4 ways stakeholder consultation planning changed conversation in a town

What sort of results would you want from a stakeholder consultation in your town? Here’s the outcomes from the June 15, 2011 Port Hope planning consultation

Duncan Mackinnon, one of the the contributors to the town’s brand planning kindly answered my four questions.

Video: stakeholder planning consultation

1. What were the top 4 things that worked to bring HBIA group together, then to bring the stakeholders together?

Concerned downtown business owners in Port Hope began to talk among themselves about the decline in retail traffic by both visitors and locals. Initially, the mood was pessimistic and there was an “us” vs. “them” type of attitude.

Informal discussions quickly became more formal using the HBIA (Historic Business District Business Improvement Association). An additional HBIA committee was formed to focus on strategy with the group recruiting people with a mix of skills and experience to work on solutions.

An outside professional facilitator was engaged to mobilize the group. Information technology and social media played a huge role in quickly/collectively sharing news and ideas.

This group quickly realized the need to consult with a broad range of stakeholders who are concerned about the town’s future and that the issue was larger than just trying to fix downtown.

Effective Teamwork came into play as the committee reached out to people they knew at Town Hall, in business/industry, education, service clubs.

The Roundtable meeting that resulted with all parties under one roof was an enormous success in building morale. And, putting thoughts into motion.

2. You saw the facilitator using solution focus throughout the process, i.e., leading up to, and in particular at the stakeholder session. What were some of the things you noticed that worked for both HBIA and the stakeholders?

The solution based focus very quickly got everyone down to work and allowed for “pent up” positive ideas to come forth. It clearly helped to avoid getting bogged down in negative, defensive dialogue. The resulting sense of teamwork and word-on-the-street, positive vibe would not have been felt possible by many.

The result has been a major turnaround in attitudes and has got people thinking that anything is possible.

3. What did you see or hear happening in the few days afterwards?

The best phrase I can come up with is “A fire has been lit!”. Early, I mean at breakfast time, the very next morning, there was a buzz up and down the main street about the incredible meeting held at Molson Mill.

That morning, the town’s Tourism and Economic Development department staff were calling on shopkeepers asking what needed to be done and how they could help.

Town Council members were “pumped” and looking for ways to quickly implement the ideas discussed.

The email, Facebook and Twitter traffic was jumping with positive comments and COMMITMENTS.  It certainly demonstrated that such a coming together, in a positive way, was long, long overdue.

4. What steps do you see the group taking to make the learning and the actions sustain over time?

It’s critical to “Strike while the Iron is hot” so that we do not lose momentum. A top line thank you note and YouTube video link were sent to all participants by email. The video , with description, was also posted on Facebook and on various community websites. A follow up meeting is scheduled within 7 days. Also important is the identification of skilled new recruits who attended the session, to help implement ideas.

What is SOLUTION FOCUS

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