In a democratic society, how important is it that all citizens have the same opportunity to engage? Do we want to hear different points of view, innovative ideas and creative solutions to problems? Of course we do, and as Canadians, we value active and fair participation and encourage important contributions and meaningful improvement. Yet supporting engagement in a Democratic society can be challenging and often, if the playing field is not level, important voices are not heard.
Prior to a successful consultation or other dialogue on a complex or challenging issue, an important preparatory step is to undertake what is called issue framing. The issue framing process names the problem or issue to be addressed and also develops three or four different options or approaches as to how the issue might be handled. The challenge with issue framing is that any options proposed must be viable. Significant up front work and research is therefore often required to both frame the issue and present options in a way that these can create an engaging and meaningful, platform for discussion.
Regardless of the type of consultation or engagement process that you are designing, it’s paramount that people come prepared with enough basic knowledge so that they are empowered to engage. Often, prior to a session, participants are given a handbook that they may take home and read through to become more familiar with the issue and the various approaches.
While there is typically some degree of preparation or preliminary reading involved, often, personal experience is enough. However, if the information is overly complex, difficult to comprehend or there are literacy challenges, alternative solutions are available for ensuring everyone has the same opportunity to understand the issue and participate effectively.
Pascal wrote, “The heart has reasons that the mind knows not of.” As human beings, we are emotional. We are passionate about all kinds of topics and therefore when we discuss policy and science and technology, we do so with our hearts as well as our brains . So trying to take out emotion and passion in public engagement, is not only impossible, it can also be counterproductive in the end. After all, emotions often arise because the issue touches on our values and to be sustainable, decisions need to consider alignment with values. So how can we allow room at the table for emotion without letting it overwhelm or derail the dialogue?
Desired results are often easier to achieve and change is more readily accepted when there is a participatory process. In other words, when everyone who has an interest or a “stake” in an important event or decision-making process is involved, it’s usually more successful. In organizational and community environments, stakeholders play a tremendous role and can have a significant impact on everything from creating policy to fostering shared values to promoting a certain level of client service. Stakeholders are a critical part of orchestrating and shaping the direction of a successful event or change process.
Designing the right kind of engagement and dialogue process can help people share perspectives and experiences, critically examine trade-offs and options, and build collective insight to be able to make better decisions. Maybe a group of government employees need help articulating a public policy issue more clearly or members of a health NGO can’t agree on a particular course of action. While everyone may not agree, a successful dialogue session can produce mutual understanding, bringing people together across differences to resolve complex problems.
Robust evaluation is an integral part of good business. Some of the core roles of effective evaluation tools include some or all of the following:
- To assess or redefine strategic goals
- To review budget efficiencies
- To inform the organization on project effectiveness
Planning, conducting and integrating evaluations into organizational processes can be challenging and implemented in multiple ways. Let’s explore how we incorporate varied evaluation practices into a particular project, the reason behind that decision and when to execute the evaluation.
Ensuring productive dialogue involves giving everyone in the room the same opportunity to understand and engage appropriately. Part of that process involves being aware and knowing how to address any challenges while making accommodations for participants who are physically, visually or hearing impaired.
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The steps of process design are part of the facilitation that doesn’t always get as much attention. A well designed process is the cornerstone of a successful facilitation and the primary reason an event achieves desired outcomes and gets the results both you and your client are looking for. Crafting an effective process design that works for the client can be challenging and often requires creativity, commitment and a strong focus.