Urban Alternatives


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We do not offer our clients a "magic bullet" which guarantees that diverse, often disagreeing, interests will reach consensus about a project. To our knowledge, there is no such "quick fix" available. Instead, we do help our clients design, plan and implement a strategically-sound, orderly process directed toward achieving agreement with all stakeholders including their toughest opponents. The public involvement strategy which guides all our consulting efforts — "consent building"* — has helped our clients avoid the usual fatal mistakes and achieve an exemplary record in getting technically complex, often-controversial projects implemented. Make no mistake; consent building is an unorthodox and sometimes counterintuitive strategy which may defy your basic instincts about how to deal with the public.

To learn about the basic "nuts and bolts" of Consent Building and how using this strategy can help projects achieve timely implementation, browse through the brief "primer" that follows.

* Conceptualized originally by two professional colleagues, Hans and Annemarie Bleiker of the Institute for Participatory Management and Planning (IPMP); Monterey, California. Many of the following visuals are based on concepts developed by IPMP.

Project implementation has more to do with how well you deal with the opposition than how successful you are at building support.

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Even though it is relatively easy for a small minority to veto a project, it’s also true that you don’t need overwhelming agreement from the public to implement your project.

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Understanding the concept of "Consent" is the key to achieving "Effective Agreement" about your project with tough opponents. "Consent," a tricky concept, is a frequently overlooked form of agreement.

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Using this two-pronged public involvement approach will ensure that you avoid the trap of concentrating your efforts on rallying your supporters as the way to overcome veto power.

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The Agreement Scale is a convenient visual summary to help you understand the consent building strategy and how it works. To achieve "Effective Agreement" about a project, your public involvement program must concentrate its effort on moving those interests located at the bottom of the Agreement Scale (i.e., vetoers) up the scale to "Consent" or higher.

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To achieve consent with your toughest opponents you must get them to understand at least these five points. Getting opponents to do so is necessary for transforming them from potential vetoers into consenters.

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