Planning multistakeholder collaboration for highly skilled internationals’ employment

In this series of posts, we share our insights on how to facilitate multistakeholder collaboration – in particular collaboration related to enhancing highly skilled internationals’ position in the Finnish labour market. This first post focuses on what to consider before a co-creation process begins.

The insights are based on our recent experience of planning and organising three co-creation processes tackling the issues of recruitment of highly skilled internationals, impactful employment and entrepreneurship services, and inclusive workplaces.

A lot of the work is done before anything happens

When you are trying to bring together different kinds of stakeholders to solve issues related to highly skilled internationals, prepare to use a lot of time and effort for the preparation phase.

Before collaboration begins, there should be some understanding of who is initiating the process and inviting people to it and who will facilitate the process. In multistakeholder collaboration different actors can have different expectations, views, experiences that often it is not enough to just bring people together and hope for the best. Rather, we encourage you to think about how the collaboration process can be facilitated. That is, who is the fairly neutral person or a group of people in charge of guiding the participants through the process and easing their way through it?

Set goals and plan a process to make participation worthwhile

When planning a multistakeholder collaboration, start with at least a vague idea of what issue you are trying to solve through collaboration and what the goals of the process are. These be refined later with the participants.

When you know what you want reach with the collaboration, plan a process that makes participation meaningful for the different stakeholders.

Screenshot of HIWE project's co-creation process's exercises on Miro
Screenshot of HIWE project’s co-creation process’s exercises on Miro

We are firm believers in planning a process that leads to something that is worthwhile for its participants, but also leaving the process open enough to give space for the participants.

Be strategic about recruitment and make people feel valued

When you have an idea of what you want to do, start mapping out who the organisations and individuals are who can actually make a difference in the matter. That is, identify the main stakeholders.

Then, invite them to join the process. Whether you choose open calls or personal invitations (or a mixture of them, as we did), make sure you invite people in a way that makes them feel that they are the right people to tackle the issue at hand.

This should go without saying, but we’re going to say it anyway. If you are organizing any kind of collaboration that has to do with internationals in Finland, make sure you have them involved. And avoid tokenistic involvement where you involve someone just so that you can say you’ve involved that stakeholder – make sure you actually listen to all the stakeholders!

Manage expectations

The more diverse the stakeholders that will join the collaboration, the more diverse their knowledge, experience, and expectations are.  Try to align the initiator’s, facilitator’s and participants’ expectations for the process. This doesn’t mean that you expect people to be unanimous about the content of the collaboration. It’s more about helping people have similar expectations for what kinds of outcomes the collaboration will produce: be it engaging in fruitful dialogue and enhancing understanding between stakeholders or making small- or large-scale changes to a common issue.

Managing expectations is also about making sure participants can be prepared. Is it enough if they just show up to a workshop or answer a simple survey? Or do you need them to really use their expertise and time before or during the process? Communicate this to the participants.

From preparation to execution

Whilst recruiting participants and planning a process do take time and effort, one shouldn’t get stuck in that stage. If you plan things too carefully, it eats away the agency of the participants: how could they have a say in how the process unfolds if everything is already decided and the process is too rigid to allow for unexpected changes?

In the next blog post, we’ll share our insights on what to consider during a multistakeholder process.

Author: Piritta Parkkari, University of Eastern Finland