Our experience with public consultation practitioners across 40 countries allows us to see best practice in action. It is remarkable to see how, even on the most diverse issues and terrains, public consultation, so often comes down to implementing a couple of key actions. We have seen these simple changes make a huge difference from state-level bodies to small community groups.
Public consultation is about identifying the right stakeholders from the beginning. This may involve a process of stakeholder mapping, where your project team assemble all the potential stakeholders and then rank them in order of importance to set the structure of the consultation process. It might involve an open-call to the public and to interested parties to declare themselves to the process. Or it might involve actual mapping of the general public (often the most important stakeholder) and extract the geographic cohort of people that will be most affected by a project.
Plan & Manage
Planning and management by the project management team will be in relation to two things, the project team, and the stakeholder engagement. Setting out expectations, KPI’s and delivery calendar for your project team is critical to successful delivery of the project. Setting out the scope and framework for stakeholder engagement will also need to be done to inform those affected what to expect. This may be as simple as notifying stakeholders of a public meeting, a website or might be more detailed like a schedule of face-to-face surveys, feedback, and follow-up type activities.
A recent project we worked on involved a series of face-to-face surveys being done which allowed the project team to divide stakeholders up into segments, each of which had specific concerns regarding the project. What the project team did subsequently was deliver targeted communications to each of these segments that addressed their specific concern head-on. This tailored response was far more effective than general information being sprayed out to stakeholders and instituted ongoing communication between project team and stakeholder segments.
This is an example of a very successful communication strategy that engages stakeholders with quality information throughout the lifecycle of the consultation. It also results in better outcomes for the project as a whole, with stakeholders feeling valued and their issued addressed.
Have a central database, ideally cloud-based, so that all of the consultation team can have permission-based access to your core intelligence. Consultation projects that employ databases kept at different locations and in different formats open themselves up to duplication of work and a lack of project intelligence. There is no need to be using Excel sheets to manage consultation work in 2017.
Let’s be honest, consultation processes are not simple and they can throw up very specific issues for individual stakeholders. Having a system of issue tracking or casework management built-in to your processes will benefit you in the end. We have seen many, very well organized consultation projects, come to a grinding halt when they realized that they didn’t have any way to deal with one individual stakeholder’s problem and that it took up a relatively large amount of their time to deal with it. Have a system in place and assign each piece of casework to one of the team for resolution.
Finally, analysis. This relates back to the planning phase and to the centralized database. Ideally, a way of pulling out key information on the consultation process itself and the feedback information will allow you to match this to your planning goals. If those goals are not being met then you should know from your analytics, the steps needed to address this and get your consultation back on track.
I hope these pointers, that we have seen work on consultation projects will help you to deliver your project successfully. If you would like to learn more about Voxcitio and how we can help you put this plan into action, get in touch below!