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Do the preparation, check the destination

The  project has been completed, the final report, finally approved, the diary is clear of project update meetings and the virtual team has gone its separate ways.

But what has changed?   How have things improved?   Have things got better for local people?   These are the questions which we need to be answered for any project involving public resources and aimed at addressing local community need.     Sounds obvious but how good is the sector at addressing these questions – from my own experience I think the picture is mixed.   There are some genuine efforts to communicate with residents about project outcomes and whether the initial objectives were achieved.      There are also some pretty poorly executed attempts at corporate back-slapping based on fairly limited progress.

The reason for this is measuring outcomes means we need to state clearly at the outset of the project “how will people be better off”.    Mark Friedman discusses the process of “turning the curve”; describing the outcome to be improved and what is likely to happen if nothing changes.   Actions are then measured against this projected baseline.  By taking effective and timely actions, improvements are made against the baseline.

The trick is doing the preparation beforehand to agree the metrics by which the project will be judged, including milestones to check progress along the way.    And regularly communicate with residents must be central to the project.

If people don’t feel that things have changed then the project can’t be claimed to be a success.

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The reason for consultation

The Consultation Institute provides a useful glossary entry on “consultation”

It says consultation is “The dynamic process of dialogue between individuals or groups, based upon a genuine exchange of views and with the objective of influencing decisions, policies or programmes of action”  

The quote says “genuine exchange”  – how often have we been involved in consultation where there has been a “genuine exchange”.    One area where we could improve the relationship with local residents is by making that extra effort to go back and inform local people about the results of the consultation.   This goes beyond a “you said, we did” press release; it requires time and patience, but the benefit is that local people will feel their voice is being heard.