Stakeholder Engagement – The Key to Successful Placemaking

Wide ranging, inclusive and innovative stakeholder engagement will shape your Local Transport Plan. If you’re going to create vibrant liveable spaces that people want to be part of, it’s obvious that you need to involve them and listen to their views. But if you’re thinking seriously about stakeholder engagement, the first thing you should do is take the plan you used for your last project, and throw it in the bin!

It’s not because it was a bad plan necessarily. But the biggest mistake we all make when it comes to engaging with our stakeholders is to imagine that ‘one size’ fits all. It doesn’t. You need to think hard about who your stakeholders are and why you need to engage them. They may be elected representatives, operators, business, or the general public, but none of those groups are generic. The politicians and businesses involved in your project are not the same ones with the same priorities and pressure as the ones you engaged with in the last. The general public is not so general – it has a specific complexion that is particular to the local area.

The second thing you should do is engage sooner. Early engagement allows you to respond to what you hear, and if you are not going to change your plans in response, what’s the point of engagement? Few things are more frustrating than having your opinion canvassed and then ignored. Not only should you respond, but you should communicate clearly on how you have responded, and build that into your plan too. Last but not least – don’t forget to let the stakeholders know how they contributed, investing them in your project, and your project in them.

Of course, some stakeholders are easier to reach than others. Public engagement especially is dogged by the problem of self-selection. Some individuals or communities may be excluded by the data or terminology you use, or by restricting languages to just English. Anticipating these difficulties is not so hard, but it underlines the dangers of simply relying on the strategy that was used before in a different place populated by different people.

So, engage the way you would like to be engaged and you are more than halfway towards forming a successful strategy. Remember why you are doing it – to make changes and, ultimately, to deliver sustainable, liveable communities and economic growth.

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