Consultation and engagement can be an essential component of a successful assignment. It is in our best interest to understand and integrate the interests and opinions of those who will ultimately be planning, implementing, managing and using the infrastructure that our clients deliver. A good consultation and engagement programme will aim to provide the political representatives, stakeholders and staff with opportunities to contribute that are accessible, creative, informative and meaningful and ultimately help shape a good solution.
We aim to make our consultation informative and interesting – this means that we are providing options for stakeholders to give us their feedback and input and it is also an education for all parties, in particular us. We can provide technical expertise but it is also critical that we understand the end users’ needs and equally important that we understand economic, political and legislative issues. At times, a consultation plan can focus too much on providing people with information as opposed to engaging them. Effective discussions can be scheduled on a one to one basis. This allows representatives time to discuss specifically the issues that matter to them.
Wider sessions, such as workshops, offer a good vehicle to provide attendees with information and facts while also giving them an opportunity to engage in activities that gather their input. We have experience of using this format of a short presentation followed by debate in many circumstances, to good effect.