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Newsletter – December 2004

In 2004 Dialogue by Design passed three major milestones:

  • The United Kingdom’s largest ever online consultation: we received some 8,000 submissions to Taking it on, Defra’s consultation on sustainable development strategy for the UK. Click here to see the results.

  • Two simultaneous international processes for the International Finance Corporation (IFC) of the World Bank on policy and performance standards to guide investment in developing countries. IFC Disclosure and IFC standards.

  • Our first foreign language consultation: the German Parliament has invited some 22,000 people to review the Bundestag website. Click here to visit the consultation site.

New faces

With the growing volume of work we have recruited two new staff for 2005. Dr Amy Sanders joins us from the British Association for the Advancement of Science where she has been running programmes involving young people. Erwin Juenemann has recently completed an MBA at the Berlin School of Economics and London South Bank University; his specialisation is in the building of virtual teams.

Surrey County Council – Waste Local Development Plan

This project combines and integrates face-to-face and online processes, using a variety of community outreach tools, stakeholder workshops and web-based consultation. This is currently where we see the cutting edge of public and stakeholder participation: expanding the range of methods available in order to maximise the opportunity to involve people in issues that really affect them. Click here for more information on the Surrey project.

We will shortly be undertaking a similar exercise for another County Council – this time involving scanning technology as well so that the access methods are further increased.

Local Development Frameworks and Statements of Community Involvement

Judging by a number of recent inquiries, local authorities up and down the country are beginning to grapple with the mechanics and logistics of public consultation around LDFs and SCIs. Dialogue by Design’s Document Review process is being mentioned as a particularly cost-effective method of gathering high quality comments on draft documents.

It works like this: the draft document is divided into sections and each section is linked to a text-limited comment box. The participant reads the document in easily-digested chunks and then makes direct and specific comments in the appropriate box. The results are then collated, and both document owners and those commenting can see exactly what has been said about each section of the document – making it easy both to understand the comments and to re-draft the document where necessary.

Click here for more information about the document review process.

Training for the Metropolitan Police

Policing is once again very much in the news, and we have much enjoyed designing and delivering training in stakeholder and community engagement for the Metropolitan Police. Engagement is central to the success of the Met’s Safer Neighbourhoods initiative. This work follows on from the second of our annual consultations on Policing Priorities for the Met’s 2005/6 Policing Plan.

Case study: Consultation on Regional Spatial Strategy (RSS) for the North-West Regional Assembly.

This provided valuable lessons on the ‘back end’ of an electronic consultation process – the system, which enables us to to collate the results.

The facilitators’ first task is always to read all the submissions and get a general sense of how people have responded. Each of us has two computer screens. Submissions appear in one while on the other we make notes, create headings, and highlight submissions that seem to encapsulate points and therefore might be useful to quote in a summary. Then we re-read the submissions and decide where each should go and to which other submissions it should be linked.

The skill is in understanding the thrust of what a person is saying – in the same way as in a live meeting a facilitator maintains the momentum of dialogue by keeping people focused on particular points, not allowing the conversation to be blown off course and ensuring the purpose of the meeting stays in mind.

In the case of the NWRA process the purpose was to ensure that the RSS covers all the issue it needs to – so our decision was to collate ‘generously ‘ – creating many headings and giving people every opportunity to check that their particular issues were included. In parallel with this we also had to keep in mind the original purpose of the process and its context, and we also had to think about the people who would want to read and explore the submissions when they were presented back. So that meant avoiding a bewildering array of eadings that would deter people.

At the end of the process we then instituted a systematic method for checking that all these factors were properly balanced. You can see the results – and whether you think we got it right – here.

OpenStrategy - a new partnership for 2005

We are always on the lookout for ideas and technologies that complement what Dialogue by Design does - or to which we can add value for others.

OpenStrategy is our best discovery to date: a very, very clever concept supported by some equally clever technology.

It provides a way for many different groups - government agencies, private companies, civil society organisations - to work together without sacrificing their particular goals in the name of consensus or becoming overwhelmed by the complexity of inter-linked issues.

So, imagine you are trying to run a Local Strategic Partnership. We all know how difficult it is to build comprehensive and sustainable strategic plans that secure long-term commitment and active implementation by stakeholders.

Multi-agency groups start working together, but the initial enthusiasm begins to wear off as meetings dissolve into endless discussions. People are worn down by tensions between the stakeholders, by the frustrations around one-off projects that don’t address the big picture, by the difficulty of coordinating separate budgets to meet related needs, and by the sheer complexity of inter-linked issues.

OpenStrategy helps stakeholders to see the full picture of what needs doing and how each organisation can contribute either on its own or through working collaboratively with others.

Put simply, OpenStrategy:

  • provides a picture of what each of the stakeholder organisations wants to achieve and the steps for getting there

  • enables people to see where they may be able to contribute to the activities of partner organisations for the benefit of the community

  • facilitates opportunities for collaboration which, ordinarily, can be missed in the fog of plans, targets and competing agendas

  • supports real world activities such as workshops, meetings, phone calls and dialogues with the organising ability of advanced computer technology and the power of the internet to display and update information in the light of changing needs and priorities.

How does it fit with what Dialogue by Design is already doing?

Very neatly: consultation and participation are essential to root such partnerships in the communities they serve. Integrating electronic consultation into an OpenStrategy will produce a seamless link from people to partners and back again.

Contact us for more information.






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