Using strategy to create a ‘Glocal’ consultation
Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of consulting internationally is that of running a broad consultation which spans more than one country or region but is simultaneously accessible on a local level. Can a consultation really be ‘glocal’?
It can: a consultation can be consistent in its purpose and messages while remaining relevant to its local audiences if a strategic approach is adopted.
Essentially, the strategic approach is a broad overview of the consultation with clear aims and objectives and is informed by comprehensive research, including that at a local level. The direction defined through the strategic process enables the consultation team to share values, expectations and understanding but is suitably flexible to allow for creativity and a diversity of methodologies to be implemented locally.
The strategy will be in place prior to the consultation commencing and will influence every stage through to evaluation and feedback. In essence, the process involves the following steps:
- Situational analysis, typically PEST (political, economic, social, and technological) and SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis across the wide geographic area, to gain background information to inform the consultation.
- Issues analysis to create awareness of the issues likely to influence feedback, adding context to the consultation responses and enabling the consultation team to address any misapprehensions.
- Political analysis to understand the forces which may influence engagement, both overall and in specific localities.
- Stakeholder analysis to understand the local communities and the personalities and groups which shape it.
- Pre-consultation dialogue – the first stage of dialogue with a range of key stakeholders and potential consultees, which seeks their views on the proposed consultation and informs the following stages.
- Aims and objectives – clear consultation goals to ensure consistency within the wider team and communicate a sense of purpose to external audiences.
- Development of consistent
- Agreement of the consultation questions, to identify what should be asked to deliver the necessary feedback.
- Audience profiling to identify precisely who will be targeted so that resources can be focussed appropriately and monitoring can identify any gaps.
- Selection of dialogue methods which can vary considerably from country to country, provided they respond to the aims and objectives and include the relevant messages and questions.
- Resource allocation to ensure that the proposed consultation is deliverable on the ground.
- Compilation of the necessary consultation documents, tailored to the specific locality as necessary.
- Creation of a timetable to ensure that adequate time is given to allow for responses, analysis and feedback.
- Continual monitoring to check that the consultation is running as intended.
- Gain an understanding from the consultation responses through analysis.
- This will lead to a decision being taken.
- Report back to all stakeholders, using the most appropriate means for the specific audience to demonstrate the impact of the consultation on the resultant decision.
- Evaluate the process, to address any criticisms and benefit future consultations
A strategic approach is not a ‘to do’ list, but a cycle: situational and issues analysis and stakeholder research each benefit from ongoing development; regular monitoring influences the ongoing selection of dialogue methods, and regular evaluation reinvigorates the strategic direction.
While this blog has recommended a best practice approach to consultation strategy, I do not presuppose that it will be followed to the letter: no public participation programme will conform exactly to an ideal, because issues will always arise which challenge the best laid plans. However, in implementing a strategy with informed aims and objectives and planning for their delivery, the realisation of these aims is more likely to be achieved despite the consultation taking place across a wide geographic area.
Each of the elements of strategy covered briefly in this blog are explained in more detail in my book Public Consultation and Community Involvement in Planning: a twenty-first century guide.