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2.3.4 Planning and implementation of a stakeholder involvement program

In planning and implementing a typical stakeholder involvement programme key stages may be defined as outlined below [CIRIA-2005]. However, each programme may be unique and may need to be tailored for its purpose and audience. In general, the larger the scope and the reach, the better defined and more formal the stages will have to be. In smaller consultations they may be implicit or merged together, but even in these cases it will usually not be adequate to rely on written consultation alone.

Organisations involved must be clear and honest with themselves and with the prospective participants about the reasons for being involved, freely offering opportunities for involvement but focussing on getting active and representative participation at key points [CIRIA-2005]. They should not push for a ‘broad involvement’ simply from the principle point of view, or design stakeholder programmes with a very broad scope as it is not clear what type of process is really needed.

Early consultation is often the key to the success of an initiative, and to securing co-operation. Omitting it may cause delays and more expenses in a later phase [CIRIA-2005]. Usually, it is the objective to identify and involve the key players early, build trust and improve understanding of potential priorities and needs of the participants, thereby helping to design a more effective consultation programme and encouraging participation. A key aim is to ensure that there are no surprises for either key stakeholders or the organisation(s) involved once the project enters the public domain.

It is important that the agenda for early consultation is not too circumscribed, so that interested participants can have part in developing it. It is helpful to let interested participants know the likely timing, and any later changes to it, of different forms of consultation as early as possible.

Attention should be given to reliance solely for local representation. Part of the trust problem may be that participants can be regarded locally as having been enrolled, through long participation, into views overly sympathetic to the organisation(s) involved.
The key stages in planning and implementing a typical stakeholder involvement programme may be [CIRIA-2005]:

  1. Scoping – what is the scope and the purpose; how does it fit with wider decision-making and other initiatives; which stakeholders should be involved and what are their particular needs and potential contributions.
  2. Programming – what mix of activities is required; how should the programme be promoted; what documentation needs to be prepared; who should be allocated to the programme project team; what resources and training do they need; are internal workshops required first; how will the programme be evaluated.
  3. Planning – inform the community of proposals; review the scope and the design of the programme with some of those likely to be involved; test examples of any promotional and information material; failing to show willing to inform and recruit as widely as possible may compromise all the subsequent steps.
  4. Promoting – launch the programme; if required, make media announcements; inform internal and external stakeholders; encourage and facilitate involvement by individuals and groups in the community; start a stakeholder registration database; set out details of access to information and any outreach events.
  5. Informing – disseminate and make available key documents; organise poster displays, site visits, presentations to community groups, as required; if deemed necessary, set up library for participants, web site with supporting information, telephone help lines.
  6. Consultation – consult interested stakeholders; provide various means to comment; acknowledge and record comments; consider interactive outreach activities such as public meetings and ‘surgeries’, and use of surveys or questionnaires to canvas opinions.
  7. Participation – hold meetings with stakeholders; answer questions; provide background information; consider facilitated events such as meetings, workshops and focus groups to explore specific issues in more depth; consider joint problem solving and group decision making methodologies or deliberative methods such as citizens’ juries; discuss proposed events with potential participants.
  8. Extended participation – if necessary, involve community liaison groups; consider possibilities for joint working parties and ‘neutral’ data gathering or monitoring.
  9. Compiling input to decision – assess comments and outputs from participative events; seek further clarification or new analysis as necessary; document the process.
  10. Providing feedback – provide feedback to participants on comments received and how they were taken into account, decision made, next steps etc.; inform stakeholders not directly involved in this specific programme.
  11. Evaluation – seek the views of participants; incorporate the lessons in internal guidelines; feedback to stakeholders.