Soliciting Information From Your Stakeholder

Learning to solicit information from your stakeholder is a key step in successfully solving your stakeholder’s problem. What follows is a real proposal — submitted as a Capstone project proposal to the Duke MIDS program. This proposal was eventually chosen and undertaken by a team of MIDS students (which means we actually know how the project turned out).

Your task is to review this proposal as a team, then detail questions you might ask in your first meeting with the stakeholder.

Please be as concrete as possible, detailing exactly what you would ask and why. In addition to asking your primary questions, please also detail questions that you would also ask if you received certain answers to your initial questions — in other words, include conditional followup questions.

Stakeholder Project Proposal

In the proposal that follows, College Voting Access is a fake name given to a coalition of non-profit voting rights groups and a for-profit company’s long-standing non-profit, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative. The direct stakeholder — the party who submitted this proposal — is the non-profit CSR group supported by a larger for-profit company.

[Real Stakeholder Proposal Begins Here]

A Data Analysis of Voting Access on College Campuses


College Voting Access [not the group’s actual name] is a 2020 partnership […] that supported college students across the country in expanding access to on-campus voting options.

In Summer 2020, College Voting Access launched a student grant program, called the Helping People Vote [also not actual name], to advise 41 student leaders across more than 30 campuses on how to protect or place new early voting sites, new Election Day polling places, ballot drop boxes, and satellite voting offices.

Thanks to the work of these incredible student leaders and their peers, 22 schools in 14 states protected or expanded access to the ballot box ahead of the 2020 election, ensuring that nearly 500k people could more easily cast their votes.


In the 2013 Supreme Court case of Shelby County vs. Holder, the Supreme Court struck down a central provision of the 1965 Voting Rights Act: the requirement for certain states with a history of voter discrimination to “preclear” changes in their election rules with the federal government.

According to a 2019 report by The Leadership Conference, more than 1600 polling places closed since this 2013 decision. This became one of the central data points that led to the creation of the first-of-its-kind Helping People Vote program. While it is likely that a large number of those 1600 closures took place in communities of color, there has been no comprehensive study that shows how and where these closures occurred and no targeted reporting on how the ruling specifically affected students on college campuses.

For this reason, the College Voting Access would like to sponsor a study aimed at understanding the ease (or lack thereof) with which college students can cast their ballots on campuses. In order to better target our research, we plan to narrow our focus to the presence of in-person early voting options, which could include ballot dropboxes and early voting sites.


This study would:

  • Contribute to our coalition’s role as a thought leader in the youth voter access space. By helping to expand on the available voter access data, we will be better equipped to understand the barriers to voting for young people and help address them.

  • Help backup our voter access advocacy priorities & make a case for further support in the field. By providing concrete data surrounding voting options on college campuses, we will be in a good place to shine a brighter light on the magnitude of the problems states face, which could in turn help us achieve our advocacy priorities.

  • Inform how we structure our College Voting Access program in the future. By shaping our understanding of where the greatest needs exist, we can proactively target where we focus our resources for 2022 and beyond, and help other campus groups do the same.

Our Approach

While we would like to work with a leading academic institution to shape the study ahead of its implementation, we hope that this analysis will be both quantitative and qualitative in nature and aimed at answering one key question: To what extent do college students have access to early voting options on their campuses, and does this access differ for students studying on traditional university campuses vs. HBCU/MSI campuses that have primarily minority student bodies?

Other questions to consider are:

  1. How many and which schools across the country have early voting sites and ballot dropboxes on their college campuses?

  2. How many of these early voting sites serve the student population, rather than merely the surrounding community?

  3. How does the presence of these options differ depending on type of school (i.e. HBCU, MSI, Community College, 4-year University), or student demographics?

  4. For those schools that do not have on-campus early voting options, what is the average travel distance to their nearest early voting booth by foot, public transportation, or car?

Our hope is that by studying the overall early voting landscape in 2020 (via a geographically diverse and robust sample size) and conducting a comparative study to show the dichotomy between access on HBCUs/MSIs and other institutions, we can be more targeted in our approach in 2022 to ensure that our help is going to where it is most needed.

[Real Stakeholder Proposal Ends Here]

Your Task

Exercise 1

What do you think is the core problem your stakeholder is seeking to solve? Think of at least two possible problems you think constitute core problems for your stakeholder. Write out questions you would ask them to help you understand which (if either) of these problems constitutes their core problem.

Exercise 2

For each of these potential problems, write out at least one followup question you would ask (depending on how they answered Exercise 1) to help you further understand their priorities.

Exercise 3

Often times the best way to ensure you’re on the same page as a stakeholder is to describe in very concrete terms what you’re thinking of giving them as a deliverable. Non-data scientists often struggle to really understand what a “data science deliverable” looks like, making it hard for them to evaluate whether what you’re thinking of doing would actually be helpful for them.

Propose a deliverable you would give the stakeholder to address one of these problems, describe it in very concrete terms, and make clear how it would help them.