Purpose and perspective: using soft systems methods in stakeholder analysis

High, Chris and Nemes, Gusztáv (2009). Purpose and perspective: using soft systems methods in stakeholder analysis. In: Stakeholder Perspectives in Evaluating Sustainable Development, 16-18 Oct 2009, Budapest, Hungary.

URL: http://www.wu.ac.at/inst/fsnu/budapest/papers/high...


Sustainable development has brought with it a broader consideration of the role of different stakeholders. Considerable scholarship has gone into demonstrating that purpose and perspective matter, and that stakeholder groupings based on these can be much more complex than basic social or economic variables might suggest. Yet an examination of the stakeholder analysis tools in the management literature reveals simplistic assumptions and boundary judgements, and a reification of purpose that conceals stakeholder assumptions, values and goals.
In this paper, we explore an alternative form of stakeholder analysis, based on Checkland's Soft Systems Methodology. At its core is a suggestion that a central difficulty with standard stakeholder analysis is that sustainability is not framed in the same way by different stakeholders and it is unreasonable to analyse their stake in it as though their framing was identical. The paper describes how some of the methods developed within SSM can be applied to make stakeholder analysis more powerful and more flexible, and discusses some of the implications for CSR and sustainability.

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