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One year on: How have we been helping you?

Lockdown has been a busy period for us ensuring that consultors still have the tools they need to properly engage with their stakeholders. From the early days of the pandemic where we issued our covid guidance and opened our covid communications wiki, run by our associates, through the attempts to reopen up and the return to restrictions post-Christmas. So what exactly have we been doing to support our partners?

Probably the big keyword for the entire pandemic was ‘online’. Everything moved online- meetings, consultations, social events. We put a big focus on it ourselves. Although we had already been working on online training and similar projects, over lockdown we accelerated plans to ensure that we could continue to help people build their skills.

We boosted our portfolio of e-learning courses, reaching out to associates to write the courses, recording them in temporary home-based studios (it’s amazing what you can improvise with an upturned clothes-horse and a pile of bed-linen) and then assembling them to become the full courses ready to share with our members and non-member organisations. At this point, over 290 people have enrolled, and the pace keeps picking up.

In addition to our e-learning courses, we began development on virtual versions of our public and in-house training courses, delivered over zoom by our experts straight into your living-rooms and office spaces. With roughly 200 people having done them, and sessions frequently being sold-out very quickly, we’ve been delighted how well they have gone down amongst our community. Although we hope to resume in-person training as soon as reasonably possible, we plan on continuing the availability of the virtual training to meet with the needs of new post-covid ways of working.

In addition to our more general training programmes, we have also developed a programme of video production, allowing for the commissioning of specific focussed training programmes for particular organisations and bodies. The first of these was for Healthwatch England, looking at the challenges of engaging during covid- and there are several more in the works.

We’ve also now run 25 Wednesday Wisdom webinars, with more still to come, examining the key issues in consultation and engagement and giving colleagues the chance to deal with those burning questions in a collaborative environment. The discussions have always been interesting, and it’s been good to be able to regularly speak to the community to work out how we best tackle the problems of the day.

We also looked forward to the future with our series of Climate Conversations webinars, looking to the end of covid and the importance of a sustainable green recovery, which helped us pull together our green recovery service to roll out to public bodies interested in ensuring they are focussed on the right issues as they begin the road to recovery.

Outside of the environmental we also hosted well-received round tables on Budget Consultations, Planning and Post-Covid consultation for Police and Crime Commissioners. Each of these areas has its own interactions with the post-covid new normal, particularly in how to effectively consult when traditional face-to-face dialogues have to be more limited.

On top of all these special events we have also been, and remain, at the end of the phone providing our normal support services to all those currently consulting on a wide variety of issues. Though the world may change a lot, we’re always still there for advice and support and you can always count on us to help. It’s been a tough old year, but we’re keen to see what comes next. We hope you’ll continue to play a key role.

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