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Engagement must be Earlier, deeper, Better

The New Rules of Engagement

There is a growing body research from psychology and neuroscience that shows that stakeholder engagement needs to be done well or not at all. In our connected world there is an expectation of open communication and a suspicion of official process.

Communities and stakeholders expect to included and often object to processes as opposed to developments or schemes in themselves. The outcome of ineffective or late engagement is antipathy amongst affected communities.

We have been discussing the implications of the changing engagement requirements within our society leading researchers such as Dr Christopher Jones of The University of Sheffield. His studies on the attitudes to wind farms and other energy sources shed light on the emotional human response that is often overlooked in engagement attempts.

It is also interesting that one of the world’s leading climate scientists, Professor Chris Rapley of University College London believes that the only place we can start to solve the issues of climate change is by studying the human brain, not the ice caps.

This has led us to conclude that stakeholder enegagment must be undertaken difrenetly and to different rules. It must be done properly or not at all. The research has shown that small amount of cautious, superficial engagement can leave stakeholders feeling uncomfortable and can have a negative effect on attitudes.

Vivian Partnership’s approach is based on three simple words: Earlier, Deeper, Better - and should be at the heart of any approach to engagement. We have worked with leading companies in the UK to develop approaches with local communities, employees and business stakeholders.

Earlier – the sooner you identify who to engage and the earlier you start to engage the better. In many situations where planning is being sought for a new development, the law doesn’t help and can leave you exposed. Engaging earlier means that people can develop understanding and a level of mutual respect.

We can get you started

Deeper – find out what matters to people. Engagement that works on superficial levels or deals with only factual information often antagonises stakeholders. Language and empathy are key to encouraging discussion with an outcome of reaching consensus. Treating everyone as a NIMBY will not help you to communicate effectively.

We can help you to understand what really matters to your stakeholders

Better – good quality stakeholder engagement offers so much to those prepared to invest time and effort. Improving relations with neighbours or affected parties is only one potential positive outcome. Better engagement also provides insight to how the world is changing and how business needs to adapt and needs to be an on-going process of dialogue.

We can develop your capacity to use and benefit from all channels of communication.




It is fantastic to leave a seminar feeling inspired and full of practical ideas. Thursday’s oomph seminar did exactly that, Ben and Dan are naturals at putting an audience at ease which meant real participation from the group. As environmental professionals often form a one person team, it is fantastic to share a room with like minded individuals from local businesses who have faced and tackled similar challenges and can offer insight and advice. Eagerly anticipating the next installment of Oomph!

Nicola Duffy, Environmental Co-ordinator at Highcross, Leicester

Thank you both for inviting us to today’s Oomph seminar. From our point of view, we found the stimulus material and subsequent debate insightful from a sustainability perspective, but also in a wider context applicable to the successful deployment of general business initiatives.

Participant at Oomph Seminar 30 June 2011

Really enjoyed this morning. I have attended very few seminars over the past two years simple because they are all too similar, often the the same speakers and follow the same theme. Today was most importantly enjoyable, interesting and got the brain cells working. I like small groups with variety of people and backgrounds.

Participant at first Oomph Seminar 30 June 2011