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Consultation preparation

The advice in this toolkit has been developed to help change sponsors prepare their consultation strategy as part of Step 3A of CAP1616. A project plan should be included as part of this strategy which sets out all the activities that sponsors will embark on throughout the Stage 3 process.

This acts as a roadmap for sponsors, so they can plan and deliver all key elements to ensure a successful consultation. Each sponsor will have to tailor their plan to reflect their own activities but ICCAN has set out below the kind of elements that could be included at different stages during the Stage 3 process. 

Pre-consultation – weeks 0-10 (Step 3a)

Agree scope / mandate

Creating a consultation mandate is a good way of setting out exactly what the scope and purpose of the consultation is so that sponsors are clear about what they are trying to achieve. tCI has created a template which features seven key elements that should be considered at the outset of planning for public consultation, and using this to create a consultation mandate can be a useful internal exercise to remind team members why they are consulting, for what purpose and why it is important.

Documenting this at an early stage can also be useful in creating consistent messaging and understanding both internally and externally regarding the role and purpose of the consultation.

An example mandate could look like this:

  • We…(the consultor)
  • Need to understand the views of…(the audience)
  • Concerning…(what are you asking them?)
  • So that…(the decision maker)
  • Can do…(what is the decision / action to be taken?)
  • By…(When does this decision / action take place?)
  • To achieve…(how does this decision / action help achieve wider aims?)

Stakeholder identification and mapping

As set out in the Audience section, understanding which audiences are most likely to be impacted by the proposals is a key aspect of consultation preparation.

This work should complement the activity that has already been done as part of Stages 1 and 2 of CAP1616. ICCAN has outlined more detail about how to identify and map stakeholders in the Audience section

Approach planning

As set out in the Approach section, change sponsors will have to decide which methods and tools they need to adopt to reach, engage and communicate with their identified audiences.

At this stage, sponsors should assess their resources and work out which online and offline channels they will be using to help deliver the consultation. ICCAN has outlined more detail about how to reach and engage with stakeholders in the Approach section.

Equalities analysis

Having identified the audiences for the consultation sponsors may wish to understand which protected characteristics groups might be impacted by the proposals, and which sections of the communities might have difficulty engaging with the consultation (for instance, who might find some of the proposed communication activities challenging). Should they choose to, this is a good time for sponsors to develop a strategy for reaching and engaging with protected characteristics and seldom heard audiences to ensure that the views of such audiences are clearly understood as part of the consultation. 

ICCAN has outlined more about seldom heard audiences and equalities analysis in the Audience section.

Materials preparation

Developing the materials is key part of the consultation preparation, so after identifying who the audiences are, sponsors must create simple, yet informative documents that set out the proposals and their impacts. This is also the time to start developing the online questionnaire, so that it is consistent with the materials and that there is enough time to test before publicly launching.

ICCAN has outlined more detail about how to prepare the consultation materials and online questionnaire in the Materials section.

Communications plan

A robust communications plan is a vital part of any effective consultation as it sets out the public messaging and how this will be delivered to support the consultation. This will include details of how to raise awareness of the consultation amongst target audiences and explaining how they can engage and respond to the consultation.  Having appropriate messaging is crucial and this will often include:

  • Press releases, interviews and blogs for use in local and national media;
  • Publicity materials distributed to local community hubs such as doctors’ surgeries and libraries;
  • Briefings for key stakeholders such as community representatives, politicians and local councils;
  • Promoting the message through sponsors’ own channels such as newsletters, website and social media;
  • Paid advertising in newspapers, magazines, billboards and online;
  • Distributing letters and leaflets to impacted residents and areas of interest

The communications plan should set out the strategy and thinking behind the activities that will support the consultation, alongside the detailed mechanics of how and when this will happen such as through a media launch. The communications plan should be aligned with the consultation timelines and will have a major impact on whether the consultation is successful.

Risk assessment

It is good practice to identify and assess the risks that could have a potential impact on the consultation process and next steps in the CAP 1616 process. ICCAN recommends the Consultation Institute’s five-point analytical framework to analyse where potential risks exist, and the mitigation strategies may be required to reduce these.

The five areas of potential risk are:

  • Public risk – the potential for negative reaction from public audiences, and the extent to which a challenge to the consultation might originate from the public. Key to assessing this risk is the need to consider who has historically engaged about airspace change, the extent of the changes which are proposed, and the likely scale of impact on particular audiences.
  • Political risk – the risk of challenge to the consultation from political groups as well as other public bodies and local non-governmental organisations. There is a need to consider the relationship with other relevant statutory bodies as well as elected representatives and local key stakeholders to assess the degree to which there is support for the proposals or potential for a challenge to be faced.
  • Expert/leadership – the risk of insufficient understanding and support for an effective consultation at a senior leadership level within the organisation. Is there an understanding of what is involved in undertaking an effective public consultation, as well as strong leadership/advocacy for the proposed change at a senior level within the organisation.
  • Management – the extent to which project planning and sufficient resources are in place to support an effective consultation. This includes the need to consider whether the impacts of potential proposals have been appropriately assessed and are supported by a clear narrative and communications plan.
  • Legal – the risk of legal challenge from not meeting accepted standards for conducting a public consultation, as well as the extent to which the impact of proposals on communities and equalities groups has been appropriately prepared and scrutinised.

As with stakeholder mapping, it is common practice to complete a risk assessment using a workshop format, either with an independent facilitator or with a team member with a good knowledge and understanding of consultation risk, to ensure a thorough discussion is had on these areas. And as with stakeholder mapping, it is useful to score the risks so that you can prioritise mitigation strategies for those most at risk issues.

The consultation is active (Step 3c) Weeks 11-25

Once the consultation has gone live the CAA will periodically publish responses onto the portal, so it is important to monitor regularly to make sure that you can identify any emerging issues. As the majority of responses will come via this method it is a crucial step, the earlier you become aware of the issues, the quicker you can respond and mitigate. Keeping on top of the responses will also be beneficial later in the consultation as you will know which impacted groups have responded and which have yet to.

Frequently asked questions

While the consultation is running it is important to maintain flexibility so that you can adapt to any issues that emerge as the consultation progresses and feedback is received.

CAP1616 recommends preparing a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs), so that any common questions and requests can be responded to quickly and efficiently by the consultation team. As part of the stakeholder mapping and risk assessment process, change sponsors should identify concerns certain audiences will have, so this is a chance to proactively develop responses for those types of question.

Producing a set of thorough and consistent FAQs, as CAP1616 requires, should ensure that sponsors don’t lose time reacting to issues that could have been prepared in advance. By ensuring that any pre-prepared questions have been signed off and approved by the time the consultation starts, more time will be available to focus on live issues that emerge which could not have been prepared for in advance.

Reviewing the consultation

As the consultation approaches the midway stage the Change Sponsor as consultor has an opportunity to undertakes a review of progress to date against the original plan, and to determine if the consultation remains on track or whether any corrective action needs to be taken to adjust the planned activities. This is a time to reflect on whether the methods and approach that have been adopted are delivering the right results and if not, what can be done to remedy this. It will also indicate to consultors whether they will need to revise the remaining event schedules or amend the consultation plan. 

ICCAN has produced further information on how to undertake a mid-point review.

Late responses

When deciding whether to accept responses after the closing date some flexibility should be shown by the change sponsor. If a key stakeholder has produced a detailed response but comes after the deadline, common sense would be to accept this as disregarding it could have more damaging reputational consequences. Consulting on airspace change will produce a wide range of responses, from the shorter, individual perspective, to the very detailed that considers all the technical aspects being proposed.

It is worth considering what the circumstances are of the late response before deciding whether to accept or reject it.

Post-consultation (Step 3d) Weeks 23-37

After the consultation finishes the change sponsor is required to carry out a fair, transparent and comprehensive review and categorisation of consultation responses as part of Step 3d. This ensures that the sponsor takes all views into account and then assesses whether they may lead to a change in the design of the proposals.

It is required that change sponsors produce a consultation report to demonstrate how they have heard and understood the feedback. This could take the guise of a ‘You said, we did’ approach as a way to demonstrate that the issues have been recognised and what the change sponsor will do to mitigate or amend them. This will form the Step 4a Consultation Response document.

It is important that respondents can see that their views have been acknowledged. Although each response will be published on the CAA portal, it is good practice to collate a summary of those responses so that consultees can transparently review the consultation outcome themselves as the change sponsor prepares to update the design and submit it to the CAA for approval in Step 4b.