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One of the most critical elements of EAF is that it encourages a high level of participation from all relevant stakeholders in the planning process.  The tools to assist and facilitate input from stakeholders are therefore very important and are relevant to every step of the EAF process. Consultation activities relevant to EAF can be largely divided into five categories – (1) awareness raising/ information delivery, (2) facilitating stakeholder input, (3) decision making, (4) team building; and, importantly, (5) project management. It is important to note that the one consultation tool may be relevant for more than one of these categories.

If stakeholders are not accustomed to dealing with management, technical issues or planning processes they need some guidance to assist with their participation.  In such cases, it is advisable to undertake awareness raising through information meetings before starting formal consultation. Where there is a high level of distrust about the process or concerns about government intervention (or even influence of local elites) efforts to engender sufficient trust and commitment are needed possibly using team building tools.

Stakeholder input can be achieved through a variety of means including  community meetings, formal stakeholder workshops and focused discussions, using EAF presentation materials, surveys. Even individual discussions where representatives of the various groups are able to participate. The consultation methods and tools often work best in combinations, for example, a small group can draft a set of identified issues with a broader workshop forum undertaken to ensure all perspectives and views have been identified.

While a small knowledgeable group of experts may be able to provide comprehensive input, this may not generate broad acceptance for the outcome compared to a more inclusive process. Stakeholders often want to input to the process even where their technical understanding may be limited to ensure that their concerns are heard and their local knowledge and perceptions are taken into account. 

Determining the right level of consultation to assist with decision making (especially those made by consensus) is not as simple as where consultation is only used to obtain opinions where no decision is made (e.g. the identification of issues).   When using highly technical methods, only a small number of individuals will be directly involved, whereas surveys will automatically include many individuals.  Depending upon the specific issue the consultation method can therefore vary from a single expert providing advice up to input obtained from the entire stakeholder community.  Choose the method that will assist give you the right level of input, ownership combined with robustness and rigor in the outcome.

Consultation processes involving group input will depend greatly upon the skills of whoever is facilitating the meeting/workshop. There are a number of online descriptions and tips for being a facilitator but facilitation and consensus building courses are common.

Project meetings are a very important consultation activity. While they only directly involve the project team, they are extremely important to ensure that the planning process stays on track. Any resolutions/outcomes can be distributed more widely to enable other groups to be kept informed of progress. 

The selection criteria for these tools are given in the table below

Tools and information sources

Selection criteria

Difficulty

Cost

Capacity

Know.

Participation

Time

Project meetings Easy L-M L-M L M-H S
Community aand Stakeholder Meetings Easy L-M L-M L M-H S-M
Stakeholder Workshops Moderate M-H M–H L M-H M
EAF Presentation Materials Easy L M L M S
Surveys and Questionnaires Hard H M–H L M M–L
Focused Conversation Moderate M M L M M
Team Building Methods Moderate L-H M L M-H M
Facilitation– online guides Easy L L L M S
Facilitation Courses Moderate M-H L L M M
Conflict management, negotiation and consesus building Moderate L-H M-H L M-H S-L
Consensus Workshop Method Moderate M-H L M-H M-H S-M

L=Low or Long; H= High; M= Medium, S=Short

 
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