Stakeholder identification tools

Involving and engaging the right stakeholders

It is important to consider who will be interested in this service, evaluation or its findings. Engaging and involving all the right stakeholders right at the beginning is an important step not only in developing your service, but also in ensuring a good evaluation. Stakeholders will be anyone affected by the service or service change and this will include the users, providers and commissioners of the planned services.

Who are my stakeholders?

You may have already completed a stakeholder analysis as a part of your service planning, however if you have not completed one already then we recommend that you conduct a stakeholder analysis. This is ideally done as a group and could use existing forums such as the project team, steering group or advisory group. Don’t forget to involve your local and organisational experts in patient and public involvement, and your equalities and communications leads to help you.

Once you have conducted the stakeholder analysis this can then be used to inform:

  • Who to involve in the evaluation
  • What expertise and people are available to support the evaluation (including expertise in data collection, data analysis, communication, patient and public involvement)
  • Your project, evaluation and communication plans

Make sure you consider the needs of those that are seldom heard and are vulnerable.

If you have not already, consider completing an equalities impact assessment for the planned service or service change.

The NHS Improvement stakeholder analysis tool

For more information see patient and public involvement on NIHR ARC West.

Understanding your new service or innovation – context

When considering your evaluation you first need to understand your service or innovation in terms of the outcomes you want it to achieve and for whom (what need are you trying to address?), what will deliver these changes and in what context. The following are aspects of the service or innovation that are useful to consider when planning your evaluation.

Aspect Description Implication
Purpose What is the purpose of the new service or innovation? What need is it addressing? What outcomes will it achieve? What is the purpose of the evaluation? How will it be used? Who is your audience? It is important to understand the purpose of your new service or innovation (i.e. what changes it intends to make – outcomes – and how it intends to do this) and the purpose of the evaluation (i.e. what question does it need to answer as this will impact on the type of evaluation you need).
Evidence base What is the evidence base for the new service or innovation and associated outcomes? What is the strength of evidence? How have similar changes previously been evaluated? Understanding the evidence base for your new service or innovation can help inform your evaluation approach and methods: from understanding the strength of the evidence available i.e. if well-evidenced then you might focus on implementation (process) evaluation; to identifying appropriate outcomes and outcome measures; to looking at how others have evaluated similar schemes before.
Stage of development Is it new? Has it been in place for a while? Understanding the stage of development of your new service or innovation will also impact on the type of evaluation you need to conduct. If it is new and being developed you may want to take a more formative (improvement) approach.
Level of complexity and context Is it a single change? Are there multiple components? What is the context/environment in which it is working? Understanding how complex your new service or innovation is and the context in which it is operating is also important. How many other changes are there in the system aiming to achieve the same outcome?
Timescales What are the timescales? Is it a one year or five year pilot? Timescales will impact on what you are able to evaluate and how, i.e. if a long term investment you are likely to be able to not only look at implementation (formative/process evaluation) but also outcomes.

Understanding your service – theory of change

A useful process for planning your evaluation is to develop a “theory of change” for your service. This can be useful way of articulating and providing a visual representation of the links between the various activities of service and how this will lead to the long term outcomes it is trying to achieve.


To develop your “theory of change” working with your key stakeholders, some flip chart paper, pens and post-it notes consider the following questions:

  1. Who the new service or innovation is for? i.e. your case for change will usually set out the population group, their needs and characteristics, the problem it is trying to address
  2. What are the long – term outcomes you want to achieve?