We offer a range of services, centering all of our work around three key questions (3KQ): what outcomes are required; who needs to be involved; and what is the best process to use. By focusing on outcomes first, we fit the process to the needs of the project, rather than the other way around.
Our work tends to focus on sustainability, social and scientific issues – from community cohesion to wind farms. No two of our projects are the same, and we thrive on the challenge presented by a new topic or a difficult problem.
Dialogue and engagement
Helping people to talk is at the centre of what we do. We bring a wealth of experience to every project – from mediating local disputes or building consensus among stakeholders to managing formal consultation processes, community participation projects and national dialogues.
Our projects typically involve delivery of the following services:
We design every process around the specific objectives and outcomes. We often integrate a range of approaches to engage various groups of stakeholders, communities of interest and members of the public. Each process is designed to help our clients explore issues, answer questions and find solutions – from the seemingly simple to the frustratingly complex or contentious. We want to enable them make better decisions.
All of our facilitators have highly regarded group and dialogue management skills, developed through many years of experience. In short, we run great meetings and workshops that often exceed expectations. We have extensive experience of facilitating discussion in ‘high tension’ issues – those that are characterised by high complexity, contention and uncertainty. Our independence is a key factor for success: we hold no substantive interest in the outcome.
From a one-off meeting to a complex three-year stakeholder dialogue, our experienced project managers work with each client to deliver a high quality process from start to finish. We take the time to learn about how our clients like to work, so that we can operate in partnership with open communications. Often it is the independence that we bring to project management that enables stakeholders to trust the engagement process.
Good conversations rely on engaging and informative materials and require accurate and credible reporting if outputs are genuinely going to have an impact. We work with our clients to develop materials suited to each individual process, from a simple agenda to fact sheets, interactive games or films. We focus a lot of attention on the final product of every process, producing reports that are fit for audience and purpose, and that provide a lasting record of each project.
Evaluation is the independent assessment of a project. We tend to focus on two things: measuring a project’s compliance against its objectives and good practice criteria, and capturing wider learning on aspects such as governance and impacts.
Our independent stance and experience as practitioners put us in a strong position to evaluate processes of public or stakeholder engagement. We tailor our role as evaluator to each individual project, but broadly speaking the role includes developing an evaluation plan, collecting and analysing data, and summarising key insights for the project team and the public more widely.
As well as providing a final summary of findings, we like to offer formative evaluation as a process progresses – feeding in reflections and observations along the way so that learning can be used directly, rather than waiting until a project has ended.
Training and capacity building
We frequently build the capacity of people we work with to develop future engagement projects. This is a part of the job we really enjoy – and sometimes it is a job in its own right.
Since the 1990s various members of our team have been running courses, building peer networks and helping organisations develop capacity for facilitation and engagement. We have deliberately avoided becoming ‘another training provider’, preferring to approach this part of our work as ‘practitioners that deliver great training’. Rather than rolling out the same courses on a weekly or monthly basis, we like to share our very real enthusiasm and energy with people who really want to learn about what we do. We provide training in most aspects of the work we do, including:
- Facilitation skills
- Engagement planning and design
- Consensus building
- Managing high-tension projects
Our range of complimentary capacity building services include coaching and mentoring, peer network development and support, and action learning.