The Verdant Guide To Stakeholder Consultation 2010
The Verdant Guide to Effective Engagement
Verdant’s Approach to Consultation 4
Principles of Effective Engagement 5
Who are Stakeholders? 6
Stakeholder Consultation 7
Methodologies for Stakeholder Consultation 14
The Verdant Consultation Model 16
Case Study: The Magee Review of Criminality Information 18
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.
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,
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:
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
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:
Figure 1: Principles of Effective Engagement
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.
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.
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.
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:
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
Strategic, or non-statutory,
stakeholders can be
defined as those people
who represent Strategic
international to regional
levels who have a
significant interest in
the subject under Statutory
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.
The diagram below illustrates the three stages of
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.
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.
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.
The Consultation Process: Identify (cont)
• 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
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.
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
• Clarification of objective and scope.
• 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.
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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
Methodologies for Stakeholder Consultation
Verdant have helped us to
simplify our aims and
bring real clarity to what
can be a complicated area
SSAT Community Team
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.
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
• 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
• 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.
The Verdant Consultation Model
Consultation Consultation Stakeholders
Monitoring and Evaluation
Interviews, Consultation Wide Range of
research, events Exercise Stakeholder
collateral etc Views
Ongoing Response Endorsment
Consultation scoping exercise
Planning of consultation process
Develop consultation plan,
create core team
methodology that is
most appropriate to
the subject and
Draw up the
Secure stautory buy-in
Maintain ongoing two-way
dialogue with stakeholders
The Magee Review of Criminality Information
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
• To influence the development of policy across a range of
• 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.
The Magee Review of Criminality Information (cont)
Senior stakeholders and frontline audiences across the
• Policing, prisons and courts
• Health and social services
• 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.
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
• The key findings of the report were accepted by the Home
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.