Depending on the type of stakeholder you are working with, where they are based and what their availability is, face-to-face meetings or workshops may be a good method of promoting stakeholder engagement with drowning prevention initiatives. The aim of consultative meetings and workshops is to create an environment where open discussion investigates the needs, expectations and perceptions of the stakeholders involved. This feedback can be useful in guiding the development and implementation a National Water Safety Plan.
The following tips will help make a consultative meeting/workshop more productive:
- Limit attendee numbers as you must be able to clearly hear and acknowledge each stakeholders’ inputs, ideas and opinions.
- Ensure a diverse mixture of people are invited to generate dynamic conversation that promotes new ideas. It is often useful to invite people who hold different opinions to each other
- Designate a meeting chair or workshop facilitator to lead the meeting/workshop. This individual is responsible for keeping discussion on track, addressing all meeting/workshop agenda items and ensuring that all stakeholders are given an equal opportunity to contribute to the discussion
- Circulate a meeting/workshop agenda and background material 1-2 weeks before the event to all attendees. This ensures that all stakeholders have the same baseline knowledge on the drowning issue, what previous attempts have been made to address it and what drowning prevention interventions have been successfully implemented in similar settings. Ensure attendees are prepared for what the meeting/workshop will involve
- Make sure all materials to be used in the meeting/workshop are written in simple language, are easy to understand and are culturally appropriate
- Document attendance
- Document all topics raised during the meeting/workshop. Re-circulate these topics post-meeting to all participants for feedback or corrections. This will provide you with a summary document of stakeholder ideas and suggestions. It also allows you to list attendee names against action items which may have been raised, encouraging individual accountability and contribution
- Take all feedback received during the consultation process seriously. Explain to stakeholders that every effort will be made to incorporate their feedback into the project however, it may not possible to include every suggestion
- Document all changes that result from the consultation process. This will not only reassure stakeholder’s that their input has value, but will also help with advocacy for the project at later stages
- Ensure to plan the ‘next steps’ at the end of the meeting/workshop, against a timeline. Again, aim to list attendee names against identified tasks or deliverables.
- Stakeholders feel ownership over the water safety plan which encourages their ongoing involvement over the course of its implementation.
- Encourages relationship building: face-to-face meetings or workshops are good opportunities for stakeholders to meet members of the project team and other individuals with similar interests or expertise.
- Detailed face-to-face discussions allow participants to listen and learn from each other, promoting consensus building.
- Can be used to improve existing relationships between stakeholders.
- It may be time consuming and costly for all stakeholders to travel to one location to meet.
- It may be costly to hire a venue, pay incentives for stakeholder participation and potentially hire an independent facilitator.
- It may take time for stakeholders of conflicting perspectives to reach an agreement.
- Difficult to ensure that the stakeholders involved are truly representative of the input required.
- Quality and depth of feedback may be questionable when a number of stakeholders are involved.
Meetings and workshops are effective methods of performing stakeholder engagement and therefore, it is a good idea to incorporate these into early stages of National Water Safety Plan development. It is beneficial to hold meetings and/or workshops periodically over the duration of plan implementation, inviting either the same stakeholders each time, or rotating attendees to obtain different perspectives and input.