Investing in stakeholder engagement for controversial infrastructure

Good stakeholder engagement is worth investing time in. It may not be quick, but done right, it can be both easy and meaningful.

 

There's an old adage in the world of sales that says whenever you buy anything, you can have service that's: good and quick but not cheap, quick and cheap but not good, or cheap and good but not quick - and where the nirvana of good, quick and cheap doesn't exist.

It's much the same in stakeholder engagement.

In an ideal world, it would be quick and easy (less costly) and yet still meaningful. The reality is somewhat different. It can be quick and easy, but it won't be particularly meaningful to anyone; it can be quick and meaningful, but that's not easy; or it can be easy and meaningful, but that's not something you can achieve quickly.

So, with these sorts of constraints, what's the best combination to aim for?

Well, if it's not meaningful, it isn't worth doing at all, so that rules out anything that looks too quick and easy overall.

If speed is important, it's still possible to undertake meaningful stakeholder engagement but it's necessarily going to require significantly more resource (human, technological and financial) in order to accomplish - which might not always suit your budget.

We think it's best to aim for a programme of activity that's straightforward, no nonsense, easy to manage and that delivers meaningful results, but that's delivered over a longer period of time - consistency is important, especially when it comes to building trusting relationships with key stakeholders.

Of course, it's not quite as black-and-white as this in practice - there are some things that can be done quickly and cheaply that still help to foster good dialogue - so it's about striking the best overall balance throughout.

The bottom line is that it's worth investing in. If you can avoid rushing it, do. You'll get a better yield if you can commit to a long-term programme of stakeholder engagement that begins before you submit a planning application and doesn't stop until after your development is complete.

Got a controversial yet critical infrastructure project coming up? Want some expert help with stakeholder engagement and community relations? Email theteam [at] 52Mconsulting.com