How to Engage Stakeholders and Co-Create Solutions to Today's Challenges?
In recent years there has been an explosion in stakeholder engagement by governments (at EU, national and regional levels), and by public agencies, voluntary bodies and major businesses.
Stakeholders used to be considered relatively late in the process of developing policies and new technologies. Consultation exercises tended to involve groups with a defined position, or individual technical experts, rather than wider interests and the general public. Controversies surrounding the disposal of oil rigs, and the development of GM crops, are well-known examples.
Today, in contrast, the emphasis is on early, proactive and extensive involvement, aided by the internet. Indeed, 'consultation overload' is now a real problem for many stakeholder organisations. As a result, 'more consultation' does not always mean 'better engagement'!
Out-dated and unimaginative approaches also still predominate. Too often, capturing stakeholder views on any initiative is seen as an end in itself. Similarly, securing participants for a workshop or on-line debate, noting the comments made, and writing up a report, simply captures existing 'positions' and fails to generate new shared thinking or practical solutions. These approaches deliver little value.
How NOT to engage stakeholders: some long-established communication processes enable the sponsors to 'deliver messages' but typically are not designed to achieve effective two-way dialogue.
Generating greater value from stakeholder engagement involves tackling several challenges:
- How to break the mould of 'one-way presentations with comments from the vociferous minority'?
- How to go beyond mere 'capture' of ideas to integrate them and co-create useful outputs?
- How to synthesise conclusions from many inputs, expressed in different ways, without losing 'essence'?
- How to work across groups with different, even conflicting cultures, values, styles and agendas?
- How to build productive and lasting working relationships with diverse interests?
- How to avoid 'consultation fatigue' and keep stakeholders interested and involved?
We offer fresh thinking and tools to tackle these challenges and deliver 'intelligent' consultation and engagement. We do not see this as an end in itself but as part of a process which enables organisations to co-create solutions with their stakeholders and thereby deliver tangible outcomes and benefits.