Variety of methods essential for meaningful consultation

Residents of Bradpole provided plenty of ideas and comments at a Meet & Greet event put on by the steering committee of Bradpole’s Parish Plan last week. The event was one of a number of engagement activities being put on to allow young and old residents have their say about how they would like to see the village developed.

The comments put forward will form the basis of a questionnaire that will go out in January with the aim of producing the final plan later in 2011. Alongside public meetings and the questionnaire, the committee is also encouraging email contributions and is planning different activities with local schools and youth groups.

The intention is to gain ideas and interact with as many of the 2,000 population as possible.  This requires using different communication channels appropriate to the people being targeted, for example providing a mixture of online and printed matter as well as face to face meetings.

This is an essential approach to take in any engagement process – particularly if you wish to ensure everyone has had an opportunity to have their say – good or bad – and are aware of the possibilities available. Engaging and consulting with a community over any issue takes time – to build relationships, to give everyone the chance to contribute and to analyse the information. The suggested timeframe to conduct meaningful consultation is 12 weeks, as recommended by the Government Code of Practice on Consultation, though many Government-led consultations have fallen short of this in recent months.

Consultations have received a bad press in the past but it needn’t be like this. If you intend to conduct a meaningful consultation The Consultation Institute has developed its own charter, which incorporates seven steps that should ensure best practice is achieved. For anyone involved in this sector this is certainly recommended reading.

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