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COP26 – The Consultation Institute’s focus

It now looks as if Xi Jinping, the Chinese leader will not be attending COP26.

But the Consultation Institute WILL be in Glasgow, and here is a brief explanation of why.

A frequent critique of these vast inter-governmental gatherings is that they are literally TOO BIG, and cover too broad an agenda. With climate change, this is particularly true as the problem is so multi-dimensional – and covers every aspect of human activity – with unpredictable consequences. Thousands of organisations – official and non-governmental- have signed up to take part in the process. Some will travel to Glasgow; others will engage virtually.

Those who do assemble in Scotland will be able to network with and build relationships to learn from each other and collaborate on aspects of common interest. It is in that respect that we think the Institute’s message needs to be heard and gather more traction. In simple terms, we think that policies to mitigate the effects of global warming, to change behaviour and support net-zero economies all need high-quality public engagement. Imposing change will foment opposition; engaging constructively is the right thing to do.

It is a global challenge, and the audience in Glasgow, and beyond … is truly worldwide. Many countries do not share our culture and experience of consultation and engagement. Even in the UK, our practice is variable, and many Councils, public bodies (and even Government departments) need to raise their game, for GREEN consultations will demand resources, great dialogue methods and well-trained staff.

We will therefore, to mark COP26, launch a special knowledgebase of 100+ consultations on a broad range of GREEN issues. This is access to our growing collection of current or archived exercises, structured so that users can search and learn lessons from what others are doing. Clients will benefit from the rapid growth of this data warehouse as more and more consultations are added to our MIDAS service. We are sure this will be useful both here and internationally. In the next couple of years, thousands of organisations will set out to consult or to engage – and we need to avoid re-inventing the wheel each time. Or repeating the same mistakes.  To find out about GreenMIDAS, click here.

We will also go to Glasgow to gather fresh perceptions about the scale and nature of the public engagement challenge. We want to hear different voices, and capture them on film, so we can share with our members and others. What has been found to work? What doesn’t? Who can we reach? And who is seldom-heard? To what extent can we rely on digital or online dialogue methods? Do citizens’ assemblies work? Or are there better ways?

We will be filming from the 8th – 10th November. If you are in Glasgow and want to share your views, contact us here. Even if you are working elsewhere, but would like to share your ideas, we would still like to hear from you.

None of this analysis is enough on its own. For 18 years, the Institute has led the way in devising and delivering specialised training for consultation and public engagement. Many members and others will have attended management-games in the form of Masterclasses that gave participants a real-life scenario to consider the practical problems of running a successful exercise. They were based around the mythical, but intensely relevant town of Bloombridge, and to mark COP26, the Institute has prepared a brand new course, for delivery either virtually or in person. It is called Consultation & Engagement on the Zero-Carbon Agenda, but we suspect it will become known by our provisional in-house nickname of “Bloombridge goes Green”. Dates are being finalised, but you may wish to register your interest by contacting Michelle de Branco on michelle@consultationinstitute.org.

In the great cause that preoccupies the world, everyone has a part to play. The Institute sees its role as an advocate for better dialogue with communities and stakeholders. We need to gather the best available information – and find imaginative ways to disseminate it. Our members and supporters can also help, and the MIDAS archive is just one part of the plan.

Between now and the COP26 meeting, we will publish a number of papers exploring different aspects of the challenge we face. In the meantime, we welcome your stories and ideas.

About the Author

Rhion Jones is considered a leading authority on Public Engagement and Consultation. A founding Director of the Consultation Institute, he is co-author of “The Art of Consultation” (2009) and “The Politics of Consultation” (2018). He has delivered over 500 training courses and Masterclasses and is a prolific writer on the subject, having written over 350 different Topic papers and over 50 full Briefing Papers for the Institute. Since 2003 over 15,000 person-days of training based on courses he invented have been delivered. Rhion is in demand as an entertaining Keynote Speaker and Special Adviser, particularly on the Law of Consultation, and its implications for Government and other Public Bodies. In 2017, he was awarded the ‘Lifetime Achievement Award’.

Read more about Rhion

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