Working with Stakeholders
One of the keys to being a successful advocate is by developing effective and productive relationships with key stakeholders. For any given effort, it’s important to identify allied and opposing stakeholders, and how you might communicate with them to ensure that your effort is successful. Stakeholders include anyone you serve, work with, rely on, and/or disagree with including, but not limited to: members of your local education system (e.g., administrators, teachers, other specialized instructional support personnel, students), local or state education leaders (e.g., your state or local education board leaders), members and leaders of local/state/national organizations, the media, and the community at large.
Here are some helpful tips for working with key stakeholders:
- Identify and research. Review facts about them including their involvement in education and with other community organizations and issues of personal importance. Determine who may support your advocacy goals and those who may be opposed. Make sure you understand the role each person or group plays in the process; this will dictate how you approach certain topics with them.
- Whether you’re advocating with a classroom teacher, a principal, the superintendent of your school district, or a legislator, it’s important that you keep your conversation topical and that your asks are reasonable. Building relationships with stakeholders requires communicating even when you don’t have a specific ask. Offer to be a resource on improving school and student outcomes (e.g., the connection between school climate, safety, and learning). When relevant, provide a brief written summary of research, data, and other information. Periodically check in and ask if you can be of assistance on any issue they are working on. Feel free to use NASP fact sheets, position papers, brochures, and other information to support your work. You don’t have to be their best friend, but having strong working relationships with stakeholders can be helpful to your advocacy efforts.
- When the time comes to work together, it is important that you clearly articulate the purpose and specific actions expected of the partnership with the key stakeholder(s) and how the work relates to your shared goals. Be sure to keep the positive impact on outcomes for students and the stakeholder’s constituents as a focus of your advocacy.
The goal of the Communication Matters column is to provide NASP members with diverse ideas, insights, and inspiration for creating change and making improvements across the range of comprehensive school psychological services.