How we came to be
Our managing director, Diana Pound, has an environmental background. In the 1990s Diana was charged with managing one of the first European Marine Sites in the UK – a 25 mile stretch of the Kentish coastline. At this time, authorities were challenging the site’s management and threatening legal action. Diana responded to this tension and conflict by commissioning a consensus building process. The process allowed for honest discussion and succeeded in a progressive outcome, without the need for legal battles.
Following this success, Diana did some further training, specifically in enabling environmental stakeholder dialogue, before setting up Dialogue Matters in 2000.
By 2003, the contracts were becoming too large to just work on part time, and so Diana realised she had to go for it, and left her part-time role to formalise the company and make it what it is today.
What we are today
Dialogue Matters have designed and facilitated over 100 Stakeholder Dialogue processes in environmental management cases, and trained over 2100 people in how to run their own effective participation processes. Our work is diverse, and has included guiding communities through local development challenges, helping stakeholders find agreement in integrated natural resource management, encouraging researchers to share and co-produce knowledge, and aiding international organisations in policy development.
To date we have worked in 28 countries and won two CIEEM Best Practice Awards for the outstanding quality of our work, the last one in 2018, which also saw us win the Tony Bradshaw Best Practice Award. Both prizes were awarded for our work on the Hatfield Forest project.
- We don’t come into projects as top-down experts. Instead we enable people to share knowledge and ideas.
- We work to create a constructive atmosphere. We help people to focus on what is working well and use that as a foundation for establishing what else needs to happen.
- When it comes to the environment, we believe that integrated systems thinking is the best way forward, and we encourage it whenever we can. It’s a particularly beneficial approach in complex, sometimes chaotic situations. It helps to show the big picture – from which we may identify multiple leverage points that can be addressed to support constructive change. It also helps us see the connectivity between elements in the situation, so as to support joined-up actions.
- We help people share understanding and build consensus (not weak compromise) about mutually acceptable and sustainable ways forward.
- We work to increase the level of influence stakeholders and participants have by encouraging project leaders to maximise empowerment. When possible we encourage full co-production, which means environmental professionals work with communities and other stakeholders to share power and responsibility to both plan and implement change.
- We keep on the cutting edge of best practice through our own innovation and through working with people who are leaders in their field.
The Stakeholder Participation Process Stages
- Research and understand the situation
- Identify the key question, Identify stakeholders
- Feedback on well-informed, technically sound decisions
- Deliver expert facilitation
- Design a bespoke process for stakeholder participation
- Continue engagement and establish ongoing dialogue