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Evaluating Your Consultation: What Constitutes “Success”?
Friday, August 20th, 2010

Has my consultation initiative been successful? Here’s one question that we are bound to confront with every project… Before you launch into the mechanics of your evaluation though, take a moment to reflect on the following three questions – and in each case, “peel back the onion” to seek the answer behind the obvious answer…

1. What are the drivers behind the engagement process?
For example, a process may be driven by “an obligation to consult”, versus an honest desire to do so. Understanding the true drivers of your consultation, even if they are not always as “noble” as you would wish them to be, is key if you are to contextualize it appropriately.

2. What constitutes “success”?
This may not always be as obvious as one would think. For example, a high participation rate may create an illusion of success for the sponsor, but if the quality of the experience is found lacking, then can we say it was truly successful? Are the tangible outcomes (e.g., influencing the policy process) more or less important than the intangible ones (e.g., educating participants on the issue or mending relationships)?

3. A “successful” process… according to whom?
We tend to evaluate processes based on the perspectives of either the process sponsor or the process participants. A good evaluation should in fact assess the process from the perspective of the participants, the sponsor, and if relevant, significant third parties who may be affected by or who may affect the process (e.g., the media).

– Manon Abud –

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