Public consultation is all too often seen as a “Tick Box” affair to be gotten over rather than it being seen as a key tool in facilitating policy development or project delivery. In fact, when it is attempted it all too often is about giving a limited amount of information to what can be critical stakeholders. It is even not unheard of for some to organise consultation at a point where decisions have already been taken about the nature or extent of a policy change or project development. Time and again however policy-makers and decision-makers find that the use of poor consultation techniques can often be more disruptive to meeting an organisations objectives and with disruption can come unnecessary costs and problems.
In wealthy societies like Ireland, and, increasingly, in less developed communities within Ireland, there is an expectation that consultation will be taken seriously and can be demonstrated through greater transparency in final decision-making. Consultation does not mean that everything an opponent wants is conceded. What it does mean is that the environment for engagement is open and that decisions arising from the consultation are easy to follow, even if disagreement remains. It is critical therefore that policy-makers and other decision-makers realise the added benefits of active engagement with their stakeholders and wider communities when seeking to manage a change process.
There are a variety of options available to both public and private organisations on how to manage an active consultation process. These include options to meet statutory obligations but more positively can be used to facilitate greater understanding of the plans and objectives of a company or public body. Equally critical, they can help senior management to understand staff views and concerns, the public manager or politician to understand the often competing interests that can be key drivers of the services they manage.
Managing public consultation
We can help you to design a public consultation process. A key feature of our approach to consultation is the high level of transparency and response associated with our work. We can provide challenging but positive experiences for our clients and the public and have a track record of dealing with situations where there can be very wide ranging attitudes and concerns.
Training for public consultation
Public consultation is a process requiring skill and a capacity to listen. Having a consultation process delivered by your staff is a good option to consider particularly where an on-going requirement to communicate and engage with your stakeholders exists. However using people who do not have the skills to properly consult will cause more harm than good. We can, using our experiences and case studies provide your staff and management with the skills required to get full value from a consultation process.
To learn more about our approach take a look at this case study.