The final of my Top 10 Consultation Tips is always report back to consultees at the end of your exercise – in a clear, honest and timely way.

An obvious point perhaps. But once again, it’s often not done.

I think the reason why it’s frequently overlooked is because it’s too easy to work hard on an engagement exercise, feel relieved the intensive, interactive part is over, alter proposals accordingly and move straight on to the next project.

But the exercise isn’t really over until the feedback step is completed.

Consultees will have given up their time and views and will want to know what you’re doing as a result. Depending on the nature of the project, they’ll probably be curious at least – and potentially concerned – about what’s going to happen next.

 

So, what should reporting back include?

There’s no set formula as every project is different, but I think it should cover, as a minimum:

  • a recap of the scheme in hand
  • a summary of what you’ve done to consult people
  • analysis of the views you’ve heard, and
  • an account of how, if at all, the proposals in hand will change

 

What format should it take?

If the consultation feedback hasn’t pointed to any changes needed to your project, you probably just need a simple way to let people know that – maybe through your web site or by letter/leaflet. There’s no point dragging people to a meeting to tell them nothing’s changed.

But if your scheme has been altered based on consultation feedback, you’ll likely want to present back the revised version.

The format could be a comprehensive series of exhibitions, a single presentation meeting or simply making new information available online. The best approach is of course a matter of judgement based on the importance of the scheme, consultees’ appetite to find out more and the resources you have available.

In feeding back to people – in whatever form you decide best – it’s important to be clear about where feedback has been taken on board and your scheme has been altered accordingly.

It’s equally important to be honest about where it hasn’t and the reasons why. Even if people won’t like hearing this, they’re likely to respond better to having the point addressed openly than it being side-stepped.

 

Closing the loop

Closing the loop on a project in this way is not only the decent and professional thing to do. It will mean consultees are more likely to back your proposals – for example, by supporting (or at least, not objecting to!) a planning application.

And they’re more likely to participate constructively in future engagement projects.

 

I hope my Top 10 Tips for consultation have been helpful. Find out more here about our public consultation & community engagement services and how we could help you with your project.