Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change


Monday, 24 September 2007

Stakeholder engagement: always a double focus

Managing a public participation process means a double focus: on results and on process.We entered into a fantastic participatory process. The stakeholders formulated a common vision for sustainable development, priorities and a huge amount recommendations for concrete initiatives. People are really enthusiastic. Too enthusiastic, actually. They have too many expectations from us now. And we find it difficult to match their ideas – all formulated in a different way - with the existing policy frameworks and the funding schemes. We are afraid that stakeholders will not recognize anymore their input.

This is what I have learned over the years. Stakeholder engagement is a way to improve decisions the government takes with bottom-up input. In this case decisions to fund sustainable development initiatives. Management of such a process implies you know all relevant government strategies and funding opportunities before going to the stakeholders. You don’t do this research later or as a parallel activity. From the start you have to explain what will qualify for funding and what not. This marks the limits of the public dialogue and helps not to raise too many expectations. To work out ideas, provide a format that addresses all relevant aspects of the funding policies. This will get you better and more focused bottom-up results. And it will make it easier to compile the ideas in a way stakeholders later can relate to. In short do not only focus on the process. Also focus on the results. And have clarity on the desired results first.

Section 3 of the CEPA toolkit provides further advice on public participation.

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