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This was collected through telephone interviews with the different categories of stakeholders involved and those not involved in the process to get their views on the activity. Structured questionnaires were also sent on line.

Points covered in the checklist included: -

  • Was there clear communication about the purpose of engagement?
  • How were the participants were informed?

Procedural rules

  • Was there a relationship between the process and decision taken?
  • How were contributions made

People

  • Was there the appropriate category/mix of people?
  • Were the people’s input considered?

Process

  • If there was mutual respect among participants
  • If the time was adequate for clarification, questions, listening and understanding

Informative exchange

  • What were the participants’ general feeling of the activity?
  • Was information presented clearly and honestly
  • Were people confident enough for meaningful participation

To learn what type of engagement that had so far been achieved; If the public participation activities had been functional, manipulative, passive or otherwise.

To learn which tools and techniques were used in the public participation exercise and how they were used.

To learn how the shared values and principles if any, had been developed and achieved for the public participation exercise that involved a heterogeneous community with different levels of literacy, language, religious affiliation, culture and livelihood strategies.

To learn what communication methods were used and if they were suitable for the different groups and categories of persons.

To learn if they were any issues (conflict) in the engagement process and how they were managed.

Context

Stakeholder engagement has been a topic of discussion among scholars and professionals in various fields, especially in the policy-making sector. In the modern world, there are so many projects and initiatives formulated and in one way or another impact individuals or groups.  The term stakeholder is being used frequently in the contemporary world and its definition has been a contested among scholars. Generally, a stakeholder is an individual or a group having an interest in a programme, project or portfolio because they are affected by its outcomes or they are involved in the work. The process of influencing and interacting with the project stakeholders for the general advantage of a project and its advocates is known as stakeholder engagement, (Timotijevic, Barnett and Raats, 2011). Stakeholder engagement is very crucial in determining the success or failure of a project. The stakeholders' views on a project highly determine the successful completion of the project.

 Stakeholder engagement is very important in any project because it has so many numerous benefits. Stakeholder engagement should be done throughout the project lifecycle but it is more essential at the initial stages to get a wider scope of a project. The benefits of stakeholder engagement include increased certainty and stride of progress, robust risk management, increased confidence and trust among stakeholders, understanding of challenges as well as increased awareness of organizational circumstances. There are also several risks associated with not doing proper stakeholder engagement such as emotional ineptness, the uncertainty of the project results, diversion and misuse of resources, high probability of reactive planning, divisions among individuals and groups and unethical and unprofessional behaviours. Based on the benefits of stakeholder engagement and the risks associated with ignoring, the importance of this practice is not overemphasized.

  This report is a review of stakeholder engagement of Australia's national food plan which was developed in 2010 to provide the country with a vision and serve as a future roadmap in the food industry, AIHW (2012). The food sector is very large including the Australians who provide the workforce, the governments, the employers as well as the community. This report analyses how the stakeholders were engaged in the formulation of this plan and the impact of this engagement in determining the success of the project. The formulation and implementation of The National Food Plan are going to affect and influence various stakeholders such as the government, the community and the food industry at large. Therefore, the plan should have involved all these stakeholders and in this report, I am analyzing the level of stakeholder engagement in the plan.

 I have learnt about the principles of stakeholder involvement in class and I will definitely have to muster these principles for future purposes in my career. I learnt that development project normally undergoes an arduous design phase to determine all details before they are fully implemented.  Stakeholder engagement is one of the design processes involved and the process can vary according to various factors such as resource and time allocation, the sector in which the project falls into, the importance placed on stakeholder engagement as well as the experience of the project design team.

Objectives

   The nature of the design involvement will definitely affect the design and implementation of the project. This project of analyzing the stakeholder engagement in The National Food Plan will help me apply the theoretically learnt principles in a real-world situation. This will help me comprehensively the role of stakeholder engagement in the formulation and implementation of projects as well as the impacts of various levels of stakeholder engagement on the design process and the outcomes of the project. The project will also serve as a proof that the theoretical principles are truly applied in the contemporary world.  

There are several objectives I aim to achieve specifically through this stakeholder engagement learning project and they includes to:

  1. Comprehensively understand the role of stakeholder engagement practice in developing projects.
  2. Clearly demonstrate to my tutor that I understood the principles I learnt in class on stakeholder engagement.
  3. Provide appropriate recommendations on the appropriate stakeholder engagement for a project.
  4. Help me gain confidence in formulating future stakeholder engagement plans during my future career.

There are several scholars who have talked about the qualitative and quantitative implication of stakeholder engagement in project design and implementation. Some scholars such as Reed (2008) analyze stakeholder engagement based on the degree of participation on a continuum. Others do it based on the communication flows, the objectives of targeted by the stakeholder engagement as well as the nature of engagement, that is, normative or pragmatic. Those following the normative line of thought try to explain the importance of stakeholder engagement and the risks of ignoring the practice. Pragmatic stakeholder engagement involves considering the realistic and sensible factors that will be involved during the project and possibly affect the implementation.

  According to Lawrence 2006, stakeholder engagement occurs on a continuum, that is, with the participation degrees being transformative, collaborative, functional and consultative. I will personally use this conceptualization outlined by Lawrence (2006) in this report. In this conceptualization, Lawrence is on familiar terms with the fact that stakeholder involvement is not necessarily linear. He acknowledges the irreconcilable difference of participation being either a means to an end or an end in itself since participation can achieve both, (Heusen, 2008). This theory shows that stakeholder engagement is a complex process that involves several interrelated factors.

 Towards Whole of Community Engagement; a practical toolkit by Brown and Aslin (2004) gives an insight on a good stakeholder engagement. A good stakeholder engagement in a project should meet some basic thresholds. A good stakeholder engagement should have the right intent, engage the right stakeholders, discuss the right issues, have the right spirit and use the right process in the participation. Aslin and Brown describe several techniques and tools that should be used to ensure good stakeholder engagement. They acclaim that the choice of what technique to use should entirely be based on the aim and principles of stakeholder engagement.

 It is entirely impossible to rule out effective communication when whenever we talk about stakeholder engagement.  Effective communication determines the success or failure of the stakeholder participation process. Santucci 2005 gave some strategic communication recommendations that give insight on how the quality of stakeholder engagement impact formulation, implementation and results of a project. He recommends that any project design procedure should include effective communication as an integral element of the process. A specific communication budget and the communication strategy should be formulated by communication experts to facilitate proper stakeholder participation.  

Theories Used

   This report was a research-based report that involved a thorough analysis of Australia's The National Food Plan and how the various stakeholders were included in the formulation and implementation of the plan. I used the internet as a platform to research on the formulation of the National Food Plan and how the different stakeholders were involved in the design process. I identified how the plan incorporates the principles of good stakeholder engagement and the impact of the process on the success and results of the plan. Then I compared the theoretical principles with the process of stakeholder engagement process during the formulation of The National Food Plan to come up with appropriate recommendations on how the practice could have been improved.

  Through my internet research, I was able to find details of the design process of the National Food Plan in Australia from 2009 to 2015 including how the various stakeholders were engaged through events, meetings, documents as well as the external influences. The idea of national food policy reappeared in the country's political agenda in 2009. The efforts and coordination of stakeholders in the food industry and public health spearheaded the agenda into the formulation of the National Food Plan. The active organizations involved in the process were the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA), Australian Food and Grocery Council (AFGC), Dairy Australia, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), and the Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA). There are numerous meetings that were held between the stakeholders in the food industry and public health which resulted in the formulation of several documents. The documents highlighted the guiding principles for implementation of the National Food Plan as well as the impact of food production on environmental sustainability from a public health point of view, (Pelletier, Porter and Neufeld, 2013). The table and figure below show the stakeholder engagement involved during the design process of the Australian National Food Plan.

Table 1

Number and frequency of written submissions per category and sub-category

 

Issues Paper

% Total subs.

Green Paper

% Total subs.

Sub-category

Issues Paper

% Total subs.

Green Paper

% Total subs.

Government

13

6.8

40

11

International
Federal
State
Local

0
2
5
6

0
1
2.6
3.1

1
2
7
30

0.3
0.6
1.9
8.3

Non-government organizations

64

33.3

129

35.5

Business interest
Health
Community and consumer
Environment

11
8
26
20

5.7
4.2
13.5
10.4

23
17
45
44

6.3
4.7
12.4
12.1

Food supply chain actors

54

28.1

79

21.8

Production
Processing
Distribution
Retail and marketing

40
10
3
0

20.8
5.2
1.6
0

58
19
1
1

16
5.2

 The inclusion of a national food plan on the 2010 federal election agenda was successfully advocated for by stakeholders from various sectors.  After the election, the federal government announced the development of the National Food Plan. The "Australia and food security in a changing world" published in October 2010 served as a landmark document that authenticated the food security and environmental challenges in Australia.  The National Food Policy Working group was established and is comprised of a consumer advocate, 12 leaders from the food industry as well as a nutrition representative.  Roundtable discussions of the Global Foundation and the minister of Agriculture, fisheries and forestry were conducted.  The Global Foundation was headed by CEOs of key player companies in the food industry such as Woolworths, Visy and SunRise Australia.

   The National Food Policy Working group coordinated several government portfolios to formulate and release of the Issue Paper in 2011. National Food and Nutrition Leaders' Science Forum under the leadership of CSIRO created a dialogue between nutrition and food stakeholders. The main aim of the forum was to build a common vision for development and research throughout the entire food system in Australia. The Green Paper issued in 2012 delineated how the government will approach food policies and associated changes to the governance arrangement. The "People's Food Plan Working Paper" was produced in July the same year by the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA). This paper challenged the production-based treatise that was dominant at that time by delivering a national food plan that is driven by food sovereignty principles, FAO (2012). As shown in figure 1, October-November 2012 is the point of divergence where the National Food Plan ceased to be an integrated food and nutrition policy, Commonwealth of Australia (2015).  The Green Paper sidelined the nutrition part, as well as the government, responded to "Labeling Logic" recommendations through the establishment of a separate national nutrition policy.

   Written Submissions responding to the Green paper and the National Food Plans are used to represent the formal inputs of different stakeholders during the making of the National Food Plan in Australia. A total of 680 written submissions were involved in the process and were publicly available for anyone to collect and analyze. The analysis of these papers was used to classify them into categories and sub-categories as shown in Table 1.  The non-government contributed the most in the Issues Paper and the Green Paper with their contribution accounting to 34.8% of the total submissions. The lowest stakeholders in the Issue Paper based on the submissions were the government stakeholders who contributed only 12 submissions which account to 6.8 %, the Department of Agriculture (2014). Academic and Research Agencies provided the lowest response of 7.8% and 7.4% correspondingly. In the sub-category, production sub-category and the layperson sub-category provided the highest submission frequencies in the Issue Paper and the Green Paper respectively.

 Categorization of stakeholders helped with the identification of concealed parties in the policy. These stakeholders initially seemed to be sidelined in the food and nutrition debate and policy-making such as the Rabobank and the Global Foundation from the business interest non-governmental organization (NGO) category. The Global Foundation, for instance, contributed to introducing the business approach in the formulation of the National Food Plan.

 Public participation and consultation is an important part of the policy formulation process and it gives stakeholders a voice in the project as well as allow a debate and testing of policy options, (Smith-Merry, 2012). The main aim of public participation in policy formulation is to ensure the decision-making process is mutually beneficial and shared among stakeholders through decentralizing the influence and power of elite groups, (Carson, 2001). Public participation in policy making is very crucial since it improves efficiency, transparency and effectiveness of the policy. In any democratic society all over the world, transparency is among shared core values that enhance public trust by holding governments accountable and scrutinize government policies and governance.

  Consultation has a greater influence on the formulation and implementation of any policy. In order for experts formulating to get a deeper understanding of the conditions surrounding the policy they have to consult with the relevant stakeholders and comprehend their perspectives. Stakeholder consultation helps in identifying the unforeseen challenges in the policy and help gauge the community reaction on the policy, (Productivity Commission Annual Report, 2010).  In the formulation of the National Food Plan, there are several stakeholders who were given the opportunity to respond to raised issues so that their perspectives could be included in the documentation of the final plan.  Consultation led to the National Food Plan cease to be an integrated food and nutrition policy. Stakeholder consultation challenged the production-based treatise that was dominant at the initial design stages by suggesting a plan that includes national food sovereignty principles.

   Public participation and engagement determine the success or failure of any public policy thus it has become a crucial part of the policy-making process, (Goodin, Moran and Rein, 2006). In order to gain public support for complex policy issues public experience and balanced public involvement in the process of formulating policies is necessary. Therefore, it is important for any government to engage all the relevant stakeholders during the policy-making process to gain public support.

  The National Food Plan development provided several consultation methods where stakeholders could participate in the process. One of the methods was the submissions based on the Green Paper and the Issue Paper.  The high number of submissions received from different stakeholders provided a wide range of interest involved in the policy as well as the high level of public interest in the plan, (Garnett, 2014). As time passed during the development process the engagement in consultation process increased. The government facilitated and coordinated engagement from various stakeholders and including the lay people.

 Although the stakeholder engagement in the formulation of the National Food Plan was diverse, the interests of the food industry were overrepresented compared to other stakeholders.

This is evident by considering the submissions that were submitted which most of them came from food industry stakeholders. Also, the National Food Policy working group was greatly involved in determining the direction of the policy formulation, (Sedlack and Scholl, 2013). All the production sub-category was more represented compared to retail, marketing distribution and processing. This is contrary to the fact that 80% of the food chain value is contributed by marketing, retail, distribution and processing combined. The overemphasis on production is more likely to have been caused by the bias in the consultation papers produce during the policy development process.

 It is not easy to formulate and implement a public policy in any country. Stakeholder engagement also is a rigorous practice that consumes a lot of time and resources. The National Food Plan in Australia formulation and implementation provided me with an avenue to analyze the process and impact of stakeholder involvement. The National Food Plan has demonstrated very high stakeholder engagement where the community the industry and government were collectively involved in the policy-making process, (Carey, Caraher, Friel, 2015). The NFP also established the Australian Council on Food to ensure that all the interests in the food company are involved. Also, the NFP aims to monitor the progress of the policy by publishing a State of the Food System Report after every five years. Stakeholder engagement is a process that should take place throughout all the stages of a policy thus the report will ensure continued public participation.

  Even though I consider the National Food Plan to have achieved high levels of stakeholder engagement, there are some shortcomings that can be observed. I realized that the plan over emphasized food production and paid little attention to marketing, retail and processing which contribute a lot to food security in the country. A research by a food charity organization FoodBank shows that 8% of the Australian population use relief food annually. The federal government in the plan assumed that this group of people who cannot produce food, (Lang and Barling, 2012). The NFP failed to recognize that unfair distribution of commonwealth and poverty prevalence highly contribute to food insecurity in the country.  

  The 10th goal of the NFP state that Australia will have built on its high level of food security by continuing to improve access to safe and nutritious food for those living in remote communities or struggling with a disadvantage. This will require a lot of community funding and a lot of time to be realized. Community representatives were not fully involved to present how several areas of the plan should be approached by the federal level, (Mintz and McManus P015). The NFP should have used the community representative to expand on how they are state and local government is going to meet the set objectives.

Conclusion

 In summary, a stakeholder is an individual or a group having an interest in a programme, project or portfolio because they are affected by its outcomes or they are involved in the work. Stakeholder engagement is the process of influencing and interacting with the project stakeholders for the general advantage of a project and its advocates.

 Stakeholder engagement is very crucial in determining the success or failure of a project. Stakeholder engagement is very crucial in determining the success or failure of a project. The benefits of stakeholder engagement include increased certainty and stride of progress, robust risk management, increased confidence and trust among stakeholders, understanding of challenges as well as increased awareness of organizational circumstances.

  This report enabled me to expansively understand the role of stakeholder engagement practice in developing projects and clearly demonstrate to my tutor that I understood the principles I learnt in class on stakeholder engagement. The report analyzed the impact and influence of stakeholder engagement in the formulation and implementation of the Australian National Food Plan. The NFP has demonstrated high levels of stakeholder engagement but they are some weakness associated with its consultation such as overrepresentation of some interests. A proper stakeholder is very important in order to increase the chances of success of any policy.

References

AIHW (2012). Australia’s Food & Nutrition 2012. Canberra, ACT: Australian Institute of Health and Welfare

Carey R, Caraher M, Lawrence M, Friel S(2015). Opportunities and challenges in developing a whole-of-government national food and nutrition policy: lessons from Australia’s National Food Plan. Public Health Nutr (2015):1–12.10.1017/S1368980015001834

Carson L (2001). Innovative consultation processes and the changing role of activism. Third Sect Rev 7(1):7–22.

Commonwealth of Australia (2015). Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government

Department of Agriculture (2014). Published Submissions – Green Paper [Internet]. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government; Available from: https://agriculturalcompetitiveness.dpmc.gov.au/published-submissions-green-paper

FAO (2012). Sustainable Diets and Biodiversity: Directions and Solutions for Policy, Research and Action. Rome: Food and Agriculture Organization

 Garnett T (2014). Three perspectives on sustainable food security: efficiency, demand restraint, food system transformation. What role for life cycle assessment? J Clean Prod 73:10–8.10.1016/j.jclepro.2013.07.045

Goodin RE, Moran M, and Rein M (2006). Oxford Handbook of Public Policy. Oxford, NY: Oxford University Press

Lang T, and Barling D (2012). Food security and food sustainability: reformulating the debate. Geogr J 178(4):313–26.10.1111/j.1475-4959.2012.00480.x

Lawrence MA, Friel S, Wingrove K, James SW, and Candy S (2015). Formulating policy activities to promote healthy and sustainable diets. Public Health Nutr :1–8.10.1017/S1368980015002529 ,PubMed

 Mintz G and McManus P (2015). Seeds for change? Attaining the benefits of community gardens through council policies in Sydney, Australia. Aust Geogr 45(4):541–58.10.1080/00049182.2014.953721 [Cross Ref]

 Productivity Commission (2010). Annual Report 2009-10. Canberra, ACT: Australian Government;

 Sedlacko M, Reisch L, and Scholl G, (2013). Sustainable food consumption: when evidence-based policy making meets policy-minded research-introduction to the special issue. Sustain Sci 8:1–6.

Smith-Merry J (2012). Experiential knowledge in action: consulting practitioners for policy change. Policy Soc (2012) 31:131–43.10.1016/j.polsoc.2012.04.002

Timotijevic L, Barnett J, and Raats MM (2011). Engagement, representativeness and legitimacy in the development of food and nutrition policy. Food Policy 36:490–8.10.1016/j.foodpol.2011.04.005

Pelletier DL, Porter CM, Aarons GA, Wuehler SE, and Neufeld LM, (2013). Expanding the frontiers of population nutrition research: new questions, new methods, and new approaches. Adv Nutr 4(1):92–114.10.3945/an.112.003160 [PMC free article] [PubMed] [Cross Ref]

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