Methods of stakeholder engagement

Brainstorming is a consultation process that aims at identifying different creative solutions to problems and choosing the most appropriate, in a democratic way. It starts from an identified problem, it involves a group of people that can provide relevant input related to it and allows them to share common but also unusual solutions, pushing the limits of the resources they have at their disposal.

Brainstorming is a two-stage process. Firstly, people share potential solutions that can (and even should) be as wild as possible, without anyone being able to criticize them (the objective is to bring into discussion as many options as possible and to break down preconceptions about the limits of the solutions). In the second stage the proposals are analysed, adapted to the possibilities of the organisation, new ones can be created starting from the initial suggestions and, in the end, the best one is chosen.

Setting up a brainstorming session is not very challenging but is should still be done with a lot of attention as it involves a lot of debates and people defending their ideas, which can turn into conflict if not managed properly. Here are the basic steps:

1. Choose carefully the participants: as much as possible, they should have different backgrounds, interests and experiences. Like this you can insure that the solutions will be as creative as possible.

2. Choose the moderator of the discussion. He/she will not contribute with ideas and will not engage in the debates, but will have the following roles:

To present and explain the process to the participants;

To present the problem for which a solution is searched;

To make sure each person is offered the space to contribute and even to encourage this contribution;

To prevent people from criticizing ideas in the first stage;

To make sure the discussion stays on course;

To write down the ideas that will be generated;

3. Start the first session by asking people to share their potential solutions. In this stage, the proposals should not be evaluated or criticized.

4. Record the ideas no matter how unrealistic they may seem. This stage can last either until there are no new ideas coming or for a designated amount of time (that is presented from the beginning). Ideally, the proposals should be presented in a way that will allow everyone to see them (e.g. on a projector)

5. Start the second stage, where the proposals are being presented evaluated, adapted or even combined in order to find the best solution. The idea is to find the best solution having the previous proposals as inspiration points.

6. Choose the best option in a democratic way. If this is not possible or required, generate a list of potential solutions (with pros and cons for each) and forward it to the decision makers.


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