The Verdant Guide To Stakeholder Consultation 2010


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Stakeholder consultations are an often overlooked area but vital in the development of strategy and policy whether an organisation sits in the private, public or voluntary sector.

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The Verdant Guide To Stakeholder Consultation 2010

  1. 1. Stakeholder Consultation The Verdant Guide to Effective Engagement Will Popham
  2. 2. Contents Introduction 3 Verdant’s Approach to Consultation 4 Principles of Effective Engagement 5 Who are Stakeholders? 6 Stakeholder Consultation 7 Identify 8 Interact 11 Inform 12 Methodologies for Stakeholder Consultation 14 The Verdant Consultation Model 16 Summary 17 Case Study: The Magee Review of Criminality Information 18 2
  3. 3. Introduction Stakeholder consultations are an often overlooked area but vital in the development of strategy and policy whether an organisation sits in the private, public or voluntary sector. Stakeholders are often defined as those people who can affect, or are affected by an organisation’s actions. They may not be directly involved with the company but their involvement can play a critical part in the organisation’s success. The key to any really successful stakeholder strategy is planning, as it is easy for this area to be delayed, delegated or ignored when there are seemingly more pressing issues relating to customers and employees. Transparent, inclusive and well-prepared consultation with a wide range of stakeholders is essential to identify the issues. This interactive exchange with partners is one of the most effective ways to ensure that long lasting and far- reaching solutions can be identified, as well as being a potent tool for disseminating important information. To be successful, stakeholder consultation needs to demonstrate that stakeholders are genuinely involved and their views are actively considered. Incorporating stakeholders’ views into organisational processes, using their local knowledge and ideas, generates more positive, inclusive relationships, and improves business performance. 3
  4. 4. Verdant’s Approach to Consultation Developed over a number of years and drawing on vast I have worked with experience from across the private, public and voluntary Verdant for the last two sectors, the approach Verdant takes has proven successful years and have found across a range of policy areas and organisations. them to be professional, innovative, knowledgeable Each consultation is different, and will require a different and passionate about approach, but there are some key steps which need to be used in delivering a good result. any project to ensure success: Jane Healy Senior Director of Strategy • Identify and prioritise stakeholders Myriad Learning • Early and continued consultation with these stakeholders • Feedback for stakeholders and information about the future of the project, programme or strategy • Addressing all issues identified by stakeholders, both positive and negative • Develop creative and appropriate communications to maximise involvement and minimise risks 4
  5. 5. Principles of Effective Engagement Across every consultation, there are six principles that remain consistent, no matter which sector or subject the consultation is focussing on. These are as follows: Inclusivity Opportunity Impartiality Responsibility Effective Consultation Equality Transparency Figure 1: Principles of Effective Engagement Equality Opportunity Consultations are a vehicle for all stakeholders to Stakeholder consultation is a fantastic share their views as equals and air their concerns. opportunity for stakeholders to make their Ideas are judged on merit, not on where they views known and to work together for the came from. benefit of all. Impartiality Responsibility Consultations which have made an effort to The success of the consultation is the increase their independence by using an impartial responsibility of those that are orchestrating methodology will be more likely to be accepted the process. There is a need to fully involve by its intended audience. Using a third party to and inform participants of what is being done carry out the consultation can help to minimise with the outputs of the consultation, their ideas any previous personality issues. and opinions. Inclusivity Transparency All stakeholders need an opportunity to share their To avoid unnecessary cynicism and doubts views no matter how small or unimportant they might around the independence of any consultation, initially seem, even if this means involving large openness and honesty are essential. numbers of people. Inputs of those who might feel The importance of telling the whole truth marginalised or excluded are particularly important. is paramount. 5
  6. 6. Who are Stakeholders? Each project and consultation has a different set of stakeholders. Even for a particular project, the identity of stakeholders is fluid at best as numbers increase or decrease depending on the stage of the project. There is greater focus on how to identify stakeholders in the Identify section below, but essentially, stakeholders fall into the following categories: Statutory These are exactly who ‘it says on the tin’ – statutory stakeholders are those consultees who are defined by regulation and those that a consultation is required to liaise with. Correct statutory processes need to be followed. Strategic Community Strategic, or non-statutory, stakeholders can be defined as those people who represent Strategic organisations at international to regional levels who have a significant interest in the subject under Statutory discussion. Community This group of consultees is made up with those members of the public or representative groups Figure 2: that are affected by the consultation. The Stakeholder Universe Stakeholders might well fit into more than one category and it is important to be aware of the potential pitfalls that this opens up. 6
  7. 7. Stakeholder Consultation The diagram below illustrates the three stages of stakeholder consultation. All consultation with stakeholders needs to follow a cyclical process rather than a linear approach as stakeholders can both define issues as well as be defined by them. A cyclical process ensures that there is room for both alternatives. Identify Inform Interact Figure 3: The Consultation Process It is important to recognise that stakeholder consultation is cyclical and iterative and the results of any of the three stages may well be essential to the others. There is always the question as to whether the stakeholders define the issues, or whether the issues define the stakeholders for example: a cyclical approach ensures that the answer to this dilemma is ‘both’! These three stages, along with the products of each, will be examined in more depth in the next section. 7
  8. 8. The Consultation Process: Identify For effective consultation, the identification of key issues, stakeholders and a framework for running the consultation are essential and can shape the outcome of a project. This initial stage is the same whoever conducts the consultation and the primary tasks are as follows. (These need to be completed as soon as possible to ensure efficient running of the project). Initial scoping exercise • This scoping exercise will also work to clarify some of the issues with which stakeholders are concerned. This can either be a formal publication to share with stakeholders, or a less formal piece of work used by the consultation team only. • The scoping exercise should incorporate the views of several key stakeholders, which will be expanded and investigated fully in the main consultation exercise. It also helps with the identification of further stakeholders. 8
  9. 9. The Consultation Process: Identify (cont) Identifying stakeholders • Anyone who has an interest in, or who is affected by a consultation is a stakeholder and their early identification will help enable the consultation team understand which audience to target the most, Statutory, Strategic or Society. • Taking into account the three primary audience groups above, stakeholder identification and development of a ‘stakeholder universe’ can be achieved through literary and topic reviews, workshops and one-to-one sessions with known stakeholders. Remember that stakeholders do not all occupy the same ‘space’ and attention should be given to both off-line and on-line communities. • The identity of stakeholders will change constantly over time and it is important to keep track of, and evolve a list of stakeholders over the duration of the project. Their initial identification is vital, however, as this will help to shape the consultation plan. Planning the consultation process • Planning and designing the consultation process helps to provide direction and more effective management of the project, ensuring that the consultation team itself has a full understanding of why it is important and what it is trying to achieve. • Consultation objectives and outputs need to be agreed from the start, including key milestones. • Project techniques, timelines, risks, contingency plans and human resourcing issues need to be included. • Consultation budgets need to be agreed and approved. • Coordination with statutory and non-statutory processes needs to be built into the consultation plan, as it will make explicit links between statutory organisations, regulators, NGOs etc. 9
  10. 10. The Consultation Process: Identify (cont) Consultation Plan Verdant added significant All consultations are different, although there are fundamental value by initiating a cross- principles that are consistent across the board. The same can be government collaborative said of the Consultation Plan, which will differ hugely from project approach to the way in to project, but will have some key generic elements: which we communicate with stakeholders • Clarification of objective and scope. Jo Simmons Stakeholder Manager, • Identification of key issues and definition of the consultation agenda. Department for Business, Innovation and Skills • Explanation of the consultation’s origins, including essential facts and figures. • Timeline for the consultation and development of key milestones. • Creation of a core team with specific roles and responsibilities to advise on the consultation. • Explanation of the tools and techniques used in the consultation. • Allocation of appropriate resources for the successful completion of the consultation. • Identification of feedback mechanisms to the consultation team. Production of collateral Consultation collateral needs to be produced, including items such as meeting invitations, presentations and consultation documents for distribution before and after meetings. It is essential that this is as accessible as possible, explaining complex technical information and avoiding jargon and unnecessary acronyms. 10
  11. 11. The Consultation Process: Interact The interactive part of a consultation process brings all the principles for effective consultation into play and starts once the scoping exercise and consultation plan have been completed. The interaction phase is where the majority of the work with stakeholders takes place. There are many ways to interact with stakeholders, but the key thing to remember is that for the best results, an open and honest dialogue has to take place in their own ‘space’, be it on-line, off- line, face-to-face etc. Methods for engaging with stakeholders will have been defined in the consultation plan, and the interaction phase concentrates on making them aware of the issues and generating and gathering their insights and opinions. However this is achieved, and there are many ways to do this effectively, this stage needs to: • Make clear what the issues under consideration are • Expose any assumptions that might be made about the issues • Identify, manage or reduce uncertainties • Build on common ground • Explore ideas to solve problems and expose differences • Establish necessary changes • Conduct independent research and fact finding initiatives • Establish monitoring and feedback procedures, and • Improve communication and relationships and develop lasting commitments and associations The interaction process depends on the subject under consultation and the number of stakeholders (and their requirements) involved and might take anywhere between a few days, or several years! 11
  12. 12. The Consultation Process: Inform As the consultation process continues, it is vital for the consultation team to check that all appropriate stakeholders have been consulted with and that all the issues have been examined thoroughly. When the consultation team is confident that it has accomplished the objectives that were laid out in the consultation plan, it should begin the process of analysing the results and formulating a Consultation Response. Consultation Response The Consultation Response is usually a written document produced by the consultation team that examines the issues and drills down into the detail that was provided by stakeholders during the Interaction phase. It should be extremely accessible to those who read it and provide key insights as well as recommendations for future development. These might clarify the issues still further or cover areas for future improvement. The response document should also be very transparent about the numbers of stakeholders that responded and where the information came from, be it an interview, focus group discussion etc. Any naming of individual sources or attributes should have prior agreement from the stakeholder in question. 12
  13. 13. The Consultation Process: Inform Statutory buy-in is essential for the Consultation Response. Statutory stakeholders do not have to agree with everything that was said in the document (often the Response’s purpose is to shed some light on issues they do not know enough about), but the findings are far more likely to be accepted if the statutory stakeholders have been involved sufficiently throughout. If a statutory stakeholder is sponsoring the process as well, such as a Government Department or Non-Departmental Public Body, a successful publication might well hinge on their approval. Communications The consultation team should also have planned how the Consultation Response is to be launched. Depending on the scale and subject of the project, there might well be a certain amount of press interest or attention from pressure groups (who would hopefully have been included in the stakeholder universe!). The team should draw up a communications plan for the launch of the response to maximise the interest and raise the profile as much as is appropriate. A higher profile publication can draw more attention to the subject under consultation which in turn should generate further discussion. If the Interaction process has been carried out appropriately, there should not be any surprises in terms of how the Response is received by the stakeholder universe. However, it can help to re- enforce the Response’s credibility with stakeholders if it includes endorsements from individuals or groups from within all three of the sectors of the stakeholder universe. Ongoing Two-Way Dialogue The publication of a Consultation Response is by no means the end of the consultation process. Rather, it is the beginning of an on-going journey, and an opportunity for those that commissioned the consultation as well as all the stakeholders that were involved. Once the dialogue has been opened, it is essential for all parties to keep it going for as long as required! 13
  14. 14. Methodologies for Stakeholder Consultation Verdant have helped us to simplify our aims and bring real clarity to what can be a complicated area Caroline Humphries SSAT Community Team Programme Manager Verdant has successfully designed and implemented consultations for different clients over a broad range of areas, using different techniques for stakeholder consultation and participation. Even though there are common methodologies each one has specific issues and it is important to develop a deep understanding of what these are and ensure the approach fits in order to develop great relationships. Providing stakeholders with information on the issues under consultation is essential but has its disadvantages; namely that it is one-way. It is imperative that stakeholders are given formal structures with which to respond and that these are as accessible as possible. Some of these structures are below: • Opinion surveys, interviews, questionnaires etc are all great tools for gathering information, but run the risk of only gathering responses to the questions that have been asked, and so should not be used in isolation. • Consultation collateral needs to be relevant, timely and audience focussed. Material should be produced which is clear and accessible i.e. consideration of culture, disability and simple clear language whether it is English or translated is important. Jargon and unnecessary acronyms should be avoided. 14
  15. 15. Methodologies for Stakeholder Consultation (cont) • Meetings are time intensive, but can generate considerable information. There are many sorts of meetings that might be considered, including, face-to-face and public meetings. Often the most productive meetings are those that are facilitated independently. • One of the key advantages of workshops is that the consultation team works in collaboration with the stakeholders to define the agenda and discussion. Workshops can be one-off events or a series spread over many months. They are generally time and resource intensive and require good facilitation and knowledge of the issues under discussion. • Focus groups offer fantastic opportunities to gain advice, monitor progress and test new ideas from different groups of stakeholders. • Exhibitions and events can be extremely effective at engaging with stakeholders during the course of a consultation but can be costly and time intensive. • The internet and social media channels are coming into their own as a consultation tool and offer huge opportunities to engage with stakeholders at all levels. 15
  16. 16. The Verdant Consultation Model Consultation Consultation Stakeholders Team Products Key Stakeholder Identify Views Consultation Plan Scoping Report Monitoring and Evaluation Stakeholder Universe Interact Interviews, Consultation Wide Range of research, events Exercise Stakeholder collateral etc Views Statutory ‘Buy-in’ Inform Consultation Stakeholder Ongoing Response Endorsment Two-Way Communication 16
  17. 17. Summary Identify Consultation scoping exercise Identify stakeholders Planning of consultation process Develop consultation plan, create core team Interact Choose the consultation methodology that is most appropriate to the subject and stakholders involved Inform Draw up the consultation response Secure stautory buy-in Maintain ongoing two-way dialogue with stakeholders 17
  18. 18. Case Study The Magee Review of Criminality Information
  19. 19. The Magee Review of Criminality Information The independent Magee Review of Criminality Information had completed its first stage of activity following intensive interviews with a small number of high profile and influential stakeholders. Working to tight deadlines, Verdant worked on achieving the following goals: • To expand the reach of the consultation to include a large volume of stakeholders across a broad variety of sectors within three months. • To influence the development of policy across a range of government departments. • To deliver an effective media relations approach. • To manage a communications and distribution approach for the final report, including a launch. • To deliver a solution that allowed on-going communications to be delivered in-house at implementation stage. 19
  20. 20. The Magee Review of Criminality Information (cont) Target Audiences Senior stakeholders and frontline audiences across the following sectors: • Policing, prisons and courts • Health and social services • Education • 3rd sector • Central Government • The security industry Strategy and Tactics Verdant delivered a stakeholder and integrated communications approach to support the Review. We worked with the team to identify key stakeholder groups within each sector, putting in place processes and plans to help the team co-ordinate their efforts and capture data effectively. We managed and analysed sensitive and highly confidential research material, reviewing all material from Phase One of the Review and running planning sessions with individual teams to help identify gaps in their data capture. We critiqued their suppositions and identified relationships between different attributes, issues and themes. Verdant developed the launch approach for the Review, and identified opportunities to broaden coverage from previous consultations, including the development of a high quality online distribution of the final report including case studies and a podcast by Sir Ian Magee. Media handling strategies were developed to reflect the sensitive nature of the content of the report, with specific publications targeted prior to the launch of the report to build awareness of the review. We sourced and developed a tailored and tagged database to enable the implementation team to track and manage communications on an on-going basis. 20
  21. 21. The Magee Review of Criminality Information (cont) Results Verdant identified good The report launched in June 2008 on time and included the first opportunities to take ever Government report podcast. different approaches for increased impact • The key findings of the report were accepted by the Home Kevin Mclean Secretary, further funding was secured in order to move the Director, Home Office review into an implementation phase July 2008. • No negative PR coverage in relation to the launch. • Coverage in key print publications and broadcast hitting around 26 million people. • Coverage on 31 key websites targeting frontline audiences. • 10 workshops undertaken, 455 stakeholders consulted as part of the review, 2090 issues and 109 key actions identified. • 16,811 stakeholders targeted through the Home Office’s Stakeholder Strategy Unit email. 21
  22. 22. Verdant Consulting Ltd 3 Whitcomb Street London, WC2H 7HA © 020 7665 1590 £34.99 © Verdant Consulting Ltd 2010