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Published on October 1, 2012

How To Consult –Great Guides

Participation Compass

By Edward Andersson

Edward Andersson is European Associate for Involve and an established expert on methods of participatory decision making. He set up – one of Europe’s leading public engagement sites, and has advised a number of organisations on public engagement strategies, including the Home Office, the European Commission, the OECD, WHO Europe, UNDP Turkey and numerous Local Authorities and Health Trusts.

The final entry of a three part series, Edward provides a selection of some of the best ‘how to’ guides on engagement and consultation.

How To Consult –Great Guides

In two preceding posts I’ve looked at the initial reactions to the Cabinet Office’s new Consultation principles as well as Involve’s take on the new guidance.

Since the new principles are very up front about not being ‘How to’ guidance (they outline the importance of listening to the public but do not tell you how to do it) I thought it would be best if I flag up my pick of the best practical resources for civil servants interested in engagement and consultation. Of course this list of good guides is only indicative; if you know of additional guidance on consultation and engagement please comment below.

A good place to start

I thought I’d start with our new Participation Compass website which was developed in collaboration with the Bertelsmann Foundation. The site contains descriptions of over 30 methods and cases of participation, and links to loads and loads of participatory resources. Participation Compass will contain all the best bits from People and Participation (Our previous and now out of use best practice site) with an interface for a new decade. Participation Compass will even have an App for those of you who need participation information on the go! You can find the original paper publication on which the site is based here:

Principles for Consultation

Involve developed 9 principles of deliberation with the National Consumer Council a while back; it is a vital resource for understanding the difference between deliberative and other forms of consultation.

The Consultation Institute has developed its Consultation Charter which provides outline good practice principles. These are good resources, but still only provide outline ideas and support. For more detailed support you’ll need to look elsewhere.

Broadening your outlook

A common mistake people make in England is to neglect the great work done in the other parts of the UK. I’ve already mentioned these great Participation Principles from Participation Cymru in Wales.

Communities Scotland have also developed useful National Standards for Community Engagement.

Another useful Scottish resource is this recent toolkit from the Scottish Health Council with a good overview of methods.

For those with an interest in International good practice, the OECD have produced “Citizens as Partners” a Handbook on consultation and engagement.

Practical Guides

In my view, Annette Zera has created one of the best practical introductions to creative ways to run meetings. “Getting on Brilliantly” used to be a resource you had to pay for but now it is available for free here and everyone who has to run or design meetings should read it.

Dialogue by Design has produced this “Dialogue Designer” which contains a lot of practical information along with guidance on selecting a good method for your consultation.

For those looking to expand their range of methods Involve’s  Not another consultation! Document provides information on how to run events that combine the informality of community fun days with meaningful engagement methods.

Online Consultation

For those interested in consulting online there are a number of guides.

One of the best recent ones is The Digital Engagement Guide, developed by Helpful Technology.

New Zealand also has a wealth of experience in online engagement, some of which can be accessed in this guide.

And here is an older, but beautifully designed guide: eDemocracy in Bristol Guide.

Guides to Evaluating consultation

RCUK have prepared guidance on how to evaluate public engagement:

Involve also prepared guidelines with Diane Warburton: Making a Difference

Other useful guides

For those civil servants wrestling with the difficult choice of whether or not to pay people to participate, this resource looks at the issue of paying participants.

I’d also like to flag up an American resource which is useful for deliberative approaches.

The National Empowerment Partnership microsite contains numerous briefing papers on engaging with older people, minorities and rural populations.

The former Improvement and Development Agency developed a number of useful guides over the years, including  “The ideal empowering authority: an illustrated framework” and “Community Engagement and Empowerment: A Guide for Councillors.”

For those with an interest in Planning the RTPI “Guidelines on Effective Community Involvement and Consultation Good Practice” may be of interest.

The Sciencewise programme has published A “Departmental Dialogue Index” which allows Central Government teams to assess themselves and their Departments to see how they could improve their engagement and consultation.

And finally saving one of the best ones for last Participedia provides a range of in depth information on methods and case studies. The team is led by Academics from Harvard and the quality of information on the site is very high.

The web is awash with good guides to consultation and engagement. Despite this, much consultation misses the mark today. Citizens I speak to about consultation are generally cynical about the very activities that Government undertakes to reduce apathy and disengagement. Clearly the new Consultation principles are important; but they can only be a small part of the solution. We need to increase knowledge and skills, both amongst civil servants, but also amongst stakeholders and citizens.

I’ve shared some of the tools I’ve found valuable through the years. Now I’d be interested to hear which tools you can’t do without? Comment below!

Image by: Joseph Ma. Rosell

4 Responses to “How To Consult –Great Guides”

  1. October 10, 2012 at 9:55 am

    Thanks for these Edward, really useful, there’s a few on there that I’ve never heard of. A few more guides to print off put on my desk and probably never read!! Somehow printing them off makes me feel better though, like I’m almost an informed practitioner.

    Here’s a couple more for the list, the first ones quite old now but still really worth having to hand.

    Participatory Learning and Action: A trainer’s guide:

    For those of us that are frustrated by the lack of recognition of the role of power in many ‘how to engage’ guides I have found the following very useful:

    A New Weave of Power, People & Politics:

    The Action Guide for Advocacy and Citizen Participation

    John Gaventa’s work on power

  2. Lorna Ahlquist
    November 13, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    SO nice to see someone flag up power as necessary to flag up!!!!

    removing instituitional blocks and barriers to empowerment of users and staff
    Looking at the clash for professionals re their professional responsibilities and legal obligations and how they could and should involve people and share power is important
    Showing the outdated ness of representational democracy as opposed too deliberative dialogue ..the political system needs to move on and incorporate DD
    The snippets I try to keep upfront in my mind.

    Crucial tho is an empowering HEART, rather than self interest, group interest

  3. Serrein Asad
    August 13, 2017 at 3:24 pm

    Thank you for sharing this resource.
    Serein Asad

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