Download Guidebook PDF here

METHODS

This toolkit presents the most commonly used methods that assisted in achieving the results. All theses methods have been introduced to the NEW BRIDGES project partners.

Brainstorming

Brainstorming is one of the most widely used tools to stimulate creative thinking and to generate a big number of ideas from a group of people in a short time. It is a method in which all members of a group spontaneously contribute ideas. During the brainstorming session it is important to produce more ideas regardless of quality and not to criticise them.

Keep the following principles in mind:

  • Every idea is written down as stated.
  • The focus is on quantity not quality of the ideas.
  • There is no discussion or evaluation to impede the free flow of ideas.
  • Think of ideas that build on previous ideas or even contradict them. Do not overlook silly and even absurd ideas – there could be something of value in them.

Step 1: “Set the scene”

  • Define the topic you want to talk about.
  • Break it down into smaller components.
  • Work out specific questions.

Step 2: “Generate ideas”

  • Seed the brainstorming session with stating the question.
  • Ask the participants to answer orally or to write down their ideas.
  • Gather the ideas of all participants on a board, flipchart etc.

Step 3: “Find a way forward”

  • Analyse the results of the brainstorming session.
  • Explore the best solutions either using further brainstorming or other methods

Card System

Card system (or „post it notes“) is a useful method on basic brainstorming to generate a list of ideas which are useful for information and expertise gathering, and for building consensus in decision-making processes. This is a universal method and could be used in nearly every situation. This method allows people to give their opinion about an important issue as it engages people and gets them talking.

Step 1: “State the problem“

  • Present the question(s) (e.g. priority challenges) the participants will be dealing with.
  • Let them agree in advance and make sure that everyone understands the task.

Step 2: “Collect ideas“

  • Either the whole group can comment on special questions or you apply it to small working groups.
  • People write down their ideas on cards (just one answer per card).
  • Each question may be answered in a different colour of card.
  • Display the cards on walls or pin boards.
  • Encourage a discussion on each of the various proposed ideas.

Step 3: “Prioritise“ (optional)

  • Let the group organise and prioritise the gathered ideas.
  • Synthesise results.

Desk analysis

Desk analysis is used to get statistical data (e.g. population, income), analytical (e.g. on trends, awareness) and political information (e.g. visions). The analysis of the local circumstances and the policy environment provides a knowledge-base by which participants of the planning process can understand the situation not only in their city-region but also in other city-regions. Thus it is important to share experiences and exchange knowledge providing general information on a city-region, on planning and governance structure.

  • Specify the information you are looking for (e.g. population, political statements, and strategies).
  • Use the body of literature in several libraries, in the internet and in-house (e.g. government documents, articles, databases, reports).
  • Contact authorities, universities who may provide you data as well (e.g. statistical data, survey results).
  • Check whether the information is appropriate and answers your question or fills the gap.
  • Make a list of references and persons you have called in case you may need to get back to them.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are moderated discussions in small groups where stakeholders can express their opinions and attitudes on a particular issue following a defined agenda. The groups could be chosen according to specific criteria (age, gender, etc.) and moderated by facilitators. A focus group is usually sized between six and 12 people and the session lasts 1 ½ to 2 hours. The aim of a focus group is to generate a discussion on a topic or issue and to get insight on the preferences, beliefs, reactions, values, concerns and perspectives of the participants. Focus groups are particularly suited to finding out what specific groups (not individuals) think about certain aspects.

Keep the following principles in mind:

  • A homogenous selection of the group members is essential in order to avoid problems that people cannot relate to each others.
  • The smaller the groups the better the results of the discussions as smaller groups usually feel that they a larger influencing on the discussion and therefore, open up more.
  • Do not make use of this method when exploring individual attitudes, experiences or decision making, but specific groups.

Step 1: “State the problem statement“

  • Start the discussion with asking a specific question on a particular issue following a defined agenda.

Step 2: “Discussions in different focus groups“

  • The moderator of the focus group leads the discussion.
  • He/she ensures to involve everyone.
  • Aim is to discover the issues of most concern for the selected groups.

Step 3: “Find ways forward“

  • Determine and summarise the needs and desires of the groups.
  • Resolve conflicting issues.

Informal conversations

Informal conversations are usually used with people depending on how well one knows that person. Informal conversations are used in a less formal setting, and involve less formal, casual speech such as with friends or family members. While formal public speaking, is when a formal speech is given on a formal event to a group of people about a certain issue.

Informal meetings

Informal meeting is a meeting, which is not planned in advance and arranged formally. The stakeholders are not notified through formal channels and only people, who meet, know about it. Such meetings usually take place in neutral surroundings, for example, in a cafe or library.

Internal meetings

Internal meetings are held with participants of a certain organization. Such meetings can help to find problems, can increase the teamwork, and find better ways to reach the goal. During the meetings, people talk, discuss, and share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions.

Interviews

Interviews are used to gather more detailed information about a particular area of expertise than would occur at a public meeting. The interviews usually last between 30 minutes and an hour and starts with a series of standardized questions. The interviewer should make sure the main issues are covered but can vary the order of questions. The information collected during the stakeholder interview assists in the development of the goals, objectives, and strategies for the planning process. The results of the interview should be typed and a copy of the notes could send to the person interviewed. This gives then a chance to make sure all of the points discussed were understood and documented properly.

Step 1: Preparation

  • Define the information needed and formulate questions in advance).
  • Make a test-run and ask a colleague or someone from the target group you are in personal contact with to be your interviewee.
  • Identify the expert you want to talk with and contact her/him.
  • Decide whether you want to conduct the interview face-to-face or by telephone.
  • Get all material needed: paper, pencil, recorder, telephone and telephone number.
  • You may send the questionnaire to the interviewee beforehand.

Step 2: Interview

  • Briefly introduce yourself and the purpose of the interview.
  • Ask the interviewee if she/he might have some questions and how much time she/he has for the interview (keep the time limit).
  • If you are going to record the interview, ask for permission.
  • Ask one question at a time and make sure she/he understands correctly.
  • Give the interviewee time to think and answer properly.
  • Make notes.
  • Ask the interviewee whether she/he might be available for further questions later on.

Step 3: Follow-up

  • Complete your notes and save/transcribe the recorded interview.

Interviews with policy makers

For the implementation it is important to get into contact with relevant local and regional policy makers at the very beginning of the planning process. Interviews with policy makers allow collecting information on the current policy goals and the political processes in the city-region.

When conducting the interviews with policy makers pay attention to the following points:

  • Introduce your issues, your activities and the priority challenges that have been identified in your city-region.
  • Try to reflect also the opportunities which may tackle and counteract the above mentioned challenges.
  • Especially, take notice of the individual preferences which you were analysing in the previous phase.
  • Try to encourage the policy makers to give their considerations of individual preferences. Pay attention to the fact that policy makers may reflect their personal and/or organisational point of view only.
  • Try to get the policy makers to consider what kind of added value the activity you are pushing forward might have and not only for their work and activities but also for the quality of life in your city-region.

See also method “Interviews”.

Literature review

When analysing local circumstances and policy environment, literature analysis could be done by using statistical data, analytical/descriptive (e.g. books, articles) and political/normative (e.g. government documents) information.

  • Specify the information you are looking for.
  • Use the body of literature in several libraries, in the internet and in-house.
  • Evaluate your literature review: broad and narrow enough, appropriate number of sources.
Analyse the literature critically and even discuss studies contrary to your own perspective.

Local stakeholder meeting

Local stakeholder meeting can be organised around different planning issues and themes and can involve varied number and type of participants. However some general basic principles exist for organising local stakeholder meeting. Below find an example for the meeting structure.

Step 1: Preparations of the meeting

  • Draft an agenda before you start to organise meeting and define the thematic scope of the meeting precisely. It also impacts whom you need to invite. Reserve enough time for discussions after presentations and also for breaks.
  • Address clearly the purpose, date, time and venue of the meeting when sending the invitations. Be clear, concrete of the purpose and include sufficient information of the meeting. When creating the invitation consider the following questions:

• If not all stakeholders have a similar basis of knowledge and capability to follow the issues discussed in the local stakeholder meeting, disseminate information in order to ensure that all stakeholders are given the information needed for open communication and fair dialogue.
• If you want the stakeholders to prepare something for the meeting beforehand, explain why and give them a concrete working task.
• If you want the stakeholders to get in contact with each other before the meeting, enclose a list with names and contact data of all participants.

Step 2. Practical arrangements

  • Find a good venue. Beside the size and accessibility of the room, the atmosphere is also important. Think about different table formations and choose seating arrangements that allow team exercises and fit best to your intents and situation.
  • In order to make the meeting as efficient as possible use adequate technical equipment – presentation tools (PC, projector, microphone, printer, etc.) and team-work session tools (pens, pads, post-it notes, flip chart and markers, clipboard, blackboard, and etc.).
  • One possible tool to use is “Doodle” (http://www.doodle.com). It could be used without registering and it makes transparent the decisions and alternative proposals of all members. Give them a fixed deadline to make their choice.

Step 3. Follow-up the meeting

  • Summarize, analyse and report on the discussions and findings of the meeting as soon as possible in order to keep the discussions “alive” and not to forget about important things. Use the notes and resulting papers to secure continuity. Put the notes at the stakeholders’ disposal for inspection. It gives the participants an opportunity to put forward additions and point out unclear points.
  • Maintain an ongoing dialogue with the local stakeholders, particularly after the meeting. Inform them about the findings and achievements of the meeting and further proceedings. Include even those stakeholders that could not take part at the previous meetings. Emphasize how important their contributions are and therewith their presence at the next meeting.
  • Evaluate the meeting in order to improve the meetings organised in future. Both the process and the results need to be analysed and evaluated.
  • Use the evaluation as a chance to provide your staff with training and development opportunities on designing, planning and evaluating public involvement exercises. Disseminate best practices, methods and tools across your department in order to learn from your experiences and enhance the department's capacity for upcoming stakeholder involvement processes.

Empowerment of participants

There is always the risk to listen to those ‘with the loudest voice’, thus the ones that are not so active should not be forgotten. Many stakeholders are not used to meetings and public events (especially the poor and marginalised groups). Nonetheless, every stakeholder has legitimate interests to express, protect and negotiate, as well as important and useful information to contribute. Hence, provide different ways for people to be engaged and ensure people are not excluded through barriers of language, culture or opportunity.

  • Enable an open and honest discussion.
  • Respect all opinions.
  • Create a feeling of belonging through shared vision/objectives.
  • Ensure stakeholders trust you and allow them to assist in the process.
  • Be aware of your body language as it can communicate a different message than your words.
  • Help to give a voice to marginalised and minority persons and groups by using adequate methods to empower them.
Here are two exemplary techniques you could apply during the meeting:
  • Work in small groups, which are made of people with common concerns (women, marginalised people etc.), to make them speak comfortably together as they share common problems and a common purpose. The outputs from these small groups should be presented to the whole group, giving a "voice" to those in the community, who are unable to speak up in a larger meeting.
  • Make use of non-spoken communication in terms of write-down exercises. Ask the participants of the meeting to write down their views about an issue on paper that is provided. This forces everyone to get involved in the discussion and minimizes negative group dynamics.

Moderation of a meeting

The moderator of the meeting has to act as a facilitator and mediator and needs to ensure that the meeting goes according to the agenda. Furthermore, the main issues should be discussed in a fair and productive way involving all participants. Consider if you and your team feel capable to handle this task on your own or if you like to engage an external qualified person as a moderator. Note, that in conflict situation, mediation through a neutral third party is beneficial to reach mutually agreed upon solutions. Besides the moderator might help in training and guiding the working group leaders that are needed for such methods as the focus group.

  • Keep the process as simple and personal as possible.
  • Listen carefully to all contributors and capture, extract or rephrase ideas, particularly where these may not be well articulated.
  • Provoke and encourage people to talk and contribute.
  • Give positive feedback and emotional support (especially for individuals who may be reticent about speaking out), which can be emulated by participants among themselves. At the same time, take polite but firm steps to prevent anyone from unduly dominating the proceedings.
  • Be alert for defensive, hostile or argumentative tendencies and take steps to deflect these into more positive and constructive dialogue.
  • Consolidate results progressively through stepwise merging and allowing consensus to develop around key conclusions agreed by all.
  • As part of concluding, generate concrete commitment from participants for specific actions to be taken after the meeting. Participants should always leave with a clear understanding of what is to happen next.

Motivation of participants.

It is important to get all people to talk and participate in the meeting. If not, it is possible to use relevant means to motivate them in order to get the information needed.

  • Start with small, manageable processes that are likely to be successful, or break bigger projects into smaller ‘chunks’.
  • Document and acknowledge positive change to give participants a sense that they are making a difference.
  • Demonstrate the benefits of collaboration, make explicit what the stakeholders will gain and what the added value of the process is.
  • Continually stress success and achievements.
  • Make it fun – have a social hour after meetings, plan social events (e.g. have dinner together).

Management diary

In order to follow the implementation of work plan, it is useful to fill in the management diary and in this way to monitor and report the implementation of the work plan. Monitoring includes:

  • Measuring the ongoing activities (“Where are we in the implementation process?”);
  • Monitoring of the implementation progress and compare it to the initial work plan (“Where are we supposed to be in the implementation process?”);
  • Identification of corrective actions in order to address issues and risks properly (“How can we get back on track again?”)

  • Which strategies, programmes etc. were tackled by the implementation of the activity(s) additionally than foreseen in the work plan?
  • Indicate if there are additional institutions involved in the implementation of the activity(s) than foreseen in the work plan.
  • Explain which ones and why these institutions have been involved additionally? What is their role in the implementation process?

The following table might be used for the monitoring:

Implementation steps

Status (description on the state of art of the implementation)

Month, year

Activity

Description

 -

It is important to review which (potential) political, legal, institutional and technical risks have occurred during the implementation of the activity(s), what corrective actions were taken and what interim results are available.

Mind Mapping

Mind mapping can be seen as a technique used in brainstorming. Mind maps are a graphical method of taking notes. Mind maps are used to generate, visualize, structure, and classify ideas, and as a tool to organizing information, solving problems, making decisions linked to and arranged around a central key word or idea. It is an effective way to turn unorganised ideas and thoughts into a structured visual “map”. “Mind maps” are well used to figure out starting points and key topics of a subject.

Step 1: State the problem“

  • State the topic by placing a single word or text in the centre.

Step 2: “Start drawing“

  • Start “drawing” and add associated ideas, words and concepts. Link and arrange them in branches and sub branches around the central key word(s).

Step 3: “Prioritise“ (optional)

  • Prioritise, group and organize by using different shapes and colours.

Nominal Group

The nominal group method is a type of brainstorming that encourages all participants to have an equal say during the process. The nominal group is often used to gain consensus on important decisions or priorities and is especially useful when a large group is involved in the brainstorming process and when there is a need to specify several prioritized items. Participants are asked to write their ideas anonymously. Then the moderator collects the ideas and the group votes on each idea. It helps to make sure that you get true consensus and a fair decision for the group without that people who shouts loudest, or those with higher status in the organization, get their ideas heard more than others. Every single group usually exists out of five to ten participants and lasts 2 to 3 hours.

Step 1: “Construct a problem statement“

  • Present the question(s) the participants will be dealing with.
  • Let them agree in advance and make sure that everyone understands the task.

Step 2: “Collect ideas“

  • Ask participants, working independently, to write in five to ten minutes as many possible solutions to the problem as they can.

Step 3: “Presentation of ideas”

  • Each participant reads out one of their ideas with their best one first.
  • Write all ideas down on a larger piece of paper, blackboard or flipchart.

Step 4: “Clarify ideas“

  • Discuss each idea to ensure that they are understood. The emphasis here is to clarify the meaning of ideas and not debate feasibility.
  • Bring duplicate ideas together and number the individual ideas.

Step 5: “Voting“

  • People prioritise the numbered ideas based on an agreed voting system.

Step 6: “Find a way forward“

  • Based on the outcome of the vote, the group discusses their plan of action.
  • Intent of reaching agreement is on how they will deal with the original question.

Peer visits

A peer visit is a visit to another city-region for exchanging experiences. Such visits give opportunity to see cases of good practise, to learn from each other, and to exchange ideas.

  • Select the peer;
  • Agree the schedule of the visit;
  • Conduct the visit;
  • Summarise your findings;
  • Reflect on your findings to your peer.

Reflection

The purpose of reflection is to provide possibility for “learning through experiences”. It may consist of a desk analysis and interviews with local stakeholders. Reflection helps to further improve management implementation activities in a city-region. Experiences could be reflected by answering the questions (examples presented in the box bellow) and analyzing implementation process including meetings, local stakeholders involved, and the results.

1. On Meetings

  • Did meetings helped for implementation process?
  • What was the main added value of those meetings?
  • What was their influence on implementation?
  • What kind of feedback did you receive from participants, local media, etc.?

2. On Stakeholders

  • What was the motive for the stakeholders’ involvement? Which stakeholders were the most active in the implementation process? What was the reason for that?
  • Were the stakeholders satisfied with their involvement in the process? Did they influence the implementation process?
  • You may also ask the stakeholder on the reason of the participation, satisfaction with their role in the implementation process, getting relevant information, etc. Leave the space for comments, suggestions.

3. On Results

  • What were the main results of the implementation process?
  • Are you and stakeholders satisfied with the results of the implementation process?
  • What were the biggest challenges during the implementation process? How did you deal with them? Did you receive any help from stakeholders? Based on lessons learned, what would you do in a different way?

Stakeholder identification

Each community is faced with a different set of planning issues and challenges, thus it is necessary to determine the most appropriate stakeholders to be involved in each activity. Depending on the starting point of the involvement and potentially also on the future stages of the process, it is useful to analyze stakeholders and their input in the process. Consider, for example, the way stakeholders perceive different issues in the city-region, stakeholders who are able to push the process or what are the relationships between different stakeholders. Consider the use of the following checklist of stakeholders, which are in one or other way connected to the priority challenges for the community.

IMS Stage

Stakeholder

'Stake'/role

Relevance for each IMS step

High Importance/Low influence

High Importance/High influence

Low Importance/Low influence

Low Importance/High influence

Summary statements

Summary is a shorter version of the original, which gives the major points from the much longer text, speech or event. The purpose of giving summary statements is to help stakeholders get the essence in a short period of time.

Survey

The survey is an appropriate method to reach a representative number of inhabitants and key stakeholders in the city-region in order to receive a sufficient amount of information for the analysis. A questionnaire has to be prepared in advance and either sent by email or postal service. It can even be done by telephone or internet. The telephone survey is a fast method of simply gathering information from a relatively large sample and lasts in general about ten minutes. Email and internet surveys are ideal if you want to reach a large number of inhabitants and stakeholders or when you are working with a geographically large city-region. You can do the survey yourself or hire a consultant who is doing the survey.

Step 1: “Set the scene”

  • Identify the main themes to consider out in the city-region.
  • Define the objectives of the questionnaires: What should be investigated? What kind of information is needed in order to proceed further?
  • Indentify the key stakeholders.
  • Decide how to conduct the questionnaire: by email, postal service, telephone or online (check all technical issues such as addresses, postage, telephone numbers as well as internet access and techniques).

Step 2: “Choose the format”

  • Prepare questionnaire:
  • * Open-ended questions (the respondent will answer in own words).
  • * Closed-ended questions (the respondent has to choose one or more answer(s) from a list of answer choices.).
  • Make sure the questions are formulated appropriately and clearly understandable, e.g. ask one question at a time, use simple and familiar words, use as few words as possible and use complete sentences with simple sentence structure.
  • Choose an appropriate layout and length, clear structure and paragraphs, max. 5 pages, max. 15 questions. Look for examples in the internet or ask your colleagues for inspiration.
  • Make a test-run (e.g. with your colleagues or family members) to check whether all questions are understood correctly and can be answered properly.
  • Adjust the questionnaire afterwards if necessary.

Step 3: “Send it off”

  • Formulate an introduction and inform shortly about the process and the purpose of the questionnaire.
  • Send the final version to the inhabitants/key stakeholders in your city-region, start the telephone survey or put in online by announcing a deadline for responses.

Visual display

At present people are confronted with large amounts of very complex information, and it is important to present it in a form accessible to wider public and policy makers. In this case visualizations can play an important role in improving the accessibility of data and enabling policy makers to deal with this information more effectively. The data can be presented graphically through interactive maps and graphs, pictures, tables, models, etc.

Work Breakdown Structure

When the work plan is developed and ready for the implementation, it is possible to make it more operational by dividing it into smaller tasks in order to facilitate the supervision of the implementation. You may develop the work breakdown structure i.e. break down the plan into work components that are assignable and for which accountability is expected.

  • Summarizing all products of services comprising the foreseen actions, including support and other tasks.
  • Displaying the interrelationships of the components of the work.
  • Establishing the responsibility matrix.
  • Estimating project costs.
  • Performing risk analysis.
  • Scheduling detailed actions.
  • Developing information for managing the implementation.
  • Providing basis for controlling the application of resources.

Work plan

The work plan serves as a basis for your further implementation of the planned process. As a structured approach is important for the implementation phase, it might be useful to fill in the template for the work plan as detailed as possible. The work plan furthermore helps to specifying ideas and goals regarding the activities(s), planning upcoming tasks, and identifying possible obstacles and risks.

Step 1. Summarize the activity(s)

Look at the activity(s) identified and recall all information gained during the earlier process that finally led to the decision on the activity(s). It helps to get a clearer picture of the activity(s) itself.

Step 2. Make a “What to do” list

Write down all points that are relevant for the implementation of the activity(s); start grouping the points and make a profound “what to-do” list including all (possible) upcoming tasks, steps to be taken and stakeholders that need to be involved or contacted etc.

Step 3. Set the timeframe

Take “what to-do” list and prioritise certain tasks and steps according to their “urgency”.

The work plan should indicate following aspects:

  • Title of the activity(s)
  • Main aim(s)
  • Main problems and challenges
  • Geographical scope of the activity(s) (e.g. municipalities involved)
  • Who is/are the main target group(s) being addressed by activity (s)?
  • Which strategies, programmes etc. will be tackled by the implementation of the activity(s)?
  • Institutions mainly involved in the implementation of the activity(s)?
  • Stakeholders mainly responsible for the implementation of the activity(s) (internal and external, indicate name and function).
  • Implementation steps (months and steps)

oWhat kind of potential (political, legal, institutional and technical) risks do you see for the implementation of the activity(s)?
oWhat kind of outputs (results) after the activity(s) is completed do you expect?

Workshops

A workshop is a structured forum where people work together in smaller groups on a common problem or task. The goal of a workshop is not to share information but also to resolve issues and build consensus for actions. Stakeholders participating in the workshop are determined by their knowledge of the issue, expertise or having a cross-sectoral views. Workshops can also be organised to target particular groups, e.g. young people, or women. A facilitator usually is required and helps to engage all participants in the discussion. At a round table workshop a group sits „around the table“ to discuss an issue, share opinions, find a solution, always showing respect for the opinions of others where everyone's input is considered equally important.

  • Workshops help to build consensus for action as well as ownership and credibility for the outcomes.
  • When discussing the issues, other viewpoints and ideas and possible solutions can be heard in a non-confrontational atmosphere.
  • Within a workshop a variety of tools such as focus groups, visioning or others can be used.
  • Facilitators are needed to steer a process and help to engage every participant as well as prevent hostile participants from creating conflicts.
  • Workshops can deliver various opinions, suggestions or plans on an issue, that have been discussed and agreed on by all participants,.