The 12 principles of good engagement process design

_DSC0544Designing a more sustainable value chain for cashew nuts in Ghana or reforming the Cambodian Land Ministry – depending on the issues at stake and the actors involved, Stakeholder Dialogues can take very different forms and hold diverse challenges. Still, there are some principles that are crucial for the success of any change process. Here is a list of the 12 main principles that the Collective Leadership Institute has refined over the last years that will help you kick-start your engagement processes.

The 12 principles of good engagement process design:

  1. Build a strong container: A core group committed to the goal and to leading the change envisaged, a broader group of supportive actors
  2. Build resonance for the goal among actors that matter: Ensure high-level sponsorship and create resonance for the change through informal or formal conversations
  3. Get the system into the room and into a conversation with itself: Microcosm represents macrocosm, ensure that participants can talk to each other in small groups, avoid conference-style meetings, allow space for task-related conversations among participants
  4. Diagnose the current reality together: Allow a joint picture of the current reality to develop (e.g. through a SWOT Analysis, joint situational diagnosis, etc.)
  5. Build relationships: Ensure that people get to know each other formally and informally, ensure that all voices are heard, create contact and – encounters for – meeting each other as human beings
  6. Allow differences to emerge first, but in a structured way: Ensure that differences are listened to (and not swept under the carpet), create space for commonalities, create opportunities for consensus-building, design a structured integration process if differences occur
  7. Create task-orientation: Focus on achievable results that can be reached together: when people work on a task together and achieve a joint result, they align and produce tangible outcomes more readily
  8. Bring in expertise as needed: Ensure that all important facts are on the table (e.g. experts, task forces, etc.), allow space for participants to digest information in their own way, create opportunities to tailor information to their specific situation
  9. Find the common ground: Encourage participants to identify the common ground, ensure that facilitation keeps the common ground clear
  10. Create expert groups or task forces: For content details or temporarily unresolvable issues, establish task forces and bring results from task forces back into the large group for further consideration
  11. Keep the common goal clear: Remind stakeholders continuously of the larger issues at stake
  12. Offer reliable structure: Create a handrail for the change process (program, working group instructions, road maps, planning) and be aware how space (relationships) and structure (from seating order to power relationships to mental models) affect action

Think about the 12 principles when building your own process design, which of these are already happening, and which you still need to keep in mind.  Therefore try to keep the list handy as a reference for your own work. This will help you for your future projects and, at the same time, allows you to evaluate past projects. Comparing the list with your process design, which principles do you already apply?

Dive deeper and learn more about engagement processes in our open course:
Process Designs for Stakeholder Engagement – 01-04 July 2014 in Potsdam, Germany.