Bayside City Council Case Study

Streamlining Council’s approach to advocacy

“Participants had differing views and understandings about the role of advocacy within Council. Perhaps create a organisationally accepted position on advocacy first.."

~ Key Finding

The Project

Conversation Caravan was engaged by Bayside City Council to facilitate a workshop with its senior leaders and staff interested and/or involved in advocacy across Council. The process, led by the Communications and Governance Department, required the support of all departments and  was to be utilised to inform the development of Bayside City Council’s Advocacy Strategy.

Historically, advocacy planning and implementation has been the responsibility of everyone, no one had complete oversight and as a result, advocacy was neither planned or implemented strategically. This diluted both the effectiveness and the impact of Council’s efforts.

Following on from the recent success of a ‘pre-election’ Open House and a recognition of the increased importance of advocacy, Bayside City Council required a coordinated, collaborative and strategic approach to the planning, implementation and evaluation of its advocacy work.  

As a result of this process Bayside City Council required a:  

  • Clear vision, goals and strategic objectives to base the Strategy.
  • Framework to set the advocacy priorities (short term and medium term).
  • Guide (implementation plan) to educate staff on ‘Advocacy at Bayside City Council’
  • Process for ongoing monitoring and evaluation.
  • Plan to embed advocacy across Council and into Council’s communication and political channels.

Assistance required from Conversation Caravan to support this process:  

  • Preparation and facilitation of an internal workshop with staff responsible and interested in advocacy within Bayside.  
  • Sense making of the data collected to input into the Advocacy Strategy and areas as relevant.

Challenges

  • Advocacy was a new proposition for many staff.
  • Limited skills and varying perceptions on advocacy.  
  • Barrier between departments collaborating on projects due to overstepping, financial or time investments.

Keys to success

  • Providing an environment that builds interest and allows for collaboration and contribution from all participants.
  • Creating a consensus and understanding on what advocacy means at Bayside City Council.
  • Provide a workshop with a clear outline of the project parametres and activities to create discussions and processes for consideration in the Bayside City Council’s Advocacy strategy.

Outcomes

  • The workshop was well attended and had great representation from across Council.
  • Better engagement from staff and desire to become proficient at advocacy and the role it plays within their position at council.
  • Recommendations were provided to Bayside City Council for considerations around implementation of its Advocacy Plan.

Reflections and key learnings

  • Participants had differing views and understandings about the role of advocacy within Council. Perhaps create a organisationally accepted position on advocacy first.
  • Some areas of Council were underrepresented perhaps increase the amount of promotion and discussion around the project at the beginning. Or provide an alternative to being involved in the process.

Making a difference

Here at Conversation Caravan we like to make a difference, we measure how many businesses we support in the local economy, the number of voices heard and the number of staff we believe we supported and fostered a community engagement approach.

  • Businesses supported: nil
  • Voices heard: 11 internal staff
  • Staff supported: 1 staff member

Testimonial

Bayside Advocacy Strategy

Imogen Kelly, Communications Coordinator

I sought support with how to structure a workshop to get the maximum output and participation from senior leaders in our organisation within a short period of time.

Cindy helped me get clear on what information I wanted from the process, she asked probing questions around my objective and clarified my thinking around what I needed from others.

I knew the project was in a safe pair of hands, preparation was really good, I was kept in the loop through regular communication.

Cindy designed a process and activities to make sure every voice was heard, including a pre-workshop activity which meant participants came to the session with a greater level of understanding.

Always a high energy presenter, her engaging style makes people feel relaxed and sets them up to participate in the process. She is a clear communicator and able to use this to elicit the responses in a way that is suited to a different range of styles. She is also able to think on her feet to modify activities; as a facilitator she will explore areas that come up that need f further exploration or to drop things that don’t need further exploration or where the group is in furious agreement.

Her style encourages equal participation and she managed the variety of power and different viewpoints in the session, ensuring that everyone felt equally important and their contribution equally valid.

As a result

The report prepared from the workshop was of high quality, we weren’t just supplied with typed up notes. The report joined up the dots of people’s points. Picking the sense from the room and providing insight and interpretation of the room. I was able to take a large portion of the report and use it in the draft strategy without much amending. The draft Vision were accepted completely unchanged.

In this workshop we go to level of action planning that I did not expect, this initial process has set up how Council will approach advocacy.

Benefit of using a facilitator

Having a facilitator let me sit back and be a participant in the process. It put some distance between me and the other participations so I wasn’t unconsciously colouring their views. One of the benefits is having an external facilitator pose questions, outside of your blind spot or field of bias. That is what Cindy brought to this process.