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Actor Analysis

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Home > Learning Resources > Actor Analysis

The actor analysis gives an overview of the relevant actors (e.g. individuals, groups, organisations) in the city. The actor analysis seeks to identify urban frontrunners, i.e. actors
-    who understand aspects of the urban wicked problems and have ideas on long-term images of the city,
-    who are innovative thinkers or activists in urban development of different types with an explicit or implicit interest in sustainability,
-    who are network brokers when improving their area of influence (e.g. neighborhood, business- network, school) in a sustainable way,
-    who have a genuine and passionate interest in the society and commitment to its sustainability.
A good actor analysis is crucial for Urban Transition Management (UTM) processes as the participants to a large degree determine the success of the transition effort. The outputs of the different steps of the actor analysis can be used at several stages of this transition management process, e.g. to select interviewees for the system analysis, to select participants for the transition arena, and to identify partners to form coalitions in the agenda-formulation stage. 
The actor analysis can also be applied similar to a stakeholder analysis in processes that concern urban planning, governance or other processes that require a comprehensive overview of the relevant actors in the city, with a focus on identifying a heterogeneous group of ‘frontrunning’ actors. 

The actor analysis yields a long-list and a structured short-list of relevant actors in the city. The short-list consists of 10-15 ‘frontrunners’. These can be interviewed for example to inform the systems analysis, or invited to the transition arena process. 

The actor analysis consists of four (partially overlapping) steps to identify a long-list and structured short-list of relevant actors: 1) Actor identification, 2) Actor categorisation and mapping, 3) Actor selection, 4) Actor interviews (and invitation for the transition arena: 10-15 participants). The long-list includes all actors who are affected by or are strongly affecting the issue, have the potential to affect the issue but do not do so at present, who have information, resources and expertise needed about the issue or control or influence implementation instruments, and who have new innovative ideas and initiatives regarding the issue. The long-list is analyzed by categorization as well as by mapping tools. The mapping helps to determine categories of actors that have differing backgrounds, competences, interest profile, interests, or exercise different types of power regarding the issue. It also helps in distinguishing between differing groups and in determining gaps in the representation.
The actors that are representative for different networks and categories (as resulting from the actor categorization & mapping) and comply with the actor requirements of the current phase are selected for the short-list. Candidates on the short list are interviewed. These interviews are input for the system analysis since they bring in several perspectives on the issue and form the basis for a decision on whether to invite the candidate to join the transition arena process or not.

The actor analysis is time-intensive and requires reaching out to a broad number of people who can help to identify the long-list of actors. The short-listed actors need to be interviewed, which requires additional time investment. Preliminary knowledge is not required to execute the actor analysis but it is important to ensure that the long-list comprises all relevant actors, either through own knowledge, research or reaching out to well-connected individuals.  

The actor analysis requires considerable time investments by one or preferably more committed individuals. Additional human resources might become necessary to develop the long-list or short-list and to execute the interviews. Meetings to identify the long-listed and short-listed actors might require meeting rooms, flipcharts, sticky notes and pens. The interviews require a good preparation with appropriate interview questions and they need to be recorded. 

This tool can be used in all modules to obtain an overview of relevant actors with a focus on frontrunners. It can be used as a group assignment in the Urban Transition Management module, in which a group of students conducts an actor analysis.