Thursday, 13 November 2014

Building relationships to deliver projects

Tanya Burdett - Environment, Planning and Community Engagement Manager / Temple Associate and Vikki Hilton - Director, Hilton Associates

Successful engagement requires many things, but ultimately it’s about building relationships, trust and respect. To achieve this, we need to engage in a way that is clear and consistent; accessible, timely, shows care and allows for feedback. Our communications should also be relevant, comprehensive and truthful. This may sound a lot to take into consideration, but worthwhile if one is to forge strong relationships with our ‘community’, whatever that community may look like. 

These have been key success elements for most projects, large and small, that we, as Licensed Trainers in the International Association for Public Participation (IAP2) Foundations course, have been involved in throughout our collective 50 years of experience. In many cases communities can be treated as a nuisance factor. Yet flip that view around, and one can see some real benefits to engagement. Numerous studies by UK organisations (such as Involve) and others (for example the Kettering Foundation), provide evidence of the benefits (and costs). All we need to do is take some time to get to know the communities we work within and our key stakeholders who we rely on for delivery. 

There have been numerous times when working with engineers, designers, scientists, technical professionals, project managers and builders that the discussion of ‘building’ comes up. We’re all building something – some, tangible physical infrastructure; others, technical solutions and scientific programmes that advance our health care, environment and economy. When discussing objectives of any project and what we as a project team want to achieve as public participation practitioners, we will often talk about ‘building’ relationships. 

Ultimately we are  striving to provide quality – in engagement, training, capacity building, and in sharing best practice. IAP2 is a vehicle for this through the annual Core Values awards issued to demonstrate and celebrate good practice. 

We'd welcome your views and experiences on building relationships with stakeholders in the comments box below, for example: 
  • Can we really build meaningful relationships with stakeholders that prevent issues arising in the development process?
  • Does ignoring your stakeholders really save you money in the long run?
  • How can you involve stakeholders in a meaningful way without adding vast amounts of time and cost to your delivery programme?
Collectively Tanya and Vikki bring together a wealth of experience in promoting effective engagement strategies, from working on large infrastructure projects with government organisations and the private sector in the UK and overseas as well as with NGO’s and marginalised groups. Come join them in learning more about effective engagement strategies in the IAP2 training offered in London 1-5 December. 

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