Section 1: Building Trust with Stakeholders

This entry is part 4 of 6 in the Applying Best Practices section
  1. Work for the common good.  Although working for the common good is prominent in all anthropological ethical guidelines as well as implicit in anthropological work, it is important to reinforce it.  Take an expansive view of work activities and/or potential efforts to prevent or mitigate any unwanted social, economic, or environmental consequences that might befall stakeholders, the community, minority populations, the society or culture at large, or you.

  2. Learn, develop, and apply social skills.  We learn to work collaboratively with others, relying on our abilities to understand social relationships and connections.  Additional skills and competencies should be gained and used as needed, such as empathy, patience, and leadership.  Employ empathy to listen to others and explore their cultural assumptions.  Act patiently as an intermediary, seeking to represent and communicate the perspectives of all stakeholders.  If conflict arises, use leadership skills to challenge others as necessary, clarify issues, and work toward generating consensus.

  3. Attend to client/supervisor interactions.  It is essential to maintain an attentive and respectful stance in our work-related interactions.  Our client or supervisor brings knowledge and work-role experience from which we can learn.  Listen to their requests and suggestions and work diligently to address them.  Seeking their advice can be helpful both because of their connections within the organization and for our ability to be successful in it.  Heed their advice and accomplish the stated goals, while being a team player.  Keep clients/supervisors updated on work activities.  Be mindful of organizational norms and rules, such as notifying our immediate client/supervisor if we expect to meet with senior leaders.

  4. Identify all potential stakeholders.  Identify all possible stakeholders when developing and launching a project or activity.  Take their views and objectives into account, whether as team members, advisers, persuaders, participants, naysayers, respondents, or decision makers.  Learn from other persons or groups that could be affected by the project outcomes but may not have a voice.

  5. Respect the perspectives of others.  Ethnographic skills are indispensable in learning the views, practices, and language (e.g., concepts, phrases, idioms) of those working with us.  Understanding the positions of relevant stakeholders helps to navigate the processes of planning, managing, and bringing projects and activities to completion.  Be mindful of the impacts of ethnocentrism and bias, which may be either explicit or implicit.

  6. Clarify goals and objectives.  As appropriate, ensure that all stakeholders understand the rationale behind our efforts and strategies.  Addressing disagreements and negotiating when various stakeholders are at odds help demonstrate openness to multiple perspectives, flexibility, and leadership capabilities.  In some cases, it may come down to a client and project leader hammering out a viable decision.  Or, if a resolution acceptable to all parties cannot be reached, a compromise would be required.

  7. Identify potential risks.  Risks can be obvious or subtle.  Anticipate as possible and plan for their mitigation.  If one or more risks emerges, work together with others to take stock of what occurred and decide on a course of action.  Communicate risk mitigation actions as clearly and transparently as possible.  Lessons learned from these experiences form a part any of future planning.

  8. Communicate openly and honestly.  It is critical to engage all stakeholders as activities start, and to communicate with them frequently and broadly.  Early and continuing dialogue can be wonderfully enlightening, or reveal disagreements, which when reconciled, may result in wide stakeholder engagement and at least some consensus on activities and decisions.  In addition, sharing preliminary ideas in conversations or dry runs of presentations represent opportunities to exchange viewpoints, elicit feedback, and limit “surprises” that may be perceived poorly.

  9. Provide transparent descriptions.  Describe any plan of work clearly, accurately, and completely.  The contents of any plan—goals, objectives, design, target group, methodology, limitations, likely outcomes, follow-up actions, timeframe, personnel, and budget—should clarify all phases of the process.  Such information is the foundation for organizational or client decision making.  For non-proprietary programs, projects, and other work-related activities, consider seeking internal review and approval so that these materials may be shared with the broader professional, trade, and/or scholarly communities.

  10. Create an electronic paper trail.  Circumstances may change as you go along.  Document in writing any relevant changes in events, dates, times, participants, goals, methods, and the wider context, along with discussions and decisions.  This material can help reveal obstacles, explain past decision making, and be useful in analysis and reporting.  In addition, it may become the basis for lessons learned, retrospective clarification, and potential evidence, should any disputes (legal or otherwise) arise among the parties.

  11. Recognize and address power dynamics.  Know or determine in advance the appropriate chain of command in the work setting, including project leaders and the system of dispute resolution. Various stakeholders and project team members may disagree on what constitutes their prerogatives, areas of specialization and consultation, an appropriate hierarchy, and other related issues of power, status, and control.  In our varied work settings, we are aware of, or quickly learn, our own status within the power dynamics, particularly with respect to stakeholders who feel or are disenfranchised.  As anthropologists, we find it valuable to build and maintain rapport with all stakeholders, put them at ease, and share updates on activities and projects whenever possible.
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AnthroJobs Of The Week

AnthroJobs of the Week, 22 December 2021

Happy HolidaysReaders, we’re back! We have several interesting positions at North Range Behavioral Health, Tech Goes Home, The University of Oklahoma, and the University of North Texas. Check them out! 

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