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International Cooperation

Public Participation Guide: Stakeholder Interviews

Interviews with stakeholders are one-to-one conversations about a specific topic or issue. The primary purpose of these interviews is to obtain project-relevant information and elicit stakeholder reactions and suggestions. Stakeholders are likely to have knowledge, wisdom, and insight that can help an agency in its decision process. Stakeholder interviews provide a broad overview of the interviewees’ opinions about a specific topic that may reveal hidden concerns or ideas that would not be expressed in response to a set number of specific questions.


  • Helps identify issues, concerns, and desired agendas
  • Helps target potential participants
  • Elicits ideas for designing a public participation process
  • Provides a good way to introduce agency staff to the community
  • Enhances an agency’s credibility because it demonstrates agency interest in the community and in understanding the community’s concerns
  • Can help defuse potentially confrontational situations
  • Useful for targeting key stakeholders who have specific knowledge about an issue
  • Provides opportunities to obtain an understanding of concerns and issues of key stakeholders
  • Can be used to determine how best to communicate with the public
  • Can be used to determine the best members of consultative committees

Challenges to Consider

  • Can be expensive
  • Can be time consuming
  • Interviewers must engender trust or risk negative responses to the interview format or undermining the credibility of the public participation process
  • Requires skilled interviewers

Principles for Successful Planning

  • Select interviewees according to designated criteria (areas of expertise, representation of groups, geographic location)
  • Arrange times and places for interviewing; better quality information will be forthcoming if the interviewee is in a familiar setting, so it may be easier for the interviewer to go to them
  • Considering providing information to the interviewees prior to the interview (e.g., the general topics that you’ll be talking about with them)
  • Ensure uninterrupted time for at least one hour
  • Check all equipment and take spare tapes, batteries, pens, etc. to avoid any interruptions during the interview
  • Try to transcribe interview notes as soon as possible after the interview, while nuances, body language and asides are still in the interviewer’s memory
  • Prepare a report, including the verbatim interviews, and offer copies to the interviewees

Resources Needed


  • Trained interviewers


  • Note-taking equipment (tape-recorder, notebook, computer).

Planning Time

  • Time needed to identify stakeholders to be interviewed, develop interview guide, and train interviewers

Implementation Time

  • Competently conducting interviews requires time and concentration. A single person can conduct up to four one-hour interviews per day, but that does not include the time required to transcribe interview notes and analyze the findings

Group Size

  • The only limit to the number of persons who can be interviewed is the number of stakeholders


  • Will range depending on the number of interviewees and interviewers

Most relevant participation levels:

  • Involve, Consult, Collaborate

Explore the full Public Participation Guide.


For additional information on EPA's Public Participation Guide, contact:

Shereen Kandil
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Office of International and Tribal Affairs (2650R)
1200 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20460