Challenges in stakeholder engagement – six tips to help

Challenges in stakeholder engagement – six tips to help you in your next project

Here are my Top Six tips for managing challenges in stakeholder engagement. These are largely based on a stakeholder engagement program with community members.

This project focused on the redevelopment of a local park to include residential use, needed to fund the reclamation of an adjacent contaminated site. Sort of like two controversies for the price of one!

The client had commissioned a planning consultant to identify a range of options for the redevelopment of the site and community planning workshops were held to get local input.

Here’s how we handled it and what we learnt along the way.

1. Provide clear information

Participants were sent an information pack outlining each option and how it was identified. At the workshop, we had BIG maps to help people clearly identify what was being suggested. This was well received, as several residents weren’t sure to believe the client or the opponents of the proposal.

2. Set the mood

We maintained a calm, friendly and welcoming environment as people arrived. I started out by clearly outlining the intended purpose, outcomes and process for the workshop. I alsoChallenges in stakeholder engagement requested that we operate to agreed ground-rules (aka the ROPES)

3. Highlight independence

There was some serious tension in the room at the start of each workshop. What worked was each of us outlining our role and that we were not employees of the client. Our role was to run the feedback process and ensure participants views were heard and fed back to the client. It was critical to say that we were independent facilitators with no stake in the outcome.

4. Look for common ground

Prior to getting participant feedback on each option, we asked people what they valued about the site in order to try and elicit some areas of agreement.

5. Take your Teflon outfit

When people got angry, we had to remember that they were angry with the client, not us. If they did start getting personal, we went back to explaining what we were there to achieve and our role in doing it. We made it clear that all views expressed would go back to the client.

6. Leave it there

It was important for us to debrief after each workshop. We copped a fair bit of flack and it’s important that we leave it at the workshop and not take it home with us – especially after an evening workshop.

Need a hand with your next project that may involve some challenges in stakeholder engagement? Get in touch!

Looking for some in-depth professional development? Check out the IAF Oceania 2023 Conference.

Andrew Huffer

Andrew Huffer has over 25 years experience in working with organisations, businesses, managers and communities and at a state, national and international level. He designs and delivers specialist engagement processes, with a focus on facilitating open decision making processes and skill development of clients. He has delivered presentations and workshops at a number of state, national and international conferences.

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