In multi-stakeholder networks, actors from civil society, business and governmental institutions come together in order to find a common solution to a problem that affects all of them. Problems approached by such networks often affect people across national boundaries, tend to be very complex and are not sufficiently understood. In multi-stakeholder networks, information concerning a problem is gathered from different sources, learning takes place, conflicts between participants are addressed and cooperation is sought. Corporations are key actors in many networks, because the problems addressed are frequently related to business activities. The aim of this article is to conceptualise multi-stakeholder networks by proposing a problem-centred stakeholder definition. From an analysis of several case studies, a life cycle model is deduced that distinguishes seven phases: initiation, acquaintance, first and second agreement, implementation, consolidation and institutionalisation.