Part one of a three-part series on multi-stakeholder collaboration
It’s true. When we work together, we can solve complex societal issues. We can make impactful change. We can really make a difference. Sometimes, working together comes naturally. And sometimes, it takes work.
This is something we are super passionate about at Parsons Dialogue.
We are proud to support several collaborative efforts that involve multiple stakeholder groups coming together to tackle important problems. Whether it’s improving access to social services, addressing air quality concerns or solving labour shortages, these groups typically include industry, government, community representatives and other interested stakeholders. There are lots of different names for these types of arrangements, like partnerships, committees and associations, among others.
They are often grassroots initiatives, brought to life by passionate individuals who see a problem that needs to be addressed and want to make change. Sometimes, they are formal committees struck by governments, or associations representing a profession or industry.
The various group members typically have a shared interest, but they do not always share the same beliefs, opinions and perspectives. In fact, sometimes they can be on the opposite sides of an issue.
Here is an example. A local tourism association wants to develop a new attraction on a reservoir and begins to reach out to organizations that would have a vested interest: recreational users, water sport associations, environmental groups and the local municipality. They start meeting once a month to discuss the possibilities.
Everyone agrees a river attraction would be beneficial for tourism, and that it must be built in the most responsible way. But they don’t all agree on what the attraction should be and who should pay for it. Structure is needed for decision-making, funding and general organization, but the group is stuck on how to move forward.
That’s when they call us.
These situations are often quite complex, and usually can’t be “solved”. Our goal with multi-stakeholder clients is to create the conditions for dialogue, provide good processes and employ reliable methods that will help them navigate that complexity. We do that, using our trusty “4 Ps” framework:
Most importantly: Throughout the process, we take time to listen and understand each other’s perspectives - which is really our 5th “P”. That’s where the magic happens.
“Having perspective means being able to see the world through someone else’s eyes. It’s about building empathy and investing energy into nonjudgmental listening in an effort to understand where others are coming from.” – November 2021 blog
We have seen these sessions establish broader context, build shared understandings, connect dots, bridge gaps and spark creativity. Through this work, our clients have made incredible strides on big-picture stuff like getting clear on purpose, defining the problem and establishing plans. They’ve addressed crucial details like building sustainable governance structures, engagement processes and administrative practices.
We will continue to build on this idea of multi-stakeholder collaboration in the second and third parts of this blog series. The best part is – you will hear from someone other than me! We are very excited to introduce you to some of our clients, who have agreed to share their stories right here.