Designing stakeholder consultations for institutional change: a case study from Ghana’s sanitation sector
This article evaluates the stakeholder consultation process that was undertaken to support decision-making for the new sanitation authority to be established in Ghana. This initiative of creating a specialized authority – currently referred to as the National Sanitation Authority (NSA) – emerges from the need to restructure the sector in Ghana, like in many other countries worldwide. From the learning of this study we seek to inform research and practice around the design of stakeholder consultation methods in institutional restructuration contexts. The consultation process gathered views on different aspects of the NSA, including its functions, the administrative level(s) at which it should operate, and its financing. A stakeholder analysis, a series of workshops, and key informant interviews were conducted. A tool was developed to track representativeness of participants involved in the process. Principles of stakeholder engagement developed by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development informed the methodology. This consultation process highlighted the challenges of undertaking sector restructuration where responsibilities are shared between many entities, and with varying levels of interest in the planned reforms. Divergent opinions emerged on the proposed functions of the NSA, some of which represent direct conflicts of interest: for example, setting regulations, developing infrastructure, and financing. Key lessons from the consultation include the need for efficiency when targeting informants through rapid identification of key stakeholders. However, this must be balanced with inclusivity and representativeness, which require continuous tracking of who participates, paired with flexibility to maximize potential for reaching consensus that enables the strengthening of the sanitation sector.