Updated 10 June, 2003

Resource Book
Key Documents
Reference Area
The Project
Country Area
About NSSD

nssds, a Guide To Key Issues And Methods For Analysis:
A Prompt for Status Reviews and Dialogues.

ROLLING DRAFT. 1 June 2000.

The first part of this guide is a resource to assist lead organisations/teams, steering committees, stakeholders and dialogue participants in identifying issues for analysis and/or discussion during status reviews and dialogues. It is presented in the form of a list of issues. But it is not  a blueprint or recipe that must be followed rigidly or in full. It aims to provide a menu of important issues to be used as a prompt when lead teams and steering committees design the particular approach and decide the issues to be explored in individual countries.

Many of the suggested issues arise from experience distilled from a wealth of past analyses of strategy processes and have been shown to be critical factors in good practice for nssds.

The second part of this guide suggests methodologies for analysing the issues. These have been tested in a range of countries by IIED and others and have been shown to be effective tools in unpacking the factors which have often underpinned effective strategies or which have impeded progress.

This guide should be of assistance in “auditing” country contexts and in assessing the extent to which nssd processes may already be taking place and whether an enabling environment and capacity exists to develop and implement an nssd process. 


See the text below, or click on these icons to view this document as an Acrobat file
  or   or 

Donor-Developing Country Dialogues on
National Strategies for Sustainable Development



A Prompt for Status Reviews and Dialogues


1 June 2000


1    Introduction to this guide

2    List of key issues

3    Methods of analysis of nssd

Some principles for analysis

Framework for analyses

Getting started and scope of analysis

Assessing the context of change

Assessing actors

Assessing integrating institutions and initiatives

Assessing sustainable development processes



1.1    The guide - a useful resource, not a blueprint

The first part of this guide is a resource to assist lead organisations/teams, steering committees, stakeholders and dialogue participants in identifying issues for analysis and/or discussion during status reviews and dialogues. It is presented in the form of a list of issues. But it is not a blueprint or recipe that must be followed rigidly or in full. It aims to provide a menu of important issues to be used as a prompt when lead teams and steering committees design the particular approach and decide the issues to be explored in individual countries.

Many of the suggested issues arise from experience distilled from a wealth of past analyses of strategy processes and have been shown to be critical factors in good practice for nssds.

The second part of this guide suggests methodologies for analysing the issues. These have been tested in a range of countries by IIED and others and have been shown to be effective tools in unpacking the factors which have often underpinned effective strategies or which have impeded progress.

This guide should be of assistance in "auditing" country contexts and in assessing the extent to which nssd processes may already be taking place and whether an enabling environment and capacity exists to develop and implement an nssd process.

1.2    A single guide

This single guide replaces two draft topic guides prepared earlier in the project by the OECD DAC task force on nssds. These contained separate lists of issues/questions as a possible basis for consulting with in-country stakeholders during the status reviews and dialogues. These topic guides were reviewed by participants attending the First Planning Workshop in Arusha, Tanzania, in April 2000, and the Supplementary First Planning Workshop in London in May 2000. A range of suggestions of additional issues and for modification and restructuring were made and these are included in the revised guide.

Many of the issues in this new consolidated guide are related to process and methodology in developing and implementing nssds, and information on these aspects will be important to collate during the status reviews. Such information will be useful in preparation for the second phase of the dialogues, to identify acceptable processes and methodologies; key stakeholders and institutions; and the state of play of existing/planned strategic processes.

The significance of particular issues is likely to be influenced by the stage that strategic processes have reached in a country - some of the issues suggested will be more relevant to process and design and others to implementation and impact. Lessons can be learnt from all stages. The debate is likely to explore the extent to which appropriate enabling environments exist but it is equally important that there exists commitment and acceptable mechanisms to encourage wide consultation, participation and representation in the process.

It should be stressed that this guide can and should be adapted to the needs of individual countries as appropriate, to provide a basis for a basis for debate and dialogue.

1.3    Status review phase(‘mapping’ what is going on: a first step)

The status review in each country will be carried out by the in-country lead organisation/team. In summary, the aim of the status review is to understand the following key issues:

  • Context - the political, historical and administrative context of the country

  • Current situation of the strategy(ies) - past and present strategy work in the country

  • Stakeholders - identifying the real/key stakeholders and the extent to which they been involved in the strategic processes, policy development and decision making.

  • Institutions and policy processes - responsibilities for strategy implementation, institutional relationships and existing integration. Decision making processes.

  • Political commitment, shared vision and investment - initial indicators of wider impact. Policy provision for sustainable development.

Scope of review (which strategies to focus on)

Through the course of the discussions during the status review phase, key stakeholders, strategic processes, institutions and key documents will need to be identified until a ‘map’ of the country’s key nssd-related work is built up. As this map emerges, it will be important to prioritise which strategies to focus on during further analysis (it will be impossible to devote the same analytical effort to a lot of strategies) and to consider how far back (in time) the search and analysis should reach. It is probably worth undertaking a general sweep back over the last decade in the first instance. As a rough guide;

  • If there is one clearly dominant strategic planning process which initial review and discussions indicate is by far the most important and has had great influence on development in the country, then it would make sense to focus mainly on this (e.g. Vision 2020 in Ghana), but still to devote some effort to examining other processes which it is felt will yield important lessons. It will probably be useful to focus the analysis from a clear turning point or change of planning approach which set this major strategic planning process on its current track (e.g. a major shift in government policy, the establishment of a new cross-cutting institution with influence and power).

  • If there are several strategies which are seen as being of broadly similar importance and influence, then it might be worthwhile covering all of these, at least at first, and then selecting which one(s) to focus on (based on an assessment of importance, influence and likelihood of deriving important and useful lessons).

During the initial assessment of these past or current strategic planning processes, it will be important to identify key cross-cutting issues which might be examined further during the dialogues with stakeholders.

Each country lead organisation/team will need to provide regular feedback to the country steering committee, and present the findings of the status review to key stakeholders during the subsequent dialogue phase. A report of the status review of the country’s nssd work should be prepared (in English, French or Spanish – translations will be arranged by IIED). This report should include recommendations for, or describe the approach already initiated, for the dialogue, including stakeholders and institutions to be involved, etc. IIED will liaise with each in-country lead team on the emerging nature and structure of each dialogue and share this information with the other countries.

This phase of the project will help to limit the potential for duplication and also strengthen collaboration with other donors. It will be important to design the review to cover private sector initiatives, too, and not just government actions. This will help to identify private sector stakeholders and initiatives and to bring them on board at this early stage to strengthen the links between government and the private sector.

1.4 Dialogue phase

In designing the project, it was assumed that the dialogues would consist of a series of participatory consultation exercises - the nature and format of which would be finalised during the status review phase. The aim of these dialogues is to bring out lessons learned from existing strategic processes and to identify areas of best practice and common constraints/gaps. Individual countries will be responsible for determining the nature and scope of the dialogue process, so the exact nature of these ‘forums’ will vary from country to country. However, they are likely to be a mix of workshops, focus groups, roundtable exercises, discussions with individual key groups, informal meetings, telephone consultations, and other participatory exercises.

To ensure that the output of the dialogues can be co-ordinated into meaningful guidance, it is proposed that the debates centre round a number of common areas. These can be summarised:

  • Process and participation - Successful approaches (and why). What has not worked. What is acceptable. Correlation between process and success.

  • Institutions & Integration - extent to which issues have been addressed holistically. Institutional capacity. Integration with national planning, policy development and decision making processes. Legal frameworks.

  • Technical - extent of knowledge and understanding of the state of resources, and the social and cultural context. Monitoring progress.

  • Political and policy commitment, and constituency. Policy changes. Shared visions and areas of difference. Improved patterns of investment.

  • Role of donors - extent of their involvement. What assistance and approaches have worked/not worked.

Different groups of stakeholders may need to be involved at various points in the dialogue. The stakeholders are likely to be representative of government, civil society and the private sector. It may be necessary to pay particular attention to the participation of vulnerable, poor, and minority groups, as well as ensure that participation issues around gender and traditional authorities are not undermined.

The dialogues will be facilitated and reported on by the lead organisations/teams. However a country may also decide that different members of the steering committee participate in the consultation exercises to take advantage of the opportunity it presents for feedback and communication.

Preferably, the Steering Committee should include a broad cross-section of representatives from government, civil society and the private sector as well as donors. The Committee should comprise individuals able to influence the strategy work within their organisations and who are able to assume a role for the longer term donor-partner collaborations.



Some of the issues listed below relate to general conditions in which strategic planning takes place (e.g. context); others are concerned with particular aspects, parameters or consequences of strategies. The singular and plural terms "strategy" and "strategies" are used interchangeably.

Categories of issues

Issues are listed under the following categories:

A. Context
B. Actors

C. Integrating institutions and initiatives

D. Processes

E. Impacts


Analysis and description of the context within which strategies have been developed and implemented in the country.

  • What is the historical, political and administrative contexts in which particular strategies originated, have been developed and implemented?

  • What development trends and key factors have influenced change in the country (what are/have been the dynamics of change)?

  • What is the regional context (e.g. regional conflict, free trade areas, indigenous peoples) and what is/has been its influence on national decision-making, policy-making and planning?

  • What are/have been the priorities of present and past governments?

  • What is the nature of the economy (e.g. state ownership, land tenure, major industries) and what is its implications for social conditions?

  • What is the nature of investment patterns within the country; and the parameters and paradigms within which investment takes place?

  • What is the institutional, technical and human capacity within the country?

  • What are the perceptions of sustainable development amongst different stakeholders (and whether these differ or have changed over time), their understanding of the concept and their expectations

  • What are the challenges and priorities for development as perceived by different social groups and players, and by people in different geographical areas

Political and institutional enabling conditions

  • What is the nature and extent of political commitment to the objectives, processes, plans and budget requirements of the strategy?

  • In what political forums has such commitment been given?

    To what extent is the political commitment partisan or broad-based?

    What are the sticking points?

  • What steering mechanisms have been established and is what is the extent of consensus about them ?

  • To what extent has the envisaged/planned strategy process been understood by all those involved, and was it accepted?

  • What is the understanding of institutions about their responsibilities for building on the strategy (and other existing ones) and their consequent activities, for formulating new strategies where relevant, for implementing them, and for monitoring them? What rights, resources, capacity and effective relationships do these institutions have to undertake this and are they sufficient?

  • How effective have the institutions involved in strategy development and implementation been in discharging the roles and responsibilities?

  • How effective is co-ordination:

  • - Between these institutions?

    - Between strategic initiatives e.g. NCS, social action plans, etc.?

    - Between these institutions and those central to planning and investment?

    - Between institutions and donors?

  • How does the strategy link to other national, local and regional strategies and how do such existing strategies link into the planning and decision-making systems?

  • What are the linkages/overlaps/conflicts?

    Are there any externally-supported strategic planning processes ongoing?

    How do such processes relate to national processes?

  • What international and cross-border issues and commitments have been considered?

  • How are these integrated in strategies

    To what extent is there consistency and harmonisation in the way that different strategies deal with such issues?

Effectiveness of regulations and incentives

  • To what extent do fiscal and regulatory frameworks internalise social and environmental costs in order to correct for market failure, and open doors to best-practice investment?

  • How are these frameworks efficiently monitored and enforced, by government or private bodies as appropriate?

  • What measures have been included to ensure compliance with international agreements (e.g. covering environmental issues, human rights, etc.)?

  • How have the opportunities presented by such agreements been maximised?

  • What measures have been taken to increase public awareness of sustainable development and thus encourage the development of consumer-driven or civil society-driven incentives?

  • What has been the success of any such measures?

  • What is the balance of command/control and market-based mechanisms?


Analysis and description of the institutions, organisations, representative groups and individuals who have been involved in developing and/or implementing strategies in the country, i.e. who have been the main ‘drivers’ of sustainable development or who have been resistant to it or omitted.


  • What different stakeholders are/have been involved in strategy development and/or implementation

  • What social and/or interest groupings do these stakeholders belong to?

  • What stakeholder groups are/have been dominant, and what groups are/have been marginalised?

  • Which other stakeholders should be/have been involved?


Analysis and description of the institutions in the country that are concerned with policy-making, planning, and delivering development, and how these are evolving; and also of the initiatives that provide useful links or fill institutional gaps.

Current situation (of strategy development/implementation)

  • What formal or informal strategies/planning processes have been undertaken, are underway or planned (national/local). For each

  • - When these were initiated and by whom?

    – What was the time perspective (& components)?

    – What was the main focus and aims, and why?

    - In what way was it implemented?

    - How was the process was monitored?

    - What were the links to the global conventions (biodiversity, climate change,


  • If there is more than one strategy focusing on sustainable development, then why ?

  • What proportion of the implementation costs of strategies has been met from government’s recurrent budget and what from donor funds ?

  • What are the opportunities for complementarity of strategies and integration between them?

  • What are the links to Structural Adjustment Programmes, Comprehensive Development

    Frameworks, Poverty Reduction Strategies and other initiatives

    Were these planning processes completed?

    Were there any binding agreements?

  • What is the extent and efficacy of cross-sectoral linkages between government departments and institutions?

  • What relationship are there between strategies and implementation projects and practices on-the-ground?

Roles, responsibilities and monitoring

  • What institutions were/are involved in the process of strategy development and implementation (governmental, non-governmental, private sector, etc., and including local/informal institutions)?

  • What other institutions should have been included and which were not included that are relevant to sustainable development?

  • What was the effectiveness of different institutions in relation to their roles and responsibilities regarding development and implementation of the strategy?

  • In what ways have different institutions worked with each other and with partners in development (e.g. NGOs)?

  • Who was responsible for strategy implementation and management?

  • What criteria were used to decide on the composition of the team or unit responsible for development and then implementation of the strategy?

  • Who appointed the team?

  • Who pays them?

    How are people removed/disqualified from the team?

  • How adequate were the Terms of Reference for the responsibilities?

  • Which sector(s) have led the strategy/process

  • What is the balance of power between institutions involved in strategy develoopment and implementation?

  • Who drives the process?

  • How is the strategy recognised within or related to the decision-making process? How are the results of the strategy, and the lessons learned, fed back into the decision-making process?

  • How is progress being monitored?

  • What are the mechanisms for monitoring relevant indicators for results and impact? What have mechanisms been introduced or improved?

    What use is made of the results of monitoring?

  • Have any indicators been developed or used?

  • Who established these?

    What relevance do they have for civil society?

    To what extent are the clear/user-friendly or abstract, and how has this aided or impeded the participation of people?


Analysis and description of the processes that are helping to carry the country towards sustainable development

Access to information

  • What is the extent and adequacy of access to quality information?

  • How available is information to different stakeholders?

Quality of analysis

  • How adequate is the information base and it quality for developing effective strategies? Are there any variations in availability and quality of different information ?

  • What are the perceptions of different stakeholder groups about the state of resources, trends in their quality and quantity, and the pressures upon them? Is there convergence or divergence in these views, and do groups have any visions for the future of the natural resource base?

  • Is there adequate analysis of the state of the main sectors and livelihood systems, their interactions with resources (as above), and consequent winners and losers?

  • To what extent have existing studies on poverty and environment been used, and to what extent has the opportunity been taken to strengthen the body of knowledge in concerned areas?

Nssd process management and effectiveness of capacity

  • What key factors assisted the development of the strategy (e.g. a past strategy; public pressure; government commitment) and what were the key issues that needed to be resolved (e.g. land tenure; resource depletion; poverty, etc.)?

  • From what perspective has the process been driven (environmental, economic, interdisciplinary, etc.)?

  • To what extent has there been transparency in the management of the strategy (how has this been ensured ?)

  • What good management practices been employed in developing and implementing the strategy?

  • How effective and efficient were these?

  • What tools/methodologies were useful to enhance understanding (e.g. poverty assessments; Strategic Environmental Assessment)?

  • To what extent is capacity being efficiently and equitably utilised, and improved, to:

  • - Develop strategies with strong local ownership?

    - Co-ordinate existing sectoral or issues-based strategies to improve their coherence and

    efficiency in achieving sd?

    - Encourage institutions to make their responses to relevant strategies?

    - Implement strategy-related activities, in a way which is consistent with the broader

    strategy goals ?

    - Monitor the impact of strategic processes and activities?

    - Maintain the ‘big picture’ of strategy evolution?

    - Review and ensure continuous improvement of the strategy?


  • To what extent was the strategy process, as designed, an adequate/optimal vehicle to assure stakeholder participation

  • What approaches/ forums have been used to engage stakeholders and how suitable were these to them?

  • What is their potential, constraints, limitations and alternatives?

  • Were stakeholders convinced that it was worthwhile committing to engage in the process?

  • To what extent are/have different stakeholders been involved in strategy development and/or implementation?

  • What is the extent of autonomy of any groups; and to what extent have stakeholder groups had the means to participate in the process?

  • What changes have their been in approaches to participation and stakeholder involvement over time?

  • To what extent is there continuing identification and participation of concerned stakeholders - including government, elected bodies (e.g. parliamentarians), civil society and market players at different levels, and representatives of global environmental interests - in strategy preparation, planning, implementation, monitoring and review?

  • To what extent does representation meet acceptable criteria of identity-with-group and accountability-to-group?

  • What pro-active mechanisms have been used to engage otherwise-marginalised stakeholders in the above processes - such as women and landless poor groups?

  • What role did public awareness campaigns have in encouraging stakeholder involvement in the process and how has the process strengthened people’s participation in, and influence over, the decision making process?

  • How were difficulties and problems identified, addressed and resolved or contained?

Quality of policies and plans

  • What clear policies, plans, principles, standards and/or targets have been derived from the strategy, and in formats which can best elicit positive responses from those various institutions (government, market and civil society) which are supposed to implement the strategy?

  • What systems are there for defining priorities in environmental, economic and social terms, so as to keep the number of strategy objectives (at any one time) manageable?

  • To what extent are these systems compatible with those for analysis and participation?

  • To what extent have opportunities for win-win activities supporting poverty alleviation, economic growth and environmental conservation been well-defined with those institutions best placed to act on them? For example, have conservation and poverty alleviation strategies been brought together?

  • What systems have been established for addressing the hard trade-offs - identifying them, debating them, planning action or compensating for the costs of inaction?

  • What links are there between strategies and existing donor-supported programmes and with investment portfolios?

  • What early and tactical implementation of promising initiatives has been undertaken (which will both help build support for the strategy process and test its principles and ideas)?

  • What is the transition plan or tactics to get from the current situation to the situation envisaged in the strategy?

  • What new or revised (more efficient) legislation has been introduced, and what modifications or revisions of existing policies and plans have been made, as a consequence of developing the strategy?

Investment patterns

  • To what extent have there been changes in the patterns and paradigms of public and private investment as a result of the strategy?

  • What caused the changes (e.g. government policy, impact of globalisation)?

  • How has the strategy influenced or been influenced by changing investment patterns?



  • What role(s) have donors played in the development and implementation of the strategies, e.g.. providing funds for the process, technical support for strategy development and./or implementation?; and was their role useful?

  • Was donor involvement connected to any conditionalities (i.e for the agreement/release of funding)?

  • How can donor involvement be made more effective?

  • In what areas should donors be involved?

  • Is there effective co-ordination between government and donors in relation to strategy development and implementation? Is there effective co-ordination between donors themselves?

  • To what extent is there evidence of reduced dependence on donors (and which particular donors?), particularly in the context of local ownership and leadership?


Analysis and description of changes that have been the result of the development or implementation of strategies or have been induced by them.

  • What areas do stakeholders believe are being influenced - positively or negatively - by the strategy/strategies?

  • - Ecological processes

    - Biodiversity

    - Resource quantity/productivity

    - Economic efficiency

    - Poverty and inequity

    - Human resource development/capacity

    - Pollution

    - Human health

    - Local culture

    - Indigenous communities

    - Vulnerable groups

    - Gender issues

    - Rural livelihoods

    - Other

  • What frameworks are there for development and poverty reduction which are beginning to have a perceived and/or real impact?



This section is based on a presentation by Stephen Bass of IIED on analysing nssds made at the First Planning Workshop in Arusha (April 2000) and Supplementary First Planning Workshop in London (May 2000). The presentation was based on IIED’s experience of participatory policy analysis in many countries, and specifically on approaches tested in the 1999-2000 review of Pakistan’s NCS.

Analysis of past and current strategies can be used for various purposes, e.g.:

  • To audit process(es), performance and outcomes to provide a basis for review, learning, monitoring and evaluation;

  • To inform the better design of future (next generation) strategies;

  • For comparison between strategies and with experience elsewhere;

  • To provide baseline information for future reviews; and

  • To identify key issues for debate amongst stakeholders.

The methods/approaches described in this section can be used, as appropriate, during the status reviews and/or dialogues. Lead organisations/teams will be able to select those methods most appropriate to their needs.

3.1    Some principles for analysis

Experience shows that strategy analysis is most effective if:

  • It is undertaken in a participatory manner – to encourage wide ownership and to obtain information that might otherwise remain ‘hidden’;

  • Alternatively, analysis by an independent body might be more acceptable, in initial stages or where there are areas of contention;

  • It looks both backwards (at what has happened to see what has worked well and less well and why) and forwards (to identify how current and future nssd approaches can be strengthened);

  • It builds on existing information and experiences;

  • It focuses on processes and impacts as well as inputs/outputs;

  • Analyses are commissioned or agreed/endorsed at the highest level (i.e. by key government ministries) – to ensure that the results are agreed to be needed, are anticipated and are likely to be used;

  • A Steering Committee is involved in agreeing the scope of analysis and in overseeing the process so as to ensure inputs are obtained from a broad range of perspectives and the results are verified;

  • There is a secretariat or coordinating team to coordinate the process (but not necessarily to undertake the analyses).

3.2 Framework for analyses

It has been found useful to organise the analysis of nssds according to five important themes: context, actors, integrating institutions and initiatives, processes, and impacts of strategies. Table 3.1 suggests some of the issues/aspects which could be examined under these themes. Many of the categories and key issues listed in the section 2 can be related to these themes and can be drawn upon in customising a framework for analysis and debate in individual countries.

Table 3.1: Analytical themes

  • Social
  • Political
  • Institutional
  • Legal
  • Economic/ market
  • Physical
  • Historical
  • Government
  • Civil society
  • Private
  • International



    Their motivation, powers, and capability for sustainable development

  • Informal 

  • policy communities
  • Formal 

  • cross-sector institutions
  • Cross-sector initiatives e.g. Nssd, PRSP, CDF – national or local
  • Information management
  • Communications
  • Participation
  • Prioritising
  • Investment
  • Coordination mechanisms
  • Capacity- building
  • Empowerment
  • Learning
  • Ecological
  • Economic
  • Social
  • Health
  • Etc.

Analysing and debating issues under these five themes will be important during both the status reviews and dialogues. However, analysis of the context, actors and integrating institutions and initiatives will be particularly key elements of the status review and best undertaken by the lead team (or by consultants) through literature review, research, and interviews with key informants and institutions that have been involved in the development and/or implementation of strategies and other stakeholders.

By comparison, analysing/assessing the processes and strategy impacts will be particularly key aspects of the dialogues with stakeholders during meetings, group sessions and workshops/seminars.

The impacts of nssds are most likely to result from the processes employed in their development and implementation. Table 3.2 illustrates how assessments of impacts might be integrated with assessments of processes. In some instances, a ‘process’ assessment might be the most practical – the issue then is to ensure some thought is given to the emerging or potential impacts of those processes. In other instances, stakeholders might point to significant on-the-ground impacts. The issue then is to think through which processes were key in leading up to those impacts, and whether those impacts were connected to any strategy.

Thus, it is important to note that this table is shown for illustrative purposes only - it is not intended to suggest that such a rigid matrix should be employed and completed in a ritualistic way. Rather, it provides a framework for organising the compilation of nssd analysis.

Table 3.2: Linking Impacts with Processes

Impacts (examples):



Biodiversity conserved
Ecological processes protected
Poverty alleviated
Environmental health improved
Economic efficiency improved
Information management           
Capacity building          


3.3 Getting started and scope of analysis

The choice of how to proceed will be determined by the existence/absence of strategies (whatever their nature, nssd, conservation strategy, environmental action plan, PRSP, etc) and for how long they have been in existence.

Where a strategy or several strategies exist:

  • If the strategy is recent, it may be best to focus on the actors involved and the quality of the processes being followed to bring actors together (‘policy communities’) to move towards sustainable development. It may be too soon to assess any impacts.

  • If a strategy is many years old, then it will be possible to also assess the impacts, changes in the context and if integration has improved.

Where there is no distinct strategy, or if existing strategies are defunct, ignored or were never implemented:

  • Identify integrating initiatives and processes that have led to good impacts, and that could provide lessons that could be built upon in designing or initiating a future strategy.

3.4 Assessing Context and Impact

This will help to explore the dynamics that determine the ability of a strategy to induce or respond to change. Various approaches can be followed:

  • Review of existing information – to be found in a range of documents and sources such as state of environment reports, in databases, policy/programme reviews, participatory assessments, etc.

  • Focus group discussions, e.g. 1-day meetings with interest groups such as government departments, business owners, investors, community groups, NGOs, donors (in sample geographical areas) to discuss such issues as:

  • - changes in popularity of or support for sustainable development policies and initiatives

    - major trends such as globalisation, decentralisation, regional affairs, etc, that may be new or more significant since the strategy was formulated.

    - examples of success in the transition to sustainable development, i.e. impacts

    - examples in which changed approaches key to sustainable development have been

    integrated into mainstream decision-making (e.g. environment issues

    taken into account in key economic decision-making; more participatory planning)

    - the initiatives and processes which led to such successes and ‘mainstreaming’

    [Note: such examples will help to develop indicators of sustainable development, because they will reveal the kinds of things which stakeholders have been monitoring – directly or indirectly – in relation to changes they believe are significant]

3.5 Assessing actors

This will reveal who are the main ‘drivers’ of sustainable development, who is resistant to change, who has been left out of strategy processes that could make a useful contribution, etc. We need to be able to assess whether the strategy is still in a ‘supply-push’ phase or if it is dealing with stakeholder ‘demand pull’. Methods include:

  • Nssd stakeholder analysis (see Box 3.1)can provide important information on:

  • - the motivations and interests of actors

    – the means they use to secure their interests (e.g. rights, responsibilities, relations)

    - the pressures on them to change and the constraints to making changes (e.g.


  • Power analysis – involves ‘mapping’ the influenceof stakeholders in making decisions about the nssd (and sustainable development more generally). Power analysis is best started and completed within focus groups with the details provided through interviews.


    Figure 3.1 provides an example of power analysis for forestry policy in Pakistan; noting which groups have the closest influence on policy decisions, and their roles in this.


Box 3.1: Nssd stakeholder analysis

Stakeholder analysis involves the identification of the key stakeholders in the development and/or implementation of a strategy, an assessment of their interests, and the ways in which these interests affect the riskiness and viability of the strategy. The stakeholders are the persons, groups or institutions with interests in a project or – in the case of strategies – processes.

Primary stakeholders are those ultimately likely to be affected, either positively (beneficiaries) or negatively (e.g. those involuntarily resettled). They can be categorised according to gender, social or income classes, occupational or service use groups, and these categories may overlap in many activities (e.g. minor forest users and ethnic minorities). 

Secondary stakeholders are the intermediaries in the process (e.g. funding, implementing, monitoring and advocacy organisations, NGOs, private sector organisations, politicians, local leaders). Also included are groups often marginalised from decision-making processes (e.g. the old and the poor, women, children, and itinerant groups such as pastoralists) – some of these may also be considered as primary stakeholders. Some key individuals will have personal interests as well as formal institutional objectives (e.g. heads of departments or agencies). There may be some people who fall into both categories, as when civil servants try to acquire land in a new scheme.

Stakeholder analysis, undertaken at the beginning of a process or activity can help to: 

  • Draw out, at an early stage, the interests of stakeholders in relation to problems/issues which the process or activity is seeking to address;
  • Identify conflicts of interests (actual or potential) between stakeholders which will influence the riskiness of the initiative before efforts (or funds) are committed;
  • Identify relations between stakeholders which can be built upon, and may enable coalitions of sponsorship, ownership and cooperation;
  • Assess the appropriate type of participation by different stakeholders and the role(s) each might play, at successive stages of the development and implementation of an initiative.
There are several steps in stakeholder analysis. They might begin as a desk exercise, but should open out to include participatory approaches: 
  • Drawing up a stakeholder table – listing the stakeholders (primary and secondary) and identifying their interests (overt and hidden). Each stakeholder may have several interests - in relation to the problems being addressed by the project or process.;
  • Developing a matrix to ‘map’ each stakeholder’s importance to the success of the process and their relative power/influence (see Figure 3.5) and indicating what priority should be given to meeting their interests; 
  • Identifying risks and assumptions which will affect the design and success of any actions, e.g. what is the assumed role or response of key stakeholders if a policy, plan or project is to be successful?, Are these roles plausible and realistic? What negative responses might be expected given the interests of particular stakeholders? How probable are they, and what impact would these have on the activity?
  • Identifying appropriate stakeholder participation, e.g. partnership in the case of stakeholders with high importance and influence, consult or inform those with high influence but with low importance.


Figure 3.1: Power analysis: influence of forest policy in Pakistan


3.6 Assessing integrating institutions and initiatives

This will help provide information on the ‘institutional landscape’ in the country and how it is evolving. It will also indicate which initiatives form useful links and fill institutional gaps. Methods include:

  • Institutional mapping, e.g

    • Venn diagram showing links between actors, e.g. informal ‘policy communities’, formal nssd committees’

    • Arrows describing relations (indicating information flows, joint decisions, alliances, conflicts, joint work, etc.)

    • If there are several strategies (e.g. Vision 2020, Local Agenda 21, PRSP), diagrams can be made for each and then compared – this may suggest how they can be rationalised/linked.

    • It is again best to start and complete the process in focus group exercise and add the details through interviews.

    • Figure 3.2 provides an example of an institutional map from the Pakistan National Conservation Strategy

Figure 3.2: Institutional map of entities involved i
n the Pakistan NCS

  Click to view larger image

(click on the image view a full-size version in Acrobat PDF format)

3.7 Assessing sustainable development processes

The following methods (Table 3.1) can help to assess the quality and extent of processes leading to sustainable development. Assessors must be open to the variety of sources of such processes. For example, whilst an nssd might have a formal communications programme, changes in awareness about sustainable development might actually result from other processes such as participation in meetings, or from formal communications programmes that are not connected to the strategy. However, there will always be a problem of establishing links between specific processes and impacts: hence the need to consult with many people to build up the picture, and to assess broad changes over time.

Table 3.1: Methods for assessing sustainable development processes



Communications and awareness

Market research/polls with the public, to assess changing awareness of SD issues; review media/curricula for SD contents; interviews on influence of Nssd documents/activities

Participation in sustainable development debate and action

Analyse committees/decisions; sample interviews on changes in representation, transparency, accountability, political commitment – ask ‘whose strategy is it?’ to ascertain ‘ownership’

Prioritising goals

Analyse shifts in decisions of key bodies during the strategy period

Investment in sustainable development

Analyse government plans, allocations & disbursement; interview business sector people on spontaneous investment


Analyse recent policies and programmes for sustainable development indicators, and coherence between them, and how this has changed over time.

Interview on quality of Nssd process management – its coherence, pacing, adaptability, etc

Capacity building

Interviews on changes in attitude and skills connected to training/technology


Review decentralisation; interview stakeholders

Information and learning

Assess policy, planning, management and monitoring ssystems used by key bodies for evidence of changing demand/use of information/indicators; quality and regularity of updates


NSSD.net is currently under construction to provide improved service. Please bear with us and check back for updates.

© NSSD 2003  
NSSD.net Home
Top of Page