This is the third article in our series on multi stakeholder collaboration
Moving a strategy into an actionable plan can be challenging—particularly when working with a group that consists of several diverse organizations. We have helped a lot of clients get over that hump, including one group that was formed to address the labour shortage in northern Alberta.
The group consists of five organizations, which partnered to develop a “Regional Workforce Development Strategy” in the Grande Prairie and Greenview region. They engaged more than 800 stakeholders in the development of the strategy and invited Parsons Dialogue to help design the implementation plan and determine the path to formalizing a partnership and its organization structure.
April Weavell of Regatta Communications guided the project, which included working with an economic development consultant that gathered and analysed data and conducted stakeholder engagement and strategy development. She says forming a new partnership and organizational structure - with a diverse group of stakeholders is a daunting yet exciting undertaking.
“We needed to hear from each stakeholder, addressing their needs and priorities in a way that was respectful for them,” Weavell said. “Parsons Dialogue presented an organized, efficient and respectful process that allowed the partners to harness their collective ingenuity. It was pretty powerful—there is real strength in that collective wisdom, and we are learning how to harness that in a much more organized way through the partnership.”
This all unfolded during the COVID-19 pandemic, which meant the work was done both virtually and in person. We started with an in-person session to design the implementation plan and then went to the online forum to address the partnership. While that may have seemed like a disadvantage at first, the online forum was wildly successful. It saved time and respected the participants’ busy schedules, while allowing stakeholders from different geographical regions to engage in a way that may not have been otherwise possible.
“The virtual sessions blew our minds,” said Tanya Oliver, CEO of the Grande Prairie & District Chamber of Commerce, and the group’s spokesperson. “The tools that Parsons Dialogue used were highly engaging. It was more than facilitation – it was like having a group coach.”
“Particularly with online engagement, we wondered how it was going to work,” said Weavell. “We were all highly impressed with the quality and effectiveness of this online process.” “
By working through the four P’s, and ensuring the fifth P (perspective) was present, Parsons Dialogue guided the group toward clarity and a cohesive understanding of its purpose, structure and next steps.
Through the process, participants leveraged their trust and respect for one another. They expanded their understanding of each organization’s perspectives. Important groundwork that is now allowing them to focus on solutions to the region’s labour shortage in a more collaborative and integrated way.
“The labour shortage is a chronic issue here, and we are working together with an informed, focused and regional approach to address it,” said Oliver.
While still in the early stages, the group has creative ideas to attract skilled workers to the area, retain local talent and provide resources for employers. Working together with a clear path and strong sense of direction. And already making a difference.