FIRMA – Stakeholders and institutions





To assist in providing a consistent approach for the analysis of institutions and stakeholder participatory processes, this brief summary seeks to highlight both the distinct differences between these two notions and the nature of their interaction. Formal definitions of stakeholders and institutions are not only complex but are also unlikely to be overly useful, particularly as regional characteristics (for example the scale and nature of the resource allocation issue being addressed) are likely to have a significant impact on precisely who or what is included in any analysis. Consequently, this summary focuses on establishing generic descriptions for each group.





At the broadest level stakeholders can be considered as those individuals or organisations that have an interest or concern in something. With respect to water resources management they are likely to include those that determine, influence or are influenced by any actions relating to the resource in question. Stakeholders can be further classified in terms of their type (governmental, non-governmental etc.), function (policy-setting, operational etc.) and scale (local, national etc.) (Bakker et al., 1999; 2000).





Institutions have been variously described as ‘rules, strategies, paradigms’ or ‘the embodiment of values in regularised patterns of behaviour’ (Pirscoli, 1989). More specifically in the context of water resources they have been defined as ‘those legal, political and administrative structures and processes through which decisions are made’ (Ingram et al., 1984). Within this latter definition are informal procedures used regularly for conflict resolution when more formal structures fail to provide sufficient support or consistency. Institutions can also be further characterised in terms of their scale, ability to evolve and level of interdependency (Bakker et al., 1999; 2000).





Although distinct notions, stakeholders and institutions are mutually dependent, for example stakeholders not only enact institutions but also create and are constrained by them (Bakker et al., 1999; 2000). Consequently, any analysis or simulation must necessarily reflect such interdependencies. A schematic outline of the potential relationship between stakeholders and institutions is presented in Figure 1. For the purpose of illustration, three levels are used to classify the institutions (constitutional, collective choice and operational). Such schematics enable the stakeholders represented at each level enacting (and constrained by) specific institutions to be made explicit. In addition, key players central to the creation or modification of institutions can be identified.







































Key:            - Stakeholder                               Institutions:                    Regulation

OFWAT – financial regulator                                                       Environmental policy

EA – environmental regulator                                                       Consumer values

NGO – non-governmental organisation                                        Planning guidance

LA – local authority                                                                    

WSC – water company

DETR - Government department

CSC - customer service centre


Figure 1.          Institutional and stakeholder interaction.


NOTE:      institutional descriptions do not have to be limited to the type outlined above, an alternative could be functional descriptions where they reflect the creation, implementation or modification of institutions.



Bakker K., Downing T., Garrido A., Giasante C., Iglesias E., del Moral L., Pedregal B. and Riesco P., A framework for institutional analysis. SIRCH Working Paper 3. Ed Bakker K., Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford (1999).


Bakker K., Crook E., Giansante C., van der Grijp N. and Handmer J., Adaptive responses to Hydrological risk: an analysis of stakeholders. SIRCH Working Paper 6. Ed Giansante C., Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford (2000).


Ingram H. M., Mann D.E., Weatherford G.D and Cortner H.J., Guidelines for improved institutional analysis in water resource planning. Water Resources Research, 20(3), 323-334 (1984).


Pirscoli J.Q., Public involvement, conflict management: Means to EQ and social objectives. Journal of Water Resource Planning and Management, 115(1), 31-42 (1989).


Papers relating to the SIRCH project are available on the ECI website: