The idea behind public participation in territorial development projects is to include the stakeholders of a territory into its management. The goal is to integrate the user expertise, to create a climate of trust, and to establish channels of communication between different stakeholders in order to achieve a more democratic management of the territory answering the challenge of sustainable development.
There are questions to be asked when designing the public participation process:
- How to move from the problem diagnosis to the design of participatory process to address this problem?
- How to work with stakeholders whose interests are diverse in a constructive and motivating manner?
- How to move from the representation of individual or collective interests to the construction of shared objectives?
- What stance needs to be taken to complete successfully the participatory process?
In our consultancy work we focus on responding to these questions and on proposing effective solutions at different stages of public participation process: design, stakeholder mobilization, facilitation, evaluation. Our interventions combine the method with the values that define our work ethics.
Public participation process usually follows three stages: preparation, implementation and evaluation.
- The success of public participation process starts with the preparation stage. We analyze the context; clarify the objectives of the process and possible margins of discussion. We identify the stakeholders and their expectations towards the process. We design a process in which every stage has well defined objectives and can involve all or some of the identified stakeholders.
- Successful implementation at each stage is assured by the quality facilitation. We use different participatory methods (i.e. participatory modeling, role playing games) and the group facilitation techniques. The implementation is guided by a set of values (i.e. neutrality, transparency).
- During the evaluation stage the conclusions can be made and lessons learned. This is not a necessary step but we strongly recommend it to our clients. It allows assessing the quality of the process and thus the legitimacy of the decisions taken during the public participation process.
Following this approach makes it possible to:
- Create favorable conditions for dialogue (i.e. by preparing each stakeholder group for discussion with other stakeholders)
- Construct shared representation of situation or problem (i.e. through participatory diagnosis) and explore future scenarios (i.e. through simulations)
- Define common objectives and agree on how to solve problems (i.e. through action plans).
- Formulate recommendations for decision-makers.
Lisode is an accredited training organism which regularly organizes three types of vocational training courses:
- Group facilitation. During this training course you will learn what are the principles and tools to facilitate interactive meetings
- Public participation in territorial development projects. During this training course you will learn what are the necessary stages, principles and methods to design and implement a public participation process
- Role-playing games. During this training course you will learn how to conceive, facilitate and evaluate role-playing games for professional purposes
During our training courses you will acquire:
- Knowledge: you will learn the key theoretical concepts
- Skills: you will become competent in designing and facilitating participatory process and in using relevant tools and methods
- Attitude: you will realize and reflect on your personal approach to intervention by clarifying their underlying values
The training courses offered by Lisode have a very practical dimension. Our ambition is to equip the participants with competences that are directly applicable in the reality of their work. We use a project-based education approach. The cases we work on during our courses are built on the real experiences of the participants. We analyze them and solve collectively. We use interactive methods such as role-playing games to let participants practice their skills in simulated real-life situations and to confront their knowledge with the reality of the complex social dynamics similar to the dynamics of the participatory processes.
Next to the regular training courses we propose custom made training, adapted to the needs of our clients and to the context in which they operate. These training courses provide an opportunity to strengthen group dynamics and build a common knowledge and skills repository contributing to our clients’ organizational development.
Since the creation of Lisode, we have sought to establish a link between the results of research and the needs of policymakers. In parallel to our consultancy activities, we participate in (or coordinate) national and international research projects. Our approach is action research in which theory and practice are methodologically related in the process of knowledge production. The action research framework provides opportunities for:
- Continuous learning. The reflective approach that we adopt allows us to step back and reflect on our own actions in order to improve our consultancy services
- Knowledge production. We use the outcome of our research to publish scientific papers, but also to fuel the content of our training courses
- Innovation transfer. The close contacts with the world of research allow us to keep abreast of recent advances in the participatory tools and methods, and to transfer them to the world of practitioners
Finally, Lisode hosts and manages a community of practice, which brings together researchers and practitioners who wish to share their experiences and enrich their practice in the field of participation. This community meets regularly to test and reflect on participatory methods, including those that we use in the field during our interventions.