Helping you make the most of your consultation responses

kv for blogAt Compact Voice, we talk a lot about what departments can do to engage better with the voluntary sector. However, there isn’t much in the way of guidance for voluntary organisations on how they can effectively and efficiently respond to consultations.

Compact Voice frequently highlights to government departments the importance of including the voluntary sector from an early stage when designing policies and developing services.

When we’re delivering training or are in meetings with civil servants, we reiterate that departments should give sufficient time for responses when consulting, that they should be clear about what is subject to change and that sufficient feedback should be provided afterwards.

These and a few other points make up our Meaningful Engagement Guidance. Essentially, this lists eight undertakings for departments to follow to ensure they are going beyond the ‘usual suspects’ when consulting, and that the voluntary sector is engaged in the process.

Based on conversations with a range of departments, including the Office for Civil Society and Ministry of Justice, Compact Voice has developed a new short piece of guidance to help voluntary organisations to respond to consultations effectively.

Feedback from different departments at a recent cross-Whitehall meeting highlighted that departments receive hundreds of different consultation responses, which vary hugely in style and content.

Examples cited were that some organisations write lengthy preambles about the background of their organisation before answering the consultation questions, while others feel the need to respond to all questions, even those not especially relevant to their area of work.

And while some departments issue guidance for responding to each consultation, the majority do not. With this in mind, how can voluntary organisations ensure their voice is heard – and listened to?

In the spirit of helping public bodies and voluntary organisations to engage better with each other, this new briefing for voluntary organisations provides clear, straightforward guidance for how to respond to consultations most effectively.

Increasingly, departments are consulting for shorter periods – due to limited timeframes, and a move towards ‘open policy making’ (i.e., involving organisations in the design and development of policies before they are even consulted on).

With that in mind, meaningful engagement as a concept should work both ways.

As much as we will continue working to ensure that departments engage meaningfully with the sector, organisations also need to think about what they can do to respond to consultations quickly, easily and consistently. Hopefully this new guidance will help them to do that. 

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