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Manual Transmission – Does consultation act as an accelerator or a brake? Or do we need the third foot-pedal?

There’s a real debate about the role that consultation plays in achieving significant social or political change.

Some say that going to consultation is a sure-fire way to slow down progress. Produce a radical idea that challenges existing vested interests, and howls of protest manifest themselves in all kinds of ways – including responses to the consultation. Cynics argue that embarrassing commitments made in the heat of election campaigns can be quietly buried by the deluge of detailed commentary deliberately generated by the formal processes of dialogue.

For those who believe that public opinion and the media follow rather than lead on matters of social change, one can argue that 21st century style consultation would in historic terms been a brake on progress. Debates on such contentious issues as capital punishment, abortion, prostitution, gay rights or current dilemmas surrounding religious, ethnic or linguistic minorities can uncover prejudices which a consultation exercise can easily make manifest – or even magnify.


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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’.

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