:: Possibilities Consulting
"…Lisa has facilitated the last two M&E coordinator workshops. She quickly gained a good understanding of the issues and communicates well with and is appreciated by the group. Lisa has a dynamic facilitation style and uses a wide range of very effective techniques. She takes the pressure off me allowing me to focus on the content. I highly recommended Lisa as a facilitator."…

Hugo Toro

(Australian Government M&E, NRM Joint Team)

"The one day workshop on how to negotiate was helpful as it created a good atmosphere within the group and assisted us to get to know each other before we had to start the actual project"

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a collaborative approach to making decisions and public policy look like?

Collaborative policy and decision making is a process that occurs when an authority (such as a government department or agency) brings together key stakeholders and works with that group to create and make agreements that all the parties can live with.

The intention is to find broad agreement amongst the parties.

The same approach is used in private sector organisations when key decisions are made that tap into the expressed needs and interests of their stakeholders.

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How can a collaborative approach to decision making benefit me as a policy facilitator / decision maker?

Undertaking policy development and making key decisions using a collaboration-based approach can reduce risks for government policy makers and decision makers in two ways:

  • Firstly, increasing the diversity of voices at the table ensures that multiple viewpoints are expressed and heard. This provides the platform for more holistic and integrated policy discussions. Also, if all the deal makers / deal breakers are at the table, it reduces the potential for agreement unravelling at a later stage.
  • Secondly, well-managed collaborative policy development is both transparent and inclusive, optimising the potential for public agreement and support by key stakeholders including those who are not formally ‘at the table’.

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What issues can our approach benefit?

Consensus-based policy making has been successfully used across a range of industries and issue. It is most helpful in situations where the issues are complex and the stakeholders to the decision are many or represent a range of interests. Typical examples include:

  • Environmental policy and planning
  • Land use and urban planning

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What is the difference between ‘consultation’ and collaborative policy engagement?

These days, government bodies that make policy in the absence of stakeholder consultation are few and far between. However, most of this consultation consists of "we’ll listen to your concerns and then we’ll make our own decision."

If such decisions do not meet the needs of some stakeholders (particularly those with the ability to derail implementation), then translating policy into action can be difficult.

Naturally, it is the right of decision makers to do just that, i.e. make decisions. However, if you can undertake a process that brings all your stakeholders with you on the journey, you significantly improve the chance of good outcomes.

By ‘good outcomes’, we mean that any agreement reached will have the true support of those people who need to implement and live with the consequences of the agreement.

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I haven’t got time for collaborative negotiations - I need a decision fast! Why would I bother?

Everyone likes to reach agreement quickly but when a paper agreement is ‘signed’ without any real buy-in then it isn’t really an agreement at all!

Our approach aims for high levels of what we call ‘implementation commitment’. That is, agreements where all the parties commit voluntarily to implement and enforce their decisions.

We do this by designing effective engagement processes and then facilitating an environment where the parties are heard, respected and their interests met. Often, parties achieve outcomes that exceed their own expectations and are certainly better than their alternatives.

As outlined in “Our working approach” we are focused on the end game and design the most time efficient approaches possible.

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What’s the problem with listening to people's viewpoints and putting forward or voting on a proposal that at least 50% of people support?

Although voting is part of our democratic culture, some would argue that it is a relatively low-quality approach to decision making. Why? Because a 51% vote-winning majority leaves behind 49% potentially unhappy with the outcome! If this 49% includes minority groups and/or individuals who are capable of derailing the implementation of the decision, then a voting approach is unlikely to achieve any real commitment to action.

The alternative is to work with the stakeholders, and support them in finding solutions to the issues that matter to them in a way that all parties can sign up to.

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Why would I try your approach?

Well, if things are working for you - keep on doing what you’re doing! However, if you find yourself facing any of the following situations, then our approach may be able to assist in moving the discussion forward:

  • Issues are becoming intractable
  • Your energy is gone for finding new and creative solutions
  • Stakeholders are angry and disenfranchised in spite of your best efforts
  • Independence is called for – a neutral third party is needed.

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