When you are consulting with your community and other stakeholders, things can go really right or really wrong. Planning how you go about the consultation is key. If you’re planning a consultation, here are a few critical things to consider:

Who are you inviting to be involved?

Brainstorm who you want to engage (whether it be organisations, sections of a community or specific individuals) and for each, identify why they might value the opportunity to have a say.

How much influence are you offering?

Define where you are able to offer the opportunity to have input – is it simply a chance for them to ask questions about the project that is already fairly set in stone? Perhaps you’re even handing over all the decision making. Or more likely it’s somewhere in between. Communicating this to stakeholders is vital. People get annoyed when they think they are being offered a chance to influence what happens and then realise that the engagement is actually tokenistic and their input is irrelevant.

What will be the best process to hear from people?

Most organisations jump to some kind variation of a town hall meeting or a survey. These can be useful but there are many, many other methods that can be far more effective. Need ideas? We plan these with our clients.

How will you report back?

It’s great to hear from people but you need to commit to a process for informing them how their input influenced the decision-making process. Communicate with them about how you will ‘close the loop’ and stick to your commitment.

Community and stakeholder engagement is about so much more than just hearing from people. It’s a massive trust and relationship building experience. If you’ve struggled with consultation in the past, it’s possible to turn things around. It won’t be instant but if you can persist with consistently offering genuine opportunities to be involved in the decision-making process, your community and stakeholders will come to trust your interest in their opinions.

Got a question about planning an engagement process or need some help? We work with clients to develop thoughtful engagement processes. Get in touch.