Consulting with stakeholders is essential in order to secure their support and identify any additional resources they might provide. This section:
- Provides a step-by-step guide for consulting with stakeholders
- Identifies different stakeholders and their usual motivations (drivers)
- Outlines approaches to consultation
About consulting with stakeholders
Stakeholders in the context of this guidance are any individuals or groups who have an active interest or investment in a recycling system or in the block of flats. The opinions and influence of stakeholders can determine if a project succeeds or fails. Consulting with stakeholders from the outset is essential in order to secure their support and identify additional resources they might provide.
Because flats have multiple levels of management they generally will have more stakeholders associated with them than kerbside properties. It is therefore essential to allow enough time and resources to consult effectively with stakeholders when launching a recycling or food waste service to flats.
Before starting a consultation process local authority officers should check internally whether their council already has procedures for consultation. There may also be resources that exist internally that could support the process.
Stage one: Identify stakeholders
Whilst some stakeholders will be obvious, others may not immediately spring to mind. It can be useful to hold an initial brainstorming session with colleagues in order to begin the process of identifying all key stakeholders. The brainstorming session can help to:
- Ensure that a complete list of stakeholders to consult is produced (think of all the people who are likely to be affected by the project, who have influence over it, or who have an interest in whether it succeeds or fails)
- Understand what their interest in the project is (or should be) and what they need and desire
- Establish whether the council already has contact with the individuals or groups
Once a list of stakeholders has been compiled, this list should be kept fluid and constantly updated in order to respond to changes over time.
A list of possible stakeholders is provided, why they should be consulted, appropriate methods of consultation and a suggested timeframe for consultation.
Stage two: Prioritise stakeholders
There will not be enough time to consult and deal equally with every stakeholder therefore it is important to create a manageable and meaningful sample to proactively consult with. It can help to categorise each stakeholder by their importance and potential impact on the recycling system. One approach is to draw a graph, with the y-axis representing “influence” and the x-axis representing “interest.” Write the stakeholders’ names in the section that appears appropriate. The position on the grid will show how important their involvement is to the project.
It should be noted that at varying times, certain audiences may take precedence over others e.g. at launch time, implementation and review periods.
Stage three: Consider stakeholder opinion
Considering how stakeholders are likely to feel about a project will help guide decisions about the most effective methods to consult with them. The following questions may help:
- What financial or emotional interest do they have in the outcome of the work? Is it positive or negative?
- How well has the council consulted with them before? What has worked and what hasn’t?
- Are there any current structures in place to help with consultation? e.g. regular meetings of private managing agents that local authority representatives could attend
- What information do they expect from the council and what is the best way of communicating the message to them?
- What is their current opinion of the council? Is it based on good information?
- If they tend not to be positive, what will win them over to support the project? If they will be difficult to win over, how could their opposition be managed?
- Who influences their opinions generally? Do some of these influencers therefore become important stakeholders in their own right?
- Who else might be influenced by their opinions?
- When is it best to consult with the stakeholders?
It can be useful to talk to existing contacts or colleagues who have previously consulted with different stakeholders in order to answer these questions.
Stage four: Decide how and when to consult with stakeholders
Consider the different stakeholders and which methods of consultation are likely to be most effective. Some methods of engaging with stakeholders are available here.
Develop a plan to ensure that key stakeholders are consulted effectively at all times. This consultation plan may form part of the wider plan for rolling out a service. Different stakeholders may be consulted more than once using more than one technique. Your stakeholder consultation plan and communications plan will be closely linked. Cross check both plans to ensure all stakeholders are consulted and informed at the right stages in the programme.
At the planning stage, stakeholders can play an important role in testing broad options and proposals that will help to shape the overall system. For example, several types of collection scheme may be discussed with the fire brigade and waste disposal authority. Their feedback can then be used to obtain final internal agreement on the type of scheme that can be implemented. Details of the agreed schemes may then be tested on residents and other stakeholders e.g. the type of container that is preferred.
As the system rolls out stakeholders can be consulted on a local level e.g. the scheme in each block can be agreed with residents and managing agents. Post-launch stakeholder consultation can be used to assess system performance and address issues.
Stage five: Consult with stakeholders
Throughout stakeholder consultation activities, it is important to remain open to feedback and use it to help shape and improve the planned service. Consistent evaluation is key to ensuring feedback being gained is useful and to ensure that the targeted stakeholders are representative of the stakeholder groups required. If not, it will be necessary to adjust the consultation plan and the techniques used.
At all stages, it is essential to manage expectations so stakeholders understand that although their ideas / opinions will be taken into account it may not be possible to meet all their expectations.
After engaging with stakeholders keep in contact with them regularly in order to update them on progress.
It may be that not all stakeholders will require to be consulted but all will need to be informed of the scheme. Also some stakeholders you will consult with at the start may end up becoming more informed as the programme develops. Take this into account when writing your communications plan.
Ongoing consultation and communications
Using a partnership approach with stakeholders during the planning stage of your scheme will help ensure a successful roll out. Keeping in contact with stakeholders after the roll out can be just as important as it will secure ongoing support for the scheme. This can be via a simple email to managing agents providing feedback on sites at their properties or via a resident’s newsletter thanking them for recycling.
Most stakeholders communicate with residents on a regular basis. For example housing associations issue tenants with newsletters or run roadshows on large estates. It is useful to gather this kind of information when initially engaging with stakeholders as these could be communication avenues to tap into. Remember to factor these events into your communications plan.
- Use stakeholder consultation to anticipate the reactions people may have to a project; this will enable the development of plans that have widespread support.
- It can be damaging to provide too much or too little information. Be sensible about judging the level of detail given to different parties as well as the amount of time spent managing stakeholders. Tailor consultation plans to the size and complexity of projects and goals, and the time available.
- Birmingham City Council ran a workshop with key representatives from the social housing associations represented in one area of the City. They presented on the new recycling collection scheme; discussed any feedback and perceived issues; established key drivers and main priorities for the various housing associations; and discussed how the stakeholders currently communicate with their tenants. This acted as a consultation process and helped to establish working relationships. The Council then ran focus groups with residents to discuss their attitude to recycling; what would make them recycle and how they would like to be communicated with. Information gathered from both exercises fed into a communications plan for the roll out of the new flats recycling service.
- For a recent consultation exercise Manchester City Council gained permission from management companies of large buildings to spend a few hours in the main entrance to speak to residents. This was done in the early evening to catch people coming home from work and was reported to be successful.
- Thurrock Council found that caretakers became much more amenable to recycling after the Council made a concerted effort to address problems they were having with refuse collection and street sweeping.
- The Association of Residential Managing Agents lists their members by region on their website. This can be a useful starting point for gaining contact with private managing agents. Thurrock Council set up an account with the Land Registry to find out who the managing agents for different blocks of flats are.
- In some blocks in the London Boroughs of Hammersmith and Fulham and Islington consultation with caretakers resulted in the councils collecting recycling door to door or from collection points on each floor of the building. In Hammersmith and Fulham caretakers are paid overtime to undertake the collections, however the potential for recycling collections to be incorporated as part of their daily duties is being investigated. Feedback from caretakers about the scheme has been overwhelmingly positive and they are keen for the scheme to continue.
Want to know more?
- The International Association for Public Participation promotes the values and best practices associated with involving the public in government and industry decisions which affect their lives
- View advice on statutory consultation by landlords
- View a list of possible stakeholders, reasons why they should be consulted, appropriate methods of consultation, and a suggested timeframe for consultation
- Find out about some methods of stakeholder engagement, and their pros and cons
- Download a sample grid for classifying stakeholder involvement
- Read the WRAP guidance on monitoring and evaluation, including advice on conducting surveys and focus groups
- Download guidance from Defra on consulting communities on municipal waste management strategies