Key Stakeholder Interviews

Within most professional disciplines, there comes a time when an issue must be better understood before judgments and decisions can be made. One way to gather that kind of data and information is through scientifically rigorous surveys and key stakeholder interviews. These surveys gather and analyze, with statistical certainty, information about the knowledge, attitudes and practices that a specific group of stakeholders or study subjects has about an issue.

Such information can often be useful and important, however, survey instruments are often not structured in a way that allow the evaluator to probe interviewees in a deeper, more nuanced and personal way that gets at the heart of public opinion.

I believe that people have a lot more to say than they are usually given a chance to say when they are given traditional surveys instruments or when they participate in formal public meetings. When people feel safe in smaller group settings, they tend to be more open and relaxed about providing their opinion and this can be much more meaningful to decisionmakers than “black and white” survey responses alone. In the process of diving deeper with stakeholders through dialogue, trust and relationships can be built or strengthened which contributes to building understanding around an issue in the community.

I believe in the power of dialogue and relationships. I believe in making things more personal whenever possible. Not by prying into people’s private lives and ideas, but simply by giving them my undivided attention for the time we are together and making them feel heard and understood. This happens by asking people powerful questions. By asking powerful questions, the interviewerinvites the interviewee to a place of discovery and of seeing new possibilities. By asking the right questions, a conversation can be taken to a whole new level.

The keys to successful interviews are

  • Identifying and selecting the key stakeholders you want to hear from,
  • Articulating the need for the interview, what to expect during the interview and the civic standards that will ground the dialogue,
  • Being as neutral as possible, understanding that all of us have some biases,
  • Asking the right questions – ones that create an open space for sharing and thinking,
  • Suspending judgment and listening carefully,
  • Asking clarifying questions where an answer is not clear, and
  • Providing a written summary of questions and answers to the interviewee after the meeting for the interviewee’s review and approval.

If you have a need to better understand the people you seek to collaborate with or regulate, sometimes the fastest way to understanding is through slow, deliberate, but structured dialogue. I can help you to develop powerful questions, conduct the interviews and/or analyze the results.

Contact me for more information.

Deliberate Democracy is here to help you on your personal quest to be a fair, just, and effective civic leader at a time when our democracy needs you most.

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