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It’s time to rethink deliberative engagement. Insync offers a 3 step deliberative process in line with the IAP2 framework.

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Deliberative Engagement

Regulators in the utilities and government sectors are increasingly demanding proof that your community’s views and concerns have been taken into account. They want greater accountability, transparency and power sharing between providers and their communities.

The Local Government Act (2020) intends to ensure that Victorian communities have the opportunity to engage with their council on local priorities and the future of their community. This presents both an opportunity and a responsibility for all Victorian local governments to enable participatory democracy.

What does it mean to deliberatively engage with your community, and how can Insync help?

While the Act does not prescribe what constitutes deliberative engagement “good practice”, there are some key characteristics to be considered:

  • the engagement is authentic
  • there is good representation of the community in engagement activities
  • there is a clear demonstration of how all views have been considered\
  • engagement activities are fully accessible
  • participants are appropriately informed of the decision-making process and the community’s level of influence.

This model shows three dimensions as key considerations for the development of a deliberative engagement plan:

When: regulators are encouraging you to engage your community early.

What: they are keen to see engagement on broad proposals and plans rather than single projects.

How: “inform” and “consult” on the IAP2 spectrum are considered limited ways of exploring community views.












Traditional “inform” and “consult” techniques don’t help utilities to understand:

  • The distinct values, perspectives and needs of different community groups
  • What services and infrastructure the community expects
  • What the community wants that the organisation hasn’t considered providing
  • How the community wants to balance affordability with service standards
  • The relative value of different services to the community

Challenges for utilities and local government include:

  • How to undertake a meaningful engagement with small or limited budgets
  • How to integrate deep, qualitative insights with broad, quantitative polling of ideas
  • How to gather the views of younger, more mobile and busier people
  • How to make best use of in-house skills and enhance capacity
  • How to engage effectively in a post-COVID world

Deliberative Engagement in the ‘new normal’

Australian regulators have looked around the world for best practice engagement methodologies that can be used here. Forward thinking organisations have already recognised the value of these techniques and within a few years, they will become business as usual for local governments, utilities and other “natural monopoly” service providers.

Community engagement today requires us to think differently and to offer blended approaches that include digital techniques to engage ‘deliberatively’ with stakeholders.

Insync can support you to select the right approach and engagement tools to meet your objectives and provide meaningful outcomes for the community.

What issues are deliberative tools most effective at addressing?

Deliberative techniques get to the heart of an issue by investing time in informing community participants so that they understand the nuances and complexity of policy issues. They address issues where there are tradeoffs between the present and the future, between cost and service, and between the majority and the minority.

Insync’s three-step deliberative process

  1. Broad, exploratory research. Insync sparks the discussion using online polls, social media, websites, face-to-face community research and in-depth random phone calls. This frames the issues for you and informs participants in the next stage.
  2. Deep probing. A well briefed and preferably stratified representative sample of the customer base considers the issues and tradeoffs in detail. The participants need three key ingredients: time, influence and information. The time to adequately consider the issues; the influence which convinces them to engage meaningfully with your organisation; and the information to adequately understand the complexity of the subject matter. Achieving a positive outcome at this stage is empowering for the community, who know that their providers respect them; and councils, boards, management and staff gain new insights into the capacity of community members.
  3. Broad, confirmatory stage. Information, dialogue and deliberation lead to better decisions in complex situations, for example: trading one desirable outcome for another; facing up to long term budget shortfalls; or prioritising one service over another. You build a stronger case for a variation than one informed by pressure groups and individuals.

At this stage, outcomes from the deep probing stage are tested with a statistically significant sample of the population. Insync is well known for high volume quantitative research. We conduct online, paper and telephone research to hundreds or thousands of affected customers and stakeholders.

Reporting and next steps

We incorporate all data into our findings and can provide a draft report and informal debrief before finalising our report and presentation. You can be more confident your submission will reflects what your community needs and wants.

If you have internal capabilities to manage your next steps, we can offer any assistance you may need along the way. If you need us to guide you, we’re more than happy to help.

Get started with Insync Deliberative

Insync Deliberative is a dedicated team with both quantitative and qualitative skills in research and engagement techniques. These include large scale surveys, benchmarking, facilitation, community and stakeholder engagement and deliberative processes.

Insync’s staff are certified by the International Association of Public Participation (IAP2) which provides a framework for linking a topic to the appropriate fieldwork method.

Need help getting started?

Talk to us today about our Deliberative Engagement approach and find out how you can better engage and collaborate with your community.

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