Good solutions with widespread buy-in
We help organisations engage with their stakeholder communities on contentious issues. We strengthen the rigour of the project, manage people’s expectations, provide appropriate reality testing and increase confidence in reaching successful outcomes.
- Ensure the affected community engages well: it is crucial that the information and consultation processes involve all the appropriate people, in productive rather than adversarial processes
- Keep the project cost-effective, by maximising the benefits while managing financial resources responsibly
- Build trust and legitimacy in the eyes of the community, by hearing accurately the themes and issues raised by the community, and reporting them clearly and transparently.
In planning stakeholder engagement sessions, we consciously address the challenges that are likely to arise, including:
- providing adequate periods for information, clarification, and deliberation
- capturing all the “voices”, not just the most vocal, articulate or incensed
- dealing with difficulties arising from literacy, language or cultural differences
- dealing with “unhappy participants”.
In facilitating these sessions, we:
- assist participants to identify the assumptions and interpretations underpinning their views
- use effective and respectful interpersonal communication skills to progress the discussions
- manage participants’ expectations
- identify the barriers to good outcomes, and minimise the effect of those barriers
- recognise potentially difficult situations or behaviours and deal effectively with them.
During the sessions, we have tools for capturing sufficient feedback to be able to present a short “reporting back” of the discussions at the end of the session. A more detailed report can be prepared and made available to participants later. We can also ‘story board’ the on-going progress for stakeholders.
A "deliberative" process brings together representatives from a wide range of backgrounds, to share their perspectives, opinions and ideas, encouraging them to listen to each other and test their own views against those of others. These people are not aligned to interest groups, and so answer the question: “If a group of impartial, representative stakeholders had the time and resources to learn thoroughly about these issues, what would they recommend?”.
Examples of deliberative processes include:
- Citizens’ Juries: A small group of representative stakeholders consider the carefully formulated "charge". They are presented with "expert evidence", with opportunities to extract more information as they require it, and then deliberate in a structured way to develop recommendations.
- Collaborative Forums and Deliberative Polls : These typically involve many representative, unaligned people, hundreds or even thousands at a time, and usually requiring a few days. They involve multiple stages of small-group discussion, with input by experts and interest groups with semi-structured question development, issues exploration and outcomes generation.
- World Cafes : World Cafes are a very adaptable table-based process involving rapid sessions where people frequently mix to share and develop ideas around an issue or theme. They raise people's energy and willingness to cooperate, and open people's preparedness for new ways of thinking.
We have a deep appreciation of such processes, having a long-standing interest and involvement with them. With Prof Lyn Carson (University of Sydney), Phillip has compiled a thorough Deliberative Inventory, detailing all the deliberative community consultation events that have been performed in Australia. At the United Nations’ International Conference on Engaging Communities in Brisbane in August 2005, they assessed the criteria Representativeness, Deliberativeness and Influence of the deliberative events to that time.