Engaging and empowering communities and stakeholders in rural land use and land management in Scotland

Report on how best to assist rural communities to engage with decisions on land use and land management.

Annex 11 Guidance for good practice engagement

Table 22 describes the key steps in an engagement process suitable for planning land use and land management at area or larger scales. (Local and community scale projects are unlikely to have the resources to deliver a thorough facilitated engagement process, but can be supported to follow these stages through group discussion packs and other materials).

Table 22: Key steps in an engagement process



1. Scope the context

This includes finding the following information:

  • The maximum level of influence ( i.e. can others make, share or influence decisions or only provide information for decision-makers?)
  • The number and types of people who need to be involved
  • How easy it would be to get everyone to a workshop
  • The level of tension and trust
  • The timeframes by which decisions need to be made
  • The past history between participants and whether they are likely to have similar or different: views, values and information
  • Whether the issue is complex or straightforward
  • What else is going on that is affecting the context
  • The geographic scale
  • The levels of governance that need to be involved ( e.g. community, local, area, national, international)
  • The capacity to support and facilitate the process

2. Commission a skilled in-project or third party designer/facilitator

  • Decide whether the process can be designed and facilitated by project officers, community members, or needs an impartial and professional facilitator.
  • If a professional designer/ facilitator is needed then pause until they have been involved. The best facilitators won't just 'drop in' and work in someone else's design. They will want to scope the situation and craft the optimum process within budgets and timeframes and ensure it is sound and equitable. The less their hands are tied by pre-existing design, the more they can do their best work.

3. Systematically identify communities and stakeholders

  • Identify all the different interests
  • Work out who needs to be in which level of influence (see Table 6)
  • Ensure that the core group holding decision power is equitable, inclusive and balanced. For example (depending on the focus of the engagement) this could mean equal numbers from business, environment, recreation, community, heritage/landscape, and landowning interests.

4. Develop an engagement strategy

  • Identify how to engage people depending on the level of influence possible, their interests, and communication preferences
  • Design the number of face-to-face workshops for the core deliberators and what happens before and after each
  • Design in other supporting engagement such as questionnaires or drop in meetings
  • Map the information flows and decision paths between different engagement activities and ensure links are genuinely functional (not just lines on a flow chart). Functional links are through people, documents and presentations.
  • Set out who will use engagement outputs, what they will use them for, and when.
  • Set out how progress will be communicated

5. Design the core engagement process

  • Design a sequence of workshops and within that the sequence of questions, facilitation techniques and methods, room layouts, and how best to group people

6. Facilitate

Use a facilitator with the skills and experience to do a good job. Key attributes are that they:

  • Have knowledge, experience and skills to facilitate group interaction and group process
  • Provide an environment where participants can speak freely and safely
  • Encourage cooperative behavior
  • Enable equal opportunity, so strong voices don't dominate
  • Handle tension and incidents
  • Maintain confidentiality
  • Know a range of facilitation techniques and tools and when to employ them
  • Handle the pressure of a live process

7. Monitor and adapt

Process Monitoring includes:

  • Survey baseline perspectives at the start of the process
  • During the process use a set of good practice criteria to review it and make adaptations as necessary
  • At the end ask people what influence they feel they have

8. Embed engagement as business as usual

  • Ask people how they want to be involved in influencing ongoing implementation, monitoring and review.

Stage 5 in the table above involves designing the core process to facilitate the shift from positional tactics to cooperative behaviour. This process is illustrated in Figure 6 5 . It shows how a well-structured process first helps participants to share and explore information in order to broaden out perspectives and help people move away from positional argument. Next, participates work together to generate ideas and solutions and explore the pros and cons of each. Finally, the process enables them to narrow options down to ones that are mutually acceptable.

The figure also illustrates that the purpose of the process (to gather information, consult or make decisions) determines how much of this process is completed.

Figure 6: The process of discussion broadening out before narrowing down matched with three levels of influence

Figure 6: The process of discussion broadening out before narrowing down matched with three levels of influence


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