I recently received a friendly e-mail in German about an English word:
Im Projektmanagement gibt es den Begriff „Stakeholder“. Gemeint sind damit am Projekt beteiligte und/oder vom Projekt betroffenen Menschen. Ein gute und treffende Übersetzung kenne ich nicht. Kenn Sie eine?
Der Ursprung des Wortes im Englischen ist mir klar.
Danke für eine Reaktion. Und vielleicht erklären Sie das Wort mal auf ihrer Webseite.
Projektmanagement · Consulting · Content-Management Systeme
Mr. Gottwald is indeed right, the stakeholder is difficult to translate into German and into Spanish. Wikipedia states about the stakeholder that:
The role of stakeholder is a very old concept in law. A stakeholder was originally a person who temporarily holds money or other property while its owner is being determined. This is, for example, the situation when two persons bet on the outcome of a future event and ask a third, disinterested, neutral person to hold the money (or "stake[s]") that they have wagered (or "staked")). After the event occurs, the stakeholder distributes the stakes to one or both of the original (or other) parties according to the outcome of the event and according to the previously decided conditions.
More recently a very different meaning of the term has become widely used in management. In a business context, a "stakeholder" is a person or organization that has a legitimate interest in a project or entity. The new use of the term arose together with and due to the spread of corporate social responsibility ideas, but there are also utilitarian and traditional business goals that are served by the new meaning of the term (see Stakeholder theory).
On top of that, the stakes the stakeholders hold are an interesting concept in themselves. I will read more about them and then I will come back on the subject. The stakes seem at first glance to be an archetypically capitalist concept, deeply rooted in law, debt, property and responsability. We will see, it looks interesting.
Thanks again, Volker!
Update: About the origin of the term, Mike Clayton writes in his blog that: The OED, incorrectly, I now believe, credits the first use of stakeholder in the business sense that interests us, to Igor Ansoff in 1965. I attribute it, two years earlier, to the Stanford Research Institute, as a play on the words shareholder and stockholder. The word gained most of its power in the mid 1990’s when British Prime Minister Tony Blair described the UK as a ‘Stakeholder Economy.’
I would have guessed the term to be much older. The New Yourk Times has a better explanation.
Change Agents (seem to be a nasty corporate blog, I better quote them properly or I bet they will sue me) write: Mason and Mitroff in their 1981 book, Challenging Strategic Planning Assumptions posited the following source: “The stakeholder concept seems to have emerged initially in the systems analysis work on organizations conducted by researchers at the Tavistock Institute in London. See Rhieman, Eric, Industrial Democracy and Industrial Man (London: Tavistock Institute, 1968) and Fox, Alan, A Sociology of Work in Industry (London: Coller MacMillan Limited, 1971). Pp. 57-68 of the latter book contains a good discussion of the idea and its application to management.”
The Macmillan Dictionary does not seem to like the word at all! That is probably the reason the Change Agents like it.
Update 2: It is notheworthy that there are other meanings of stakeholder which are also difficult to translate. For instance, according to my beloved Wikipedia a stakeholder may be in law, notably gambling law, a third party who temporarily holds money or property while its owner is still being determined.[...] Trustees also often act as stakeholders, holding property until beneficiaries come of age, for example. An "escrow agent" is one kind of trustee who is a stakeholder, usually in a situation where part of the purchase price of property is being held until some condition is satisfied. In legal documents, the escrow agent is often referred to as a "mere stakeholder."
Update 3: Interessenträger and partes interesadas, already suggested in the comments below,seem to be getting the upper hand as a translation for stakeholder, but I feel the time is right to add a picture to this page. Here it goes:
You can find it in higher resolution here.