all impact assessment methodologies, some are due to the tools and some to the participatory process. Although there are inherent challenges faced by the use of participatory methods, these are no greater than for quantitative or qualitative methods. Participatory methods cannot be seen as a cheap option. Participation must be treated as a serious and integral part of impact assessment requiring management by people with the skill and experience to adapt the different techniques flexibly to the particular issues, contexts and institutions being assessed. The reliability and credibility in the use of participatory methods can be increased if the assessment is carefully planned in advance. This involves identifying which particular techniques are to be used, their aims, and who is to be involved. Planning may also include making an account of the potential risks and the ways in which the participatory process may need to be adapted to accommodate these. Although participatory methods require flexibility and adaptability to the circumstances and the contributions of participants, if there is a clear plan at the start, it is easier to identify why changes were necessary and how these affected the outcomes.

A4-5    Examples of stakeholder involvement in organic action plan and policy development, implementation and evaluation

A4-5.1    Government initiated stakeholder involvement examples

From the analysis of existing action plans carried out as part of the ORGAP project (Stolze et al., 2007: 95-96), it can be seen that, typically, stakeholder involvement in organic action plans has been in the form of membership of action plan strategy or steering groups, which may be established on an ad hoc (i.e. temporary, limited to certain phases/stages of the process only, for example the expert commissions for the design of the German and EU organic action plans) or on a more permanent basis (e.g. through a permanent group or advisory committee for organic agriculture, e.g. the Danish Organic Food Council). These groups may be advisory in nature, or may involve a significant element of partnership including joint responsibility for decision-making and implementation, and they may range from a broad participatory (bottom-up) approach, as in Italy, to a very top-down approach with a small expert group, as in the German case.  Ad hoc involvement might be mainly relevant in cases where only limited resources are available or where little information is available to both public administration, the main interest groups and practitioners.

There were also significant differences in the composition of the groups, for example:

  • in the Netherlands, stakeholders were grouped from a marketing or supply chain perspective, e.g. by creating different platforms for different product groups and activity fields;

  • in Denmark, as is traditional for national boards, participation included not only representatives of the organic sector but also conventional farmers organisations and researchers, which might have contributed to a higher acceptance of organic farming;

  • in Germany, a small group of research, government and industry experts was chosen to prepare the detailed plan;

  • in the EU action plan case, a twin track approach was adopted which involved internal debate with member state government representatives and an independent expert working group, consisting of Commission staff and two member state representatives, as well as researchers and EU consumer, food business, farming union, organic farming and environmental interest groups.

The way in which stakeholder input was utilised also differed significantly, as the following case studies illustrate:

Case study 1: The involvement of stakeholders in the development of the EU organic action plan

The involvement of stakeholders in the European action plan was mainly in the explorative action prioritisation phases and consisted of:

  • the consideration of organic sector development needs in the independent expert committee meeting in 2002;

  • multilateral discussions with member-state government representatives; and

  • bilateral consultations with IFOAM EU Group as the main body for the private sector stakeholder representation; leading to

  • a Commission staff paper exploring the options for an action plan;

  • a public internet consultation on specific options in February 2003;

  • a European Parliament hearing on the action plan options in June 2003; and

  • a public hearing on the action plan options in January 2004.

However, none of the public stages involved consideration of the specific action points that were presented in a final version by the Commission to the EU Council and Parliament in June 2004, following significant internal debate within the Commission. During the subsequent implementation phase, primary responsibility also rests with the EU Commission, with input from the EU Council, EU Parliament and member-state government representatives, with only limited input from other stakeholder groups.  See ORGAPET Section A1 for further details on the EU action plan and reactions to it from the Council, Parliament and IFOAM EU Group.

Case study 2: The involvement of stakeholders in the implementation and revision of the English organic action plan

The original English organic action plan was developed and launched in a short period in early 2002, by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). Defra was advised by a stakeholder group, including representatives of production, consumer, research and environmental interest groups. Some of the stakeholders contributed actively to the development of discussion papers, including a status quo analysis of the sector's previous development and future needs, and proposals for evaluation (which were not implemented in the form originally envisaged). The working group that developed the plan then became an ongoing group with responsibility for advising Defra on the implementation of the plan, continuing until 2007.  In 2004, the group was engaged in a review of the plan which identified a series of specific additional areas for work. Sub-groups were formed to develop each of these areas and make specific recommendations to Defra. As part of this process, working papers were commissioned either as research reports by Defra, or as contributions from members of the group, which helped inform specific actions taken by Defra. In 2007, it was decided that the work of the organic action plan group should be more closely integrated with the delivery of Defra's Sustainable Food and Farming Strategy, and the group was effectively disbanded in favour of a more flexible approach to engagement with stakeholders.

Case study 3: The process of stakeholder integration in the evaluation of the German Federal Organic Farming Scheme (FOFS) 

In Germany, stakeholders were involved comprehensively in the evaluation of the Federal Organic Farming Scheme. The German evaluation work was conducted by an external company which was not deeply involved in the sector at that time. The main goals were:

  • an exchange of experience between experts and stakeholders concerning achieved and unfulfilled expectations of the scheme;

  • feedback of information (condensed results) from the evaluation work to experts and stakeholders;

  • discussion of consequences for the different measures; and

  • discussion about the future design of the scheme.

The evaluation involved a special workshop which had the function of assessing the research findings via expert judgement, and gaining further and more detailed insights for the evaluation work. A relatively heterogeneous expert (stakeholder) group was invited (in addition to the steering committee, the accompanying board and the project group of FOFS). There were participants from the whole organic food chain, the Ministries of the Federal States, scientists and contractors for the different FOFS measures. The workshop produced plenty of stimuli, suggestions and background information for the assessment of the evaluation results.

A4-5.2    Research-initiated stakeholder involvement examples

The EU-funded EU-CEE-OFP and ORGAP research projects included a series of national and EU-level workshops with stakeholders that used several of the participatory approaches described above.

A4-5.2.1 EU-CEE-OFP project workshops

As part of the EU-CEE-OFP project, a structured form of participation by, and consultation with, relevant policy stakeholders was developed to contribute to the formulation of organic farming policy recommendations at national and EU level.  This involved two national workshops and one workshop at EU level. The establishment of a panel of experts/stakeholders who were to take part in the workshops was an important element. Following a multi-stakeholder approach, between 8 and 14 participants in each of 11 countries, were invited to one day-workshops to discuss the status quo of organic farming policy and to formulate policy recommendations for the development of the organic farming sector. The workshop groups were intended to represent the diversity of stakeholders in the organic farming sector. Four groups were to be represented: policy-makers, organic sector representatives, other non-organic sector representatives and third parties. The small number of people participating in each country normally permits only limited generalisation of findings to the whole population.  Therefore, a recruitment questionnaire was used to assess their expertise and experience in group discussions, so that the likelihood of participants being representative of the sector was increased.

In March/April 2004, a first series of national workshops was held in 11 European countries to identify the status quo of the organic farming sector with regard to policy aspects. A modified form of SWOT analysis was used to identify the strengths and weaknesses of organic farming policy, to address the opportunities and threats to organic farming and to identify potential policy instruments. The synthesis report (Annex A4-8) contains a detailed description of the workshop SWOT analysis approach and workshop results.

In February 2005, delegates from each country and EU-level representatives met for an EU-wide workshop in Brussels to exchange ideas on the future of organic farming policy in the European Union. The most important objective of this workshop was to define five major policy goals for the future implementation of organic farming policy at national level and to make proposals on the priority that should be given to each policy goal at different administrative levels. In a first step, a lateral thinking exercise was conducted in small working groups. In this exercise, the groups discussed "provocative questions" and, from this, defined five problem areas for the organic farming sector. Then, policy goals derived from the discussion of problem areas were identified. In a plenary session, a non-secret voting system was adopted in order to reduce the number of resulting policy goals to a total of five key goals. As a last step, a budget allocation exercise was used to determine the importance that should be attached to the policy goals at different administrative levels (EU, national, regional) and its results were discussed. The close personal contact of participants in this workshop facilitated policy-learning between countries, and provided a platform on which to form alliances and decide on further action. The EU-wide workshop report (Annex A4-9) provides further details on the lateral thinking, non-secret voting and budget allocation procedures used, as well as the results of the workshop.

In May/June 2005, national stakeholders met again for a second series of national workshops. Considering the policy instruments and policy goals that had been developed in the previous workshops, the main objective was to develop concrete policy actions for the implementation of relevant (to the priority policy goals defined by the EU-wide workshop) organic farming policies at national level, using a facilitated workshop approach – in this context a toolbox such as METAPLAN can help structure ideas.  First, policy instruments developed during the first national workshop in each country were matched with the policy goals developed in the EU workshop. In addition, stakeholders developed new policy instruments where appropriate. The two most important policy instruments per policy goal were then selected. Finally, national experts specified policy actions, expressed in operative terms, for each of the selected policy instruments. The synthesis report (Annex A4-10) contains a detailed description of the approach and the results of the workshops.

A4-5.2.2 ORGAP project workshops

The ORGAP project involved two separate national stakeholder workshops.  A main issue was to involve both stakeholders with a core interest in organic action plans and stakeholders with a peripheral interest in organic food and farming. This second group with peripheral interest might be important as they have capabilities which are significant in the realisation of organic action plans, such as access to specific areas of food markets, or to farmers and other producers interested in converting to organic farming or integrating organic food production in their production lines. Stakeholders were selected by the local research teams assisted by local representatives of the IFOAM EU Group. It was a common experience that representatives of stakeholders with a core interest in organic food and farming were much more willing to accept the invitation and to actually participate in the workshop than those with a peripheral interest, but who may have had capabilities important for realising the plans.

The first series of workshops was used to identify and prioritise objectives and indicators for organic action plan evaluation, and included national experts involved in, or with knowledge relevant for, developing and evaluating action plans on organic food and farming. Here, participation from experts relating to stakeholders with a peripheral interest in organic action plans was higher than in the second series of national workshops.  The results of the workshops are presented in Annex C3-5 and considered further in ORGAPET Sections C1 and C3.

The second series of workshops focused on implementation problems and coping strategies associated with the European action plan of organic food and farming, which was not very well-known in the food sector of any of the member states covered.  The workshops included representatives of groups targeted by the policy programme or involved in communication with target groups, but very few participants with a purely non-organic basis participated (Annex B1-1). One reason for the difference in participation of peripheral stakeholders may be that the theme of the first workshop related to their specific expertise in the indicators relevant for assessing organic action plans, and participants might have had a general professional interest in discussing such indicators.

An important part of the two series of workshops, initiated in the first and developed in the second series, was to gather information about the national level of conflict over organic food and farming and related policies, between various types of stakeholders. This part of the methodology failed, however, in spite of the many efforts of group facilitators to allow for diverging views. Only sporadic conflicts between stakeholders surfaced and none of them appeared to be systematic when comparing findings across the eight national settings. The result of both group sessions was that discussions about the European Action Plan of Organic Food and Farming were country-specific, whereby each group emphasised issues specific in the national context. Moreover, a group consensus developed about the understanding of problems involved in the European action plan and its implementation in the national context. A deeper analysis of the workshops revealed, however, a conflict between the organic food and farming sector – i.e. the main participants of the workshops – and mainstream or conventional food and farming – i.e. those stakeholders invited but not participating in the workshops. Against this background, it seems relevant to collect information from stakeholder participation on the basis of combining two approaches. Information on stakeholders with core interests in organic food and farming may be collected in workshops or focus groups, while information on other important stakeholders needs to be collected on the basis of individual interviews. The individual interviews should preferably be performed after the collection of information from core stakeholders, in order to confront them with the viewpoints promoted by the core stakeholders.

Another aspect of the ORGAP workshops was that they provided additional information on, and increased stakeholders’ attention to, the European organic action plan. The clearest example was from Germany, where the expert workshop concluded by demanding that the researchers prepare a research paper on the involvement of organic stakeholders in the development of the EU organic action plan (Eichert et al., 2006).

A4-6    Conclusions

European agricultural policy is in a state of flux and action plans for organic food and farming are part of the development. Originally, agricultural policy was developed co-operatively between public and private stakeholders in the agricultural sector. Since 1992, more types of stakeholders have been involved in agricultural policy-making. In the European organic action plan context, three broad perspectives can be identified: a) organic values perspective with a focus on the basic principles of organic food and farming; b) commercial market development and c) societal benefits/public goods. Within each perspective, it is possible to identify purely organic stakeholders and stakeholders where organic and non-organic activities are mixed. Stakeholders’ capacities to deliver relevant information and help legitimise policy decisions determine the level of centrality to the policy process. These issues are illustrated in Figures A4-2 to A4-4, which represent a general model for analysing stakeholder involvement in public policy on organic food and farming. Perspectives and status as purely organic or mixed organic/non-organic are constant while centrality may shift depending on the case and on the stage in the policy process. Regarding the various stages in the policy process, three main stages may be distinguished: decision-making (including programme design); implementation, and evaluation. Regarding decision-making, centrality may depend on the legitimacy/authority of the stakeholder's expertise as perceived by the general public. Regarding implementation and evaluation, centrality depends more on specialised knowledge and expertise in coping with the specific issues involved. Hence, there may be good reasons for changing the composition of stakeholders involved in separate stages of the policy process.

Active stakeholder involvement can be encouraged through a broad range of participatory techniques and can yield positive results for the policy development, implementation and evaluation process, as experience from government and research-led initiatives has shown. It is, however, important that sufficient time and resources are invested to ensure careful selection of participants and detailed planning of the stakeholder engagement process.

A4-7    References

Alrøe, H. F. and E. Noe (2008) What makes organic agriculture move - protest, meaning or market? A poly-ocular approach to the dynamics and governance of organic agriculture. International Journal of Agricultural Resources, Governance and Ecology (IJARGE) Vol. 7 (1).

Cameron, E. (2005) Facilitation Made Easy. Kogan-Page, London.

Chambers, R. (2002) Participatory Workshops: A Sourcebook of 21 Sets of Ideas and Activities. Earthscan, London.

Duttweiler, M., M. Smith and D. Decker (2005) Stakeholder Input and the Statewide Program Committees. Applied Research and Extension Program Councils and Program Work Teams, Cornell University, Ithaca.

EC (1999) Evaluating Socio-economic Programmes. MEANS Collection Vols. 1-6. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

EC (2001) European Governance. White paper. COM (2001) 428. European Commission, Brussels.

EC (2003) The Århus convention. Directive 2003/35/EC. European Commission, Brussels.

EC (2006) European Transparency Initiative. Green Paper: COM (2006) 194. European Commission, Brussels.

Eichert, C., A. Zorn and S.  Dabbert (2006) Stakeholder participation and stakeholder protest: On the planned revision of the EU Organic Regulation.  Manuscript for the poster presentation at the Joint Organic Congress "Organic Farming and European Rural Development", Odense Denmark. University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart.

Grant, W. (1997) The Common Agriculture Policy. The European Union Series. MacMillan Press, Houndmills.

Hogan, C. F. (2003) Practical Facilitation: A Toolkit of Techniques. Kogan-Page, London.

IFOAM EU (2006) Stakeholder involvement and transparency in the EU regulation for organic food and farming. Position Paper. International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements EU Group, Brussels.

ISEAL (2005) Stakeholder Consultation Practices in Standards Development. R044 - Public Version 1. International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance, London.

ISEAL (2006) Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards. P005 - Public Version 4 (January, 2006). International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance, London.

Lynggaard, K. (2006) The Common Agricultural Policy and Organic Farming: An Institutional Perspective on Continuity and Change. CAB International, Wallingford.

Marsden, T., A. Flynn and M. Harrison (2000) Consuming Interests. The social provision of foods. UCL Press, London.

Peters, B. G. and J. Pierre (2006) Handbook of Public Policy. SAGE Publications, London.

Stolze, M., H. Stolz and O. Schmid (2007) Documentation of National Action Plans. ORGAP project report. Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Frick.

Thrupp, L.A., K. A. Rodrigues, J. C. Broome and M. Van Horn (2004) Collaborative outreach envisioned for the Agricultural Sustainability Institute. University of California, Davis.

Vallejo, N. and P. Hauselmann (2004) Governance and Multi-stakeholder Processes. International Institute for Sustainable Development, Winnipeg.

Vedung, E. (1997) Public Policy and Program Evaluation. Transaction Publishers, New Brunswick.

A4-8    Annexes

Annex A4-1:    EU Consultation Policy

Annex A4-2:    UNDP Participation in Monitoring and Evaluation

Annex A4-3:    ISEAL Stakeholder consultation

Annex A4-4:    ISEAL Good practice

Annex A4-5:    Citizens as Partners: OECD Handbook on Information, Consultation and Public Participation in Policy-Making

Annex A4-6:    Report on the 2003 on-line consultation concerning the EU organic action plan

Annex A4-7:    EU Commission analysis of the possibilities for an EU action plan for organic food and farming

Annex A4-8:    Häring, A. M., D. Vairo, R. Zanoli and S. Dabbert (2005) Assessment of policies and development of policy recommendations for organic farming: A cross-country synthesis of national policy workshops in 11 European Countries. EU-CEE-OFP WP7 project report. University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart.

Annex A4-9:    Zerger, C., A. M. Häring, D. Vairo,  R. Zanoli, and S. Dabbert (2005) Multi-stakeholder integration in the identification of a new organic farming policy: Results from an EU-level workshop, Brussels, 24th March 2005. EU-CEE-OFP WP7 project report. University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart.

Annex A4-10:    Zerger, C., D. Vairo, A. M. Häring, R. Zanoli, and S. Dabbert (2005) Implementation of policy recommendations on organic farming: A cross-country synthesis of national policy workshops in 11 European countries. EU-CEE-OFP WP7 project report. University of Hohenheim, Stuttgart.

Annex A4-11:    EU-CEE-OFP workshops recruitment questionnaire (from Häring and Vairo, 2004)