Having spent a significant part of my career in the minerals sector you soon get to know what stakeholder engagement is all about after all mineral extraction is labelled as "bad neighbour development".  In my earlier days the phase "Stakeholder Engagement" didn't exist, we talked about liaison groups and public meetings. The term "Stakeholder Engagement" came from the practice of "Corporate Social Responsibility" (CSR) which has it's origins in the 1960's. However I don't think that stakeholder engagement became common langauge amongst planners until about 2000 although it had been taking place in many forms over time. One aspect that may have caused some early confusion was seeing this as a new and seperate process whereas in reality it is any form of communication with anybody with an interest in your activities.

Back to those early days engagement when people were potentially affected by proposed development we used to hold a public meeting. These usually took some time to organise as the media used was very much "hard copy". Displays, posters, maps and plans had to be designed and produced and hopefully at a point in time when the scheme itself had been finalised. The meeting would be published and it was a bit of a lottery on exactly how many people would come along. I recall our earliest public meetings were usually arranged for the afternoon stretching into early evening. As years passed we had to be more flexible and often held them on Saturday's as well so that people could make time to visit. Generally they were well received as the majority of people do like to be informed of what was planned in their locality. Probably the most difficult part was persuading residents that the noise, as an example, would not be intrusive. I should also add that there is also the scope for even a public meeting to be hijacked by one or more particulary upset residents but that is for another day. The downside of this process was retaining that connection with the local residents other than holding further meetings.

When ISO140001 came along and with it a more fomalised CSR process to my mind the stakeholder engagment did get too complex. There was a rush to "engage" with absolutely everyone and anyone who could have an interest in your site or activities. This watered down the the actual engagement as a considerable amount of time was spent identifying who these people might be interested and then trying to engage with them. In reality many weren't that intertested or affected. The majority of efforts do need to be spent on those in the immediate locality.

I do still attend Village Hall Meetings and attended one only last week. Generally it was productive and we were presenting ideas for a small residential scheme. On this occassion it was important to stress that we were presenting draft ideas and welcomed comments on the layout and design. As a result we are now making some changes.

However one thing has changed and maybe as a result of the smart phone, tablets and the internet. More and more people (and I generalise with the younger being more key here) want information a lot faster and delivered in a format they can quickly absorb. Many simply don't have the time or will to attend a Village Hall Meeting which may go on for an hour or two and more so they want to be updated much quicker. The internet can certainly help here as can the amazing advances in software and technology. Changes to schemes and plans can now be made quickly and information distributed instantly. I have been using a process called "Story Maps" for some time to acheive this.

Story Boards are a component of ESRI's GIS software. Having been created by a GIS comapny you would think that they are centred around maps. To a degree they are but they can also be made up of any relevant content you have eg pictures, text, video. In addition there are many format and styles of Story Map so that you will always find one that fits the task. A big advatage is that they are relatively quick to produce and content can be changed easily as well as using dynamic content. One project I am creating Story Maps for on a regular basis is the New Lubbesthorpe Development near Leicester. This scheme started last year and will eventually deliver 4,250 houses plus schools and other infrastructure beiong built over the next 10 years. The latest Story Map can be seen here; 


A new Story Map will be published shortly. 

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