Case Study - Irrigation Futures

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Project Snapshot
Project Date June 2003 – June 2007
No. of people to manage/deliver project 7 Project Team members
2 Community Engagement specialists
No. of people involved 100+
Who was involved Institutional stakeholders (i.e. local shires, Goulburn Murray Water, Goulburn Broken CMA, etc), industry stakeholders, primary producers, community groups, business groups, counselling groups, women, youth, indigenous communities, non-English speaking background communities, the wider community.
Type(s) of engagement Inform, Consult, Involve, Collaborate are all being used for different stakeholders at differing stages throughout the project.
Cost $600,000
Time 4 FTEs (full time equivalents) for 2 years
Tools used Forums, Workshops, Deliberative Thinking
Inspirational Insights - The participation of the community in the design, development and delivery of this project has been critical
- We recognise that, within a diverse community, complete agreement will not always be achieved
- Seek input from local and external strategic thinkers, and employ a range of deliberative thinking tools
- Under-represented groups will be targeted in the planning stage
- The responsibility of the project team is to understand, and faithfully represent stakeholder views, not champion a particular cause.

Contents


Objective of the project


The objective of the Irrigation Futures project is to bring together the key stakeholders in irrigated agriculture and the regional community to develop a shared vision for, and to make informed choice about, the future of irrigation in the Goulburn Broken Catchment.

The Community


The project commenced in June 2003, and since then the project team has:
  • Spent considerable time with stakeholder groups to outline the project and seek their input in its development
  • Developed a number of strategies to ensure effective stakeholder participation, communication and evaluation
  • Engaged specialist groups to review the stakeholder participation plan, and assist with its implementation..
Group of people in engagement planning exercise.


Group of people in engagement planning exercise.


Guiding principles of the project



This project seeks the active involvement of key stakeholders in all stages - to ensure their ownership of, and commitment to, the project outputs.

The underlying engagement principles of the project are:
  • Work with stakeholders to develop a common view. We recognise that, within a diverse community, complete agreement will not always be achieved
  • Seek to capture innovative ideas. The project will seek input from local and external strategic thinkers, and employ a range of deliberative thinking tools
  • Be inclusive and equitable. Existing stakeholder networks will be utilised to identify stakeholder participants. However, under-represented groups will also be targeted in the planning stage
  • Provide a facilitation role, not an advocacy role. In order to maintain stakeholder confidence, it is essential to emphasise that the responsibility of the project team is to understand, and faithfully represent stakeholder views, not champion a particular cause.

Tools and methods used



Adhering to the principles of participation outlined above, input from the community has been sought in the following ways:
  • Irrigation Futures Forums – a series of regional forums were designed to engage key stakeholder groups. Participants were invited on the basis of the skills they bring could to the forum, and not the organisation they represented
  • Each forum heard from a broad cross-section of the community. This provided a clear definition of the range of views that needed to be accommodated in the project. It also provided the potential for building trust throughout the diverse stakeholder community
  • Participants from under-represented groups (i.e. women, Indigenous communities and non-English speaking backgrounds) were specifically invited to the forums. Where that was not effective, special programs were developed for these groups
  • Participation by young people was sought separately through youth networks in the Catchment area
  • The wider community has been asked to contribute through submissions and deliberative forums.

Lessons learned



Some of the key project learnings have been:

Client and engagement team relationship
Critical to the success of the project is the fact that the client and the engagement team were actively involved in the planning and delivery of each forum.

Engagement takes time
In planning for engagement, it is strongly advised that appropriate time be allocated to:
  • recruit participants - the project invited around 300 people to the forums
  • maintain contact with 120 active participants (telephone, email)
  • plan for workshops - this often took five to seven passes with a group of three to four people to get the running sheets sufficiently polished for the smooth operation of a full-day workshop.
Engagement is about trust
People give us their time expecting their input has the potential to produce change. The project therefore:
  • developed and delivered engagement programs that dealt with real issues
  • ensured we engaged to capture their views, not drive our pre-prepared agenda
  • reported back to participants regularly on what we could and could not deliver
This approach was designed to ensure that our stakeholder community develops trust in us as individuals and therefore trust in our program.

Planning and delivery needs to be adaptive
  • Even with five to seven passes in the planning phase, we still needed to run the program with a trial group and be prepared to modify it
  • Facilitation teams need to support each other in issues of stakeholder management during workshops
  • People have busy lives and responsibilities beyond the project. We need to tailor our programs to suit their needs.
Creative processes allow people freedom
If we want people to be free to express themselves, we need to create an appropriate environment. As we introduce changes in the process, we need to use small, incremental and purposeful steps. Things that worked for us were graphics (history wall), small working groups, social interaction through movement (art gallery) and spaces chosen (wildlife sanctuaries).

Quotes



"In order to maintain stakeholder confidence, it is essential to emphasise that the responsibility of the project team is to understand, and faithfully represent stakeholder views, not champion a particular cause.

"This project seeks the active involvement of key stakeholders in all stages - to ensure their ownership of, and commitment to, the project outputs."

Contact



Leon Soste, Senior Researcher – Irrigated Catchment, DPI Tatura, 03 5833 5956
Rob Chaffe, Community Engagement Facilitator, DSE Alexandra, 03 5772 0266