Multi Stakeholder Initiatives (MSI)When several 'principalities' want or need to work together
The term ‘Multi Stakeholder Initiative’ (MSI) was coined during the 1992 UN conference in Rio, even though this form of project had existed long before then. What is meant here is the initiation of a transformation project that can only be successful by bundling the competencies and strengths of various independent interest groups.
As a rule, overarching goals are pursued in this process which cannot be decided or implemented by an organization or company on its own. In order to understand the high complexity of such an undertaking, a brief description of a classic transformation project is outlined here:
Multi Stakeholder Initiatives (MSI) can take very different forms and have varying degrees of complexity. A joint venture or a loose partnership between two companies is a comparatively simple constellation, global sustainability initiatives with partners from governments, companies and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are a completely different proposition. Many programs that aim for a climate-neutral city or company will only be able to be implemented meaningfully as an MSI.
The typical stakeholders are the city or municipality, energy suppliers, public transport service providers and larger companies. What all initiatives have in common is that there is no ultimate authority here that can both define the scope for a desired transformation and later make decisions that are binding for all those involved. A suitable legitimation with a governance model must first be created or developed.
There will usually be panels or bodies such as a steering committee as the highest authority for decisions. It is essential that a very good basis of trust is established and maintained here. An advisory board can, for example, take on a non-executive expert role and serve as a ‘communication multiplier’. A project team is staffed with employees from all relevant stakeholders to carry out the project work. The challenge here is that the team members must act and communicate in the area of conflict between the organizational interests of their home organization and the overriding project interests. Possible conflicts arising from this ‘double loyalty’ must be resolved immediately.
For an MSI to be set up correctly from the outset, all economic, political and social interests must be made transparent. A difficult task is also to fill certain leadership roles from among the stakeholders. Who will chair the steering committee? Who will be the project manager? Whoever chooses the obvious solution here and selects the people from the stakeholder group with the largest budget will probably have to face a lot of resistance. Rotation principles, for example, have already proved more effective here. If possible, the entire MSI should be accompanied by neutral moderation and facilitation.