This article explores the effects of stakeholder conflicts on community development. In particular, it analyzes the negative repercussions these conflicts have on projects drawing on primary research in Kenyase, one of the major mining communities in Ghana where community development processes are more structured. Using qualitative research methods, the research sought evidence of the negative effects stakeholder conflicts have on projects. This study revealed that financial and technical investments without adequate social capital have the potential of retarding community development projects. It was therefore recommended that project managers pay attention to stakeholder relationships in project initiation, design, and implementation.
- stakeholder conflict
- community development
- conflict resolution
Conflict is ubiquitous in human relationships because it naturally results from diversity in goals, needs and ways of thinking, and competition (Gare & Feldman, 2009). As such, project design and implementation at the local community level are fraught with problems and conflict. According to Gare and Feldman (2009), it is a widely held view that the stakeholder groups of community development projects try to influence the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of community development projects. When this happens, it often results in conflicts and controversies (Gare & Feldman, 2009). Several community development projects have faced problems such as complicated decision-making processes, time delays, and cost overruns due to stakeholder conflicts (Ismodes, 1997). For instance, the 31.5 billion cedis market and lorry park projects in Kenyase which were supposed to start in mid-2011 have to date not started due to stakeholder conflict (Government of Ghana, 2013).
Several technically and economically well-planned projects have failed due to conflicting stakeholder interests. Stakeholders end up fighting among themselves, resulting in many projects not achieving their set targets or, in some worse case scenarios, being abandoned in midstream (Field, 1997). Despite the fact that there are apparent effects of stakeholder conflicts on community development projects in Ghana, these effects are not well defined by evidence. In fact, few studies on the subject as it relates to Ghana have been found. For instance, Carson et al. (2005) studied the achievement of public–private partnerships (PPPs), whereas Tonah (2007) examined the nature of resource-use conflict in Volta basin. The issue is that there may be stakeholder conflicts in community development processes, though it remains unclear what effects these conflicts have on community development projects. To comprehensively understand the need to solve any problem, an awareness of its effects is very important. It is therefore against this background that this study sought to explore the effects of interrelationship among stakeholders on community development projects in Kenyase.
The relationships we have or don’t have will determine how far we get to go together. (African proverb)
Few African studies have attempted to rigorously examine the impact of stakeholder interrelationship on community development projects. As a result, most of the studies reviewed under this section are non-African. The existing non-African studies were conducted in the field of project management other than community development (Alesina & La Ferrara, 2000; Isham & Kähkönen, 2002; Krishna & Uphoff, 1999; Satyajit, Guin, & Dash, 2011; Adamson & Bromiley, 2008). Quantitative and qualitative methodologies have been both applied in these studies. Generally, most of the studies found that the greater the conflict, the more likely a project would fail.
A survey conducted by Satyajit et al. (2011) on the Indian steel industry examined key antecedent variables that affect buyers’ relationship continuity intention and measured the relative importance of these key antecedent variables. After interviewing 137 buyers, they found trust between parties to be the bedrock of effective communication and quality relationships. In relationships, more especially customer–supplier relationships, trust is a key variable that determines the sustainability of such relationships. Thus, the economic and behavioral antecedents of trust must be considered in relationship building (Satyajit et al., 2011). Task performance of employees, organizational commitment, and behavior among other things also contribute greatly to the development of a more strategic alliance. Thus, trust as a key component of strategic alliance is formed through suppliers’ relational behavior. In addition to trust, Satyajit et al. found that factors such as imbalance of power, communication between parties, stakes in the relationship, management’s reputation, and age of the dyad also determine stakeholders’ intention of relation continuity.
In community development, the relationship is often geared toward creating a common pool of resources for the citizenry and community organizations. Indeed, common-pool resource (CPR) management presents “a collective-action dilemma: a situation in which mutual co-operation is collectively rational for the group as a whole, but individual co-operation is not necessarily individually rational for each member” (Dayton-Johnson & Bardhan, 2002, p. 1). Due to the irrationality in individual cooperation as postulated by Mansuri and Rao (2003), ensuring a partnership relationship among stakeholders may be very difficult. Each stakeholder may seek to champion his or her interests, thereby resulting in conflict situations which some authors consider to present both a challenge and a true opportunity for every stakeholder. While conflict can be uncomfortable, it is not unhealthy, nor is it necessarily bad. Conflict is a potentially positive force for change (Burton, 1990; Wieviorka, 2013).
Using a two-player noncooperative model of conservation of a CPR in a survey, Dayton-Johnson and Bardhan (1998) studied the effects of asset inequality on cooperation within a group. Their study found that the relationship between inequality and collective action is not necessarily monotonic because at very low and very high levels of inequality, collaboration is possible. Communities with high levels of inequality may ensure collaboration through intimidation and some level of force from the key players. Without some level of coercion, it may be extremely difficult to ensure partnership links among all the stakeholders. Although we concede that some level of coercion ensures that people collaborate, we insist that from the perspective of the coerced or intimidated coercion leads to compliance or subjection rather than collaboration.
Also, in their examination of nine case studies of “Communities First Partnerships Programme” in Adamson and Bromiley (2008) seek to provide insight into the opportunities for community empowerment and potential influence of the community over service providers both from outside and within the community. They produced nine case studies of the “Communities First Partnership Programme” through 50 interviews with stakeholders including 20 community members. They used community-led review events in each case study area to help explore the citizens’ experiences of participation in the program. They found in their study that the quality of stakeholder relationship plays a significant role in the program’s ability to empower the members of the community as well as create an atmosphere for them to be influential over service provision. They further found that the availability of partnership structures within the communities did not in themselves promote community empowerment. They, however, reechoed the importance of the working practices of the partnership. It was concluded that stakeholder partnership or collaboration is a product of the stakeholders’ aspiration for the transformation of life in the community. Impliedly, partnership emerges whenever stakeholders perceive the change effort and their involvement to be crucial to ensuring a positive change.
Alesina and La Ferrara (2000) examined survey data on group membership in the United States to ascertain the role of heterogeneity both in terms of income and race or ethnicity on participation. They used questions regarding respondents’ membership in groups in the community and their responses to construct their dependent variables and information about the individuals’ attitudes to construct proxies for their parameters of “participation aversion.” They concluded that citizens’ level of participation in community development activities has a positive relationship with trust. That is, the citizens’ level of involvement in community development activities and processes determines whether they will develop trust and collaborate in the processes. The inclination to collaborate and effectively participate in community development activities is largely influenced by individual and group characteristics and degree of heterogeneity of the community. Although we agree that diversity in community development process is valuable, we maintain that fair representation of the different stakeholder groups in the diversification process has the potential of ensuring that all stakeholders collaborate.
Krishna and Uphoff’s (1999) study on the causes and effects of stakeholder relationships found that an index of social capital variables has a consistent and positive relationship with the development outcomes in Rajasthan. They further found that political competition among the various stakeholders as well as their literacy level have a strong relationship with the stakeholders’ level of involvement in cooperative development activities. They concluded, however, that communities with low levels of social capital were not less likely to act collectively than those with high levels of social capital. Our own view is that literacy level should not be a yardstick for measuring or determining who gets involved in community development projects. Neoliberalism and Western values are apparently the major tools used to exclude most of the stakeholders from the community development process in the developing world. Although we concede that in this era and age, literacy is important, we maintain that the neoliberal policies and structures governing community development processes more often than not put the local people and stakeholders at a disadvantage. Despite their level of illiteracy, they have insight into the problems and needs of their communities; hence, their involvement in the decision-making process would go a long way to ensure that the felt needs of every category of people within the communities are factored into any initiative.
Isham and Kähkönen’s (2002) mixed-method study on the assessment of the effects of participation and social capital on community-based water projects in Sri Lanka and India found collaborative relationships to be vital in irrigation management. It was found that a collaborative relationship is likely to be established among stakeholders of irrigation projects when the collective demand for the type and level of project or services is ensured. They further found that the level of collective demand for projects is more likely to be expressed clearly when the stakeholders work collaboratively. The two key variables identified to ensure this collaboration include the accountability of leaders and all stakeholders having a voice in the decision-making process. They concluded that projects are more likely to succeed in communities with cohesive community groups and regular civic activities. It can be deduced from this that increased investment in social mobilization may be crucial in ensuring the success and sustainability of community development projects. We agree that increased investment in social mobilization is important in warranting that community development projects succeed. This is not to say that technical and financial investments have no space in guaranteeing the success and sustainability of community development projects.
Grootaert’s (1999) study also found that heterogeneity in group memberships had a negative effect on collective action in Indonesia. That is, an internally homogeneous group (or community) has an element of trust among members and as a result works collaboratively. But the negative part of homogeneity, as found in the study, is members’ inability to gain from exchanging of information, because they may have similar information, ideas, and skills. Yiu and Cheung (2004) in their qualitative study on dispute sources of construction mediation also ranked human behaviors such as parties’ expectations and interparties’ problems as the significant sources of conflict among stakeholders.
A survey in Tanzania by Mnaranara (2010) also found that community development processes are burdened with formidable constraints that stem from the differences in stakeholder interests. Unless such conflicting interests and rivalries are managed properly, the benefits of community development may not be achieved (Mnaranara, 2010). Sen’s (2000) study found that lack of appropriate partnership and trust as well as poor coordination of efforts of the various stakeholders have negative repercussions on the total development of the community. Sen’s (2000) and Putnam’s (1993) works offer authoritative mechanism in reshaping stakeholder interaction to ensure development. In short, they claimed that heavy investments in physical capital do not automatically lead to development. They are more important in early stages of development, but the lack of emphasis on social capital (stakeholder network) makes these investments fruitless.
In contrast to the findings of Mnaranara (2010), Sen (2000), and Putnam (1993), McClenaghan (2000) found that high level of partnership does not guarantee community development because conflict among the diverse groups and its resolution help in testing ideas and the various components of the project. Without these tests, the project cannot be sustaining. Julian and Perry’s (1967) experimental study of 320 participants in Belgium also found that groups in competitive conditions increased quality and quantity of their output compared with those under cooperative conditions. Woolcock (2001) suggested that conflict provides an opportunity for the identification of weaknesses in project initiatives and existing resources to address those weaknesses.
Time overrun was evident in most of the literature reviewed (Assaf, Al-Khalil, & Al-Hazmi, 1995; Kumaraswamy & Chan, 1998; Maura, Teixeira, & Pires, 2007). Abdullah and Battaineh’s (2002) evaluation of the progress reports of 164 building and 28 highway projects constructed during the period of 1997 to 1999 in Jordan found time and cost overrun to be very extensive. They found that the average actual completion time of road projects exceeded the planned contract duration by about 160.5% and 120.3%, respectively, for that of building projects. Al-Momani’s (2000) quantitative analysis of 130 public projects in Jordan also revealed significant frequencies of time extensions for most of the projects. The study found issues concerning stakeholder engagement among other factors to be the major causes of delays in the projects analyzed. We have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, we agree that stakeholder engagement can lead to time overrun. On the other hand, we still insist that the “how” of the stakeholder engagement determines whether it will lead to time overrun or not.
In recent discussions of the effects of stakeholder engagement on community development projects, some authors have tried to establish the relationship between the coordination of efforts of community development team and project delay. Specifically, Kumaraswamy and Chan’s (1998) study in Hong Kong found lack of communication and poor coordination of efforts of the project team to have a positive relationship with projects’ delay. In addition, Maura et al.’s (2007) survey on cost and time delay in Portugal and Assaf et al.’s (1995) survey on causes of delay in construction projects in Saudi Arabia found a complex relationship between stakeholder conflict and project delay. This notwithstanding, their works move further to add that design errors, slow decision making, lack of commitment from various stakeholders, and complexities within conflict resolution methods employed in the project cycle as a result of lack of partnership among project team contribute greatly to unnecessary delay of projects.
Using case studies of two mining corporations (Newmont Ghana Gold Limited [NGGL] and AngloGold Ashanti) in Ghana, Carson et al. (2005) sought to explore the progress and achievements of PPPs in the extractive sector. Their study found that legitimacy problems, the lack of effective communication and trust between stakeholders; and the lack of community empowerment, representation, and resources to enable the community to participate in decision making often militate against effective partnerships. They further suggested that these constraints can be addressed by specific and carefully planned partnerships.
In addition, Tonah’s (2007) qualitative examination of the key resources in the Middle Volta basin and the nature of resource-use conflicts in the area revealed that conflicts abound among the various interest groups and stakeholders concerning access to and use of key natural resources. He further found differences in interests among stakeholders as the major contributory factor to these conflicts.
Contrariwise, the quantitative study conducted by Maura et al. (2007) on the time and cost overrun in Portugal discovered design errors, client liability, and project specification as the major factors that cause the time and cost overrun. Kululanga, Kuotcha, McCaffer, and Edum-Fotwe’s (2001) survey of Malawian construction contractors’ performance, however, identified technical factors such as errors, defects, and omissions in the contract documents as the major forces that lead to delay in projects undervaluing stakeholders involved in the project and their interactions.
Israngkura Na Ayudhya’s (2011) study in India found that as conflicts delay projects, the cost of development projects unavoidably increases because of the unstable nature of inflation rate. He, however, recommended that project managers put in place appropriate measures to address such conflicts as well as provide realistic costing backed up by a full risk analysis because stakeholder conflict is not the only factor that leads to budget overrun.
Aside from delay in projects, Yasmi, Anshari, Komarudin, and Alqadri (2006) conducted a qualitative study on stakeholder conflicts and forest decentralization policies in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, and found stakeholder conflict to be caused by lack of trust among stakeholders and the mismanagement of the forest. They further found that lack of accountability and the wide spread of corruption among coordinators from the community lead to conflicts. They concluded that the inability of the stakeholders to cope with or address the conflicts appropriately explained their negative consequences.
This review draws out two prominent themes relating to community development and stakeholder interactions with their embryonic effects on community development projects. It is evident from the literature review that there are few studies conducted on the effects of stakeholder conflict on community development projects. None of these studies considered the potentials of stakeholder relationship on community development projects in Africa and tropical countries, thus researching on this subject in Ghana, a country from Africa is necessary. In addition, almost all the studies reviewed here adopted a quantitative research methodology in their investigation; hence, the adoption of a qualitative method is a step in the right direction. There is no doubt that a gap exists in the literature that needs to be filled. Therefore, the main objective of this study is to explore the negative effects of stakeholder conflict on community development projects in Kenyase using a qualitative research method.
The study was carried out in the Kenyase community in the Asutifi District of the Brong-Ahafo Region of Ghana, which is located in the south-eastern part of the Brong-Ahafo Region. The Kenyase community has an estimated population of 15,011 (projected from the 2000 Population and Housing Census) in 2012 (Ghana Statistical Service [GSS], 2012). The most predominant economic activity in this community is farming. Currently, gold is being mined in this community by NGGL, one of the biggest mining companies in the world. Community-based organizations (CBOs) in the community include “Omanbotantim1,” Queens’ club, Youth groups, Ahafo Youth Network, Graduate Students Association of Kenyase, and women’s groups, among others. Action Aid is the only international nongovernmental organization (INGO) working in the community. Locally based nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) such as Wassa Association of Communities Affected by Mining (WACAM) and Global Alliance for Development Foundation operate in the Kenyase community. With respect to community development, these CBOs, NGOs, INGOs, traditional leaders, and the district assembly form the key stakeholders in the Kenyase community. The choice of the study area is guided by the stakeholder controversies concerning the utilization of the 31.5 billion cedis slated for community development projects in Kenyase which engulfed the Ghanaian media. Apart from these controversies, our experience in the Kenyase community shows that the community has witnessed several stakeholder controversies in its quest to embark on community development projects, hence our hope that the study area is worth choosing to help in achieving the objectives of the study.
The study used an exploratory research design aimed at identifying the negative effects of stakeholder conflicts on community development in Kenyase. The study used qualitative research methods which provide a window through which we see and comment on significant social issues (Maxwell, 2005). According to Cresswell (1998), qualitative research is an inquiry process of understanding based on distinct methodological traditions of inquiry that explores a social or human problem. The use of the qualitative method therefore provided the opportunity to capture the voices of the participants as it reflects how they make sense and meaning of their lived experiences. This method helped us find answers to in-depth and rich experiences of stakeholders in the community development landscape of Kenyase.
The sample size for the study was 22 persons. The 22 respondents included six key informants—officials working in NGOs and CBOs, the community leaders, the District Chief Executive (DCE), chiefs, the Member of Parliament (MP), and government departments in Kenyase—and 16 focus group discussants. In this study, the homogeneity (commonness in terms of characteristics of the research participants) of the sample frame and the methodology were the main criteria that guided the researchers’ choice of the sample size. The researchers made use of the purposive sampling technique to select the respondents for the study.
Data for this study were derived from two sources—primary and secondary sources. The main secondary source of data for this study was the Newmont Ahafo Development Foundation (NADeF) report. The primary sources of data for the study comprised qualitative tools of data collection. The primary data comprised field data gathered from respondents. The primary data were collected by means of semistructured interviews and focus group discussions.
The data were transcribed and typed (from interviews notes) into word processing documents. The researcher then carefully read the transcribed data, line by line, and divided the data into meaningful analytical units (i.e., segmenting the data). When meaningful segments were located, they were coded. The coding was done by marking the segments of data with symbols, descriptive words, or category names. During coding, the researcher kept a master list of all the codes that were developed and used in the study. After coding, the data were thematically analyzed based on the objective of the study.
How do stakeholder conflicts affect community development projects? In response to this question, participants disclosed that frequent conflict among stakeholders negatively affects community development projects in the Kenyase community. Participants identified a number of effects of conflict or competition among stakeholders which includes retardation of the total development of the community, delay in project design and implementation, and cost overrun.
According to participants, conflict or competition among stakeholders has greatly retarded the total development of the community. A respondent during an interview indicated that “hmmmm, in this community is only the NADeF scholarship that was unanimously accepted by all of us because we all believe in what education can offer to our children . . .” (Mr. M). Another respondent reechoed this by indicating,
My son as I speak to you now, it is only the Scholarship, the durbar grounds, the chief’s palace and the Roman Catholic Primary School block that we can boast of. We have money at NADeF for the staff to pay themselves from its interest but we cannot use them because we cannot agree on projects. Hmmmmm the case of K1 [Kenyase number 1] is more pathetic . . . (Mr. A).
To buttress this point, participants showed a document of funding allocations to development projects in the community from 2007 to 2009 as shown in Table 1.
As depicted in Table 1, the total funds allocated to the Kenyase community from 2007 to 2009 were 1,695,476.52 Ghana cedis and out of this amount, only 100,906 Ghana cedis representing 5.95% have been used for developmental purposes. Aside from this, it is worth mentioning that the compensation (31.5 billion cedis excluding interest) paid by NGGL to the community is still sitting in the Ghana Commercial Bank because of disagreement over its use.
Another negative effect of conflict among stakeholders that participants talked about is delay in project design and implementation. For example, the respondents lamented about the delay in the design of the proposed nursing training and technical school which have been approved by both the District Assembly and NADeF but left with Kenyase Number 1 and Number 2 to come into a partnership agreement. The district community development officer was worried that “the technical school project of the community has been delayed since 2010 because the two communities [Kenyase 1 and 2] inability to settle on just a location.” Furthermore, it emerged in a focus group discussion that “the lawsuit concerning the utilization of the 31.5 billion old cedis has also led to the delay of the project the assembly and the ministry of Environment and Science in conjunction with the community members intended to put up.”
Another respondent stated,
We often face delays in submission of project proposals due to conflicts. At times the community submits incomplete documentations. For instance, some proposals are not accompanied with appropriate budgets, implementation plans, commitment/approval letters from the District Assembly among others hence leading to delay in project recommendations by the Project Committee and approvals by the Board of Trustees. (An official of NADeF)
Participants also indicated that stakeholder conflict often leads to increased costs of development projects. As projects delay or are drawn back due to disagreements among the various actors, the cost of project items continues to rise, hence making it difficult for project team to most often work within the budget. This was evident when a NADeF official claimed,
Time and cost overrun can be a consequence of lack of partnership among the various stakeholders. Here you can receive a proposal today with a budget of “X” amount but the following day these same SDC will come and redraw this proposal because of certain disagreements among the community members concerning the project. After some days and months at times this same proposal will be sent back with different budget which are always more than the initial budget. My brother, time and the frequent increase in products become the major issues to battle with . . .
A key finding is the fact that there are apparent negative effects of stakeholder conflict on community development projects in the Kenyase community. The effect of stakeholder conflict revealed by the study includes the retardation of the total development of the community, potential of delaying community development projects and leading to project cost overrun. This finding supports Sen’s (2000) finding that lack of appropriate partnership affects the efficiency of society. Sen’s (2000) and Putnam’s (1993) works offer authoritative mechanism in reshaping stakeholder interaction to ensure development. In short, they claimed that heavy investments in physical capital do not automatically lead to development, instead they are more important in early stages of development, but lack of emphasis on social capital (stakeholder network) makes these investments fruitless. Woolcock (2001) contradicted this finding when he posited that stakeholder conflict does not necessarily retard the development of communities but rather provides an opportunity for the identification of weaknesses in project initiatives and existing resources to address them.
The findings here offer empirical support for the need to place much emphasis on stakeholder relationship in community development process. This study found that although financial investments have a link with the success of community development initiatives, the relationship among the various actors and their ability to have a common or shared vision, goal, or interests are the major preconditions to project success.
In general, the findings from this study provide an overall picture of the effects conflicting stakeholder relationships have on community development initiatives. From the study, the research found that stakeholder conflict and relationship, which most project managers tend to neglect, are more likely to adversely affect the success of projects. In other words, strengthening the relationship through the translation of interest into a common goal is very essential and requires the project management’s ability to (re)define interests of human and nonhuman elements in the community consistent with those of the initiative. It is, therefore, recommended that project managers pay much attention to stakeholder relationship. That is, project managers should invest in social mobilization alongside financial and technical investments to ensure the success of community development projects. Also, it is found that conflict prevention and management programs should be structured into the community development process in Kenyase to help minimize potential stakeholder conflict and disputes. The conflict prevention and management programs should take the form of education, “devil’s” advocacy and the application of dialectic method. When stakeholders are provided with an adequately structured conflict management and prevention strategies, they are likely to develop appropriate lifestyles and build effective alliances during community development processes.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.
Funding The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: The author(s) received financial support for the research from Carnegie Next Generation of Academics in Africa Project.
↵1. One of the influential nongovernmental organizations in the Kenyase community.
- © The Author(s) 2016
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Charles Gyan is a PhD student at Wilfrid Laurier University. He has strong theoretical and practical knowledge of community development, diversity, and social justice acquired through his engagement with various nongovernmental and international non-governmental organizations in different parts of the world. His research interests are community development, social policy, and social justice.
Abena Oforiwaa Ampomah is a lecturer at the Department of Social Work, University of Ghana. Her primary focus of research is on school social work.