Deciding which stakeholders to engage

The decision about who to engage in the process is one of the most important decisions the instigator will make, so adequate time and consultation should be taken on this step. This decision will be influenced strongly by the goal of the CE process and how you have framed the issue. The list of stakeholders will determine whose opinions you will hear (and whose will be excluded) from the process.

The categories of stakeholders used in EPIC are defined as follows:

General public

The entire population of an area, e.g. City of Ottawa, residents of the downtown core.

Service users

Those people who are already using a specific service (patients, caregivers and their families), such as clients of a community health centre, patients of a cancer treatment centre.

Specific population groups

Groups within the population that share a specific characteristic, such as seniors, women, LGBTQ population.

Unique communities

Groups that may present some specific challenges for engagement (where “mainstream” approaches might need to be modified). Barriers to access and full participation in health services are well-documented for many groups and communities. These barriers have implications for design and implementation of CE strategies that take into account language, culture, communication, or socio-economic barriers to engagement, and that seek to reflect the unique life experience and perspectives of these groups and communities. Examples include newcomers, Aboriginal peoples, people who are homeless, people living with mental health problems, people with low literacy,

Stakeholders internal to an organization

Groups that are part of a single organization, such as the board, health care providers, other staff and volunteers of a hospital.

Health service providers

Groups who are consulted specifically because of their identity as health service providers, such as physicians, nurses, mental health/addictions workers.

Board members

Members of health care Boards of Directors, whether primary care, issue-specific or umbrella organizations and networks within the health sector.

Issue-specific groups and organizations

All groups that share an interest in a particular health issue, such as chronic disease prevention.


Municipal, provincial or federal governments, or any combination of them.

Some of the criteria to use to identify potential stakeholders:

  • Whose health and well-being will be most improved if the aim of this engagement is achieved?
  • Whose health and well-being will be most damaged if the aim of this engagement is not achieved?
  • Who has unique skills or insights to offer to the engagement that cannot be garnered in any other way?
  • Who can exert power to make initiatives happen that spring from this initiative?
  • Who is most likely to be responsible for actually delivering any services or initiatives that spring from this initiative?
  • Who is most likely to act as “spoiler” if they are not involved in this initiative?
  • Whose voice is needed to balance competing or contrary voices?
Community Engagement and Communication: The Health Planners’ Toolkit, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care

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