From 2014 to 2018, a New Brunswick Department was responsible for developing a local strategy and presenting it to the industry. While the strategy was executed, the engagement was limited because it felt imposed from the top down. In other words, the communities most affected by them felt they weren’t given a chance to provide any input.
The Department’s initial plan was not to involve local stakeholders in the development of their strategy. As a result these local actors had difficulties implementing them. The Department finally realized that they needed to be involved when it came to making decisions about the local environment and its priorities because these decisions affect the provincial economy. Local stakeholders help create jobs and foster growth in the industry.
We were recommended to the Department because we offer an innovative approach to public consultations in both French and English. The Department was interested in using Open Space sessions as a way to give stakeholders the opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way to the new strategies they wanted to develop. This came to a great advantage as Open Space’s “one, long coffee break” format allows people to unite around a common theme to discuss—and take responsibility for—issues they deeply cared about.
With our assistance as facilitators, the Department held Open Space sessions in different communities, including the indigenous communities across the province. The result was an abundance of dynamic conversation, many new ideas, and the emergence of many possible courses of action.
Using the proceedings from the Open Space sessions, the Department was able to analyze and incorporate the data into a strategy that reflected the ideas and proposed actions offered by the local actors who participated (Francophone, Acadian, Anglophone, and First Nations).
Both participants and members of the Department agreed that they enjoyed the experience and should be doing more of these types of events.