Apply actor and strategy models to deliver effective action in stakeholder networks.
How do you deliver results in multi-stakeholder partnerships? How do you navigate through a political minefield? How do you make best use of your network?
This online course will equip you with a toolkit to enable informed decisions and smarter actions in dealing with others.
Through a clearer understanding of the network environment in which you operate, you will be able to design more effective strategies for dealing with the multiple stakeholders who are crucial to your organization's success. The result will be a significant reduction in the risk of delays, of cost overruns and failures, which will allow you to reap benefits from strategic partnerships.
The actor and strategy models that are taught in this course, enable you to assess the key issues at stake, and to develop strategic scenarios to anticipate opportunities and challenges in your stakeholder environment. They allow you to determine what network linkages are missing or need strengthening, to identify arguments that might convince others, and to think about credible threats and promises as part of a negotiation strategy.
Is this course for you?
This course is aimed at policy advisors, strategic planning professionals, project managers, stakeholder managers, stakeholder engagement specialists, community managers and others working in complex multi-actor environments.
If you work in these fields you will know the importance of dealing effectively with other stakeholders. You will also know that this requires not just soft-skills but also sound preparation and a proactive strategy. The latter is the focus of this course.You may have basic techniques in your planning toolkits for stakeholder mapping, which enable you to produce stakeholder lists, power/interest maps or tables with potential opponents and supporters. These techniques provide a useful first step in getting to know the actor environment, but really not much more than this. If stakeholders are more than an additional side-issue, if they are really critical for success, you might want to have analytical tools that provide greater insights than can be expected from quickly completing a relatively straightforward table or preformatted sheet. In this course, you will learn how to proceed with stakeholder mapping in smarter ways, using dedicated software packages. Different methods are covered in a hands-on way.
In this course, you will apply a mix of tools and models to real-world problems, including your own case. Models covered are social network analysis, comparative cognitive mapping, cooperative and non-cooperative game theory. Feedback and advice will be provided by course instructors.
After taking this course, you will be able to:
- Explain and anticipate actor strategies in complex environments based on a coherent conceptual framework
- Apply different actor and strategy models to sharpen your understanding of multi-stakeholder environments
- Develop strategies that increase the chances of success in building winning coalitions and effective partnerships.
"I notice that most people don't look beyond plan A. They seem to start with their plan A and then simply see what happens, but thinking through possible scenarios and developing back-up plans can really help to ensure you don't lose the momentum. This online course is an attractive way to learn about methods to better prepare your multi-stakeholder strategies." - Kirsten van Zalinge, Contract Manager at BAM Bouw & Techniek, formerly at Rijkswaterstaat, the Netherlands.
"Since following the course, I've had the opportunity to apply the models I've learned several times. Each model is a tool to analyze actor networks from different perspectives, each providing complementary insights. As such, the course is useful to any professional looking not only to better understand complex actor problems, but also to present them in a structured way." - Joao Gorenstein-Dedecca, Sustainable Energy Technologies and Strategies Researcher at IIT Comillas Madrid and TU Delft
Focus on strategic interactions in stakeholder networks
This course delves deeper into the structure and dynamics of complex multi-stakeholder environments. You will be introduced to a new conceptual framework that helps explain stakeholder strategies and interactions. The use of hands-on methods will enable you to perform a focused, practical analysis of strategic stakeholder environments.
You will fully comprehend the complexities arising from divergent interests, opaque network structures and critical resource dependencies. Knowing what the main issues are, who is involved, and what strategies you could use to negotiate or enter into fruitful dialogues will allow you to think ahead to build winning coalitions. Furthermore, these methods help you to prepare not just for your initial strategy, but also for ways to adapt and adjust further strategies as required.
EXAMPLE: How companies can benefit from game theory
Consider the case of supply chain management in the development of the Dreamliner aircraft by Boeing. Many smart choices were made in the engineering and technological design and the production system emulated Toyota's highly successful tiered supply system. But whereas this tiered supply system worked well for Toyota, for Boeing the scheme fell apart. The end result was billions of dollars of budget overruns and years of delay in getting the new aircraft to the market.
A game theory model shows that the tiered supply chain model has two plausible outcomes for Boeing. It leads to the best possible outcomes under optimal conditions, but to the worst possible outcomes in less than optimal conditions. With complex and innovative technologies, and eager suppliers that might have overestimated their own capacities, Boeing would have better prepared for the less-than-optimal conditions. A few easy actions might have fixed the incentives for suppliers and made a world of difference.
Similar models can be applied to other cases as well, for instance in nature-based solutions for flood management. Here actor models show that the cases where the engineering potential seems highest, are also the cases where collaboration – and therefore successful implementation – is in fact least likely to occur. With these insights, realistic strategies can then be designed, rather than strategies based on naïve and wishful thinking.
Course instructors Leon Hermans, Scott Cunningham and Mark de Reuver are, with Jos Timmermans, the authors of the book: "Actor & Strategy Models: Practical Applications and Step-wise Approaches", published by John Wiley & Sons in 2018.
In this course you will use the following software: Gambit, R and Gephi.
Week 1: Introduction
- Introduction to the course and the participants.
- Opportunity to refresh basic knowledge of stakeholder mapping techniques (optional).
Week 2: Framework
Conceptual framework for strategic actor interactions
- Key concepts to explain strategic actor behaviour
- Overview of actor models to sharpen your understanding of your actor environment
- Reflection on usefulness of actor models for design of effective strategies
Weeks 3 and 4: Models
Participants select two modelling approaches, out of a total of four available modules:
- Social network analysis (structure of networks and managing relations)
- Comparative cognitive mapping (perceptions and building winning arguments.
- Non-cooperative game theory (conflict analysis and shaping the space of probable outcomes)
- Cooperative game theory (coalition analysis and sharing rewards of cooperation)
Each module will cover the same elements:
- When and why to use this modelling approach
- Basic analytical concepts used in the model
- Stepwise approach to applying the model
- Application of the model to a real-world problem, and implications for action
Course participants are required to cover at least two models and can cover more if they wish.
The real-world problem used in Week 3 and 4 will be the same for each model. It concerns the issue of nature-based flood defenses in the Netherlands, using footage and interviews with real actors, involved in the "BE SAFE" research project in which TU Delft, NIOZ, University of Twente, Deltares, HKV, Rijkwaterstaat, Staatsbosbeheer, Ecoshape, Boskalis, Van Oord, World Wildlife Fund, Natuurmonumenten, It Fryske Gea and HZ University of Applied Sciences collaborate.
Week 5 to 7: Modelling your own case
Course participants can work individually on a case of their own. They can also work in small groups if they prefer and are willing to share insights into the environments from one of the participants. They will apply one the previous models to analyze their case and formulate a strategy.
- Identification of case topic and associated modelling approach. Concise work plan (using a preformatted sheet) and feedback
- Model construction and analysis
- Thinking through scenarios and strategies
- Feedback from course teachers
Feedback and advice will be provided by course instructors on the case topic and work plan early in Week 5, on constructed models and initial analysis at the end of Week 6, and on the implications for action early in Week 7. Some flexibility is possible in the execution of this project, which can also be finalized early in Week 8 if course participants so desire.
Next steps – non-mandatory debriefing, reflection and final discussion between participants and instructors.
If you successfully complete this course you will earn a professional education certificate and you are eligible to receive 3.0 Continuing Education Units (3.0 CEUs).
This course is primarily geared towards working professionals.
None. Experience in working with stakeholder networks is a plus. Graduate level course (MSc and post-MSc)
If you have any questions about this course or the TU Delft online learning environment, please visit our Help & Support page.