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Identify users and stakeholders

When designing a policy, product or service, it’s important to understand the people who will directly use it and those that are interested in it. These are your users and stakeholders. The first step is to identify them.

When to do it

This should be one of the first things you do. If you do not have a clear idea who your users are, you should research this as a priority before you make any decisions about your policy, product or service.

How to do it

You should:

  • list all the people and groups who will directly interact with your policy, product or service and those who are interested in it

  • separate your list into groups:

  • those who have an interest are your stakeholders

  • those who directly interact are your users

  • segment your user groups, so that you have a broad understanding of their characteristics – your research and testing should reflect the diversity of your users eg what type of school do they work or study in, where are they located

Try this activity

This activity will help you to identify your users. It will give you a list of users and stakeholders for your work.

Time, space and materials

  • 45 minutes 

  • any space with a wall, sticky notes, paper and pens for a face-to-face event 

  • or for a remote event use a video conference and online whiteboard that will take the place of the wall and enable participants to add and move online ‘sticky notes’

People to include

  • your team and subject matter experts

  • any number of people

  • a facilitator to provide the instructions


The purpose of the activity is to identify users and stakeholders.

  1. Everyone should take some sticky notes and a pen. List all the people that will have an interest in the policy, product or service. They might be people inside or outside the department. Write one person or type of person per sticky note. You have 5 minutes.

  2. Stick the notes to the wall, group together any similar ones and remove any duplicates. You have 10 minutes.

  3. Separate those that will directly interact with or use the policy, product or service from those who are interested. This will create 2 groups – stakeholders and users. If the person is both a stakeholder and a user, then write an extra sticky note with their name. You have 10 minutes.

  4. For the users that you have listed, break down any organisations into individual roles. For example, rather than saying school, say ‘teacher’ or ‘secretary’. You have 10 minutes.

  5. Divide your users into 2 groups, people that will directly interact with your policy, product or service, and people that will benefit from it. You have 10 minutes.

You now have lists of stakeholders and users.


  • aim to identify all kinds of users, not just ‘typical’ users

  • do not just identify the users that you know will be positive about your work, you need to understand all points of view, especially the negative ones

  • your 2 groups of users, those that directly interact and those that benefit, are important – you should understand the needs of all of them, but you might take different approaches to finding evidence about them

Next steps

  • follow up this activity by looking at data about the characteristics of your users and refine your work – a researcher, analyst or subject matter expert might be able to help you

  • consider a follow-up activity to work out how to engage stakeholders in your project – you could try mapping interest and influence on a grid

  • you may need to update your analysis as the scope of your work is refined

Further reading

Find out more about this topic by searching the internet for:

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