Who’s left out?
Every time we create a stakeholder model we exclude someone or something. We consciously or unconsciously decide that only some groups have something at stake – are holders of stakes, are affected by our actions, objectives and policies.
According to Wikipedia; the stakeholder concept was first used in a 1963 internal memorandum at the Stanford Research Institute. It defined stakeholders as “those groups without whose support the organization would cease to exist.”
But stakeholder models are often too narrow-minded. There are always groups left out. Externalities who will suffer from our ignorance and unintended consequences.
In a UNESCO workshop held by Dr Anita Kelleher of the Centre for Australian Foresight last year, we discussed how to improve the global, long-term decision making process. During a big-picture discussion about who to involve in such a process, we began by listing the stakeholders.
“Of course we need to include everyone on the planet – not only the Western world. Indigenous people are equally important and must have a say. ”
“Of course future generations must be included in a stakeholder model – after all, our actions have huge impact on their lives.”
“I think animals should also be there… ”
“But if you put in animals, why not trees?”
“And we can’t forget that some indigenous people consider their ancestors as important as people who live today!”
“The same goes for North Korea actually, where Kim Il-Sung who died in 1994, still is president and always will be in his role as Eternal President of the Republic.”
So, after some discussion, we came up with the following model. Nine clusters of stakeholders.
We were quite happy with this model.
But after a few weeks I had a nagging feeling that something was wrong. Were we too narrow-minded?
Yes. The beliefs of some religions and movements were not represented in this model.
For example, some religions and indigenous philosophies consider inanimate objects as very important. Rocks and mountains for instance. And non-living but moving things such as rivers, the sun and the moon are major stakeholders in some beliefs.
Transhumanism is a movement based on the belief that exponential technology will lead to very fast developments in augmented humanity and artificial intelligence. Today, such developments and implications of these, are now incomprehensible to most of us. Many philosophers who belong to this creed, argue that carbon-based life (humans, animals, plants etc) shouldn’t be considered more important than robots, automatons etc. Such silicon-based life should be worth as much as carbon-based life! Equality for all – no matter chemical composition. Extraterrestrial life – no matter atom composition and structure – should naturally also be included in a stakeholder model for the 21st century.
My new, improved model suddenly had 15 clusters of stakeholders.
When I look at this model as I write this post, I feel uneasy again. Have I missed any groups?