All our work is about creating environments in which people have access to the information they need in order to make informed comment.

Dialogue is at the heart of what we do – because when people talk and share stories, they identify what matters most.

We offer a suite of engagement services including:

  • Stakeholder and community engagement
  • Group facilitation
  • Strategic communications
  • Risk management
  • Engagement training

Stakeholder and community engagement

We enable community members and stakeholders to better understand, and input into, decisions that affect their lives. We facilitate dialogue between our clients and their ‘communities of interest’, be they local residents, special interest groups, customers or service users.  We identify who needs to be engaged and the best way to do this and we work with clients to deliver engagement activities that are inviting, interesting and effective.

Our work is focussed on making conversations relatable and tangible for community members and stakeholders alike. We ensure demographic and attitudinal diversity so that all the voices are heard.

Importantly we consider the impacts of projects on internal stakeholders as well as external, supporting clients to communicate with and support staff through what are often change processes.  We focus on capacity building within the organisations we work with so that they can build on and further develop both skills and relationships after projects have finished.

We have particular expertise in:

  • Designing processes in highly contested and contentious environments. We have a proven track record in working with broad communities where an issue or project has been dominated by the views of specific stakeholders, to identify what ‘the community’ really thinks
  • Creating engagement programs that reach beyond those who are motivated – we use a wide range of social and market research tools to compliment our activities
  • Reporting in plain English, with a quick turnaround, so both project teams and participants can stay connected with engagement outcomes and processes.
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Principal Consultant Nicola Wass facilitating a workshop

Group facilitation

We effectively facilitate a range of engagement activities from large scale deliberative processes, workshops and focus groups. We understand the importance of framing the conversation in a constructive and unbiased manner and are experts in creating a safe and productive environment for participants to respectfully exchange views. We prepare detailed run sheets  with a clear agenda but are skilled at responding to the needs of participants in the room and tailoring processes accordingly. We use innovative techniques to efficiently use the allocated time and always run on time.

Our facilitation is:

  • Effective
  • Inclusive
  • Respectful
  • Practical
  • Outcomes focussed.

We specialise in:

  • Facilitating contentious and emotionally-charged activities
  • Providing unbiaised, arms-length facilitation
  • Creating dialogue with all participants.

Strategic communications

Communication is an important part of all projects.

Consequently, communications are often recognised as one of the greatest risks to corporate reputation and as such it is critical that issues impacting public perception and stakeholder expectations are proactively managed.

It is important to understand each community’s specific needs and objectives so that they can be addressed in the design and delivery of communications. We use a comprehensive range of communication tools to extend the reach of consultation activities, including traditional channels, such as media and publications, and contemporary social media tools, such as websites, online portals and smart phone apps.

We are highly skilled at developing communication collateral with a wide range of voices – translating technical information into plain English; motivating and encouraging participation; reporting on outcomes and feedback.

We won’t compromise a project by employing public relations or marketing strategies within engagement but we recognise that there are times when projects need these skills and we work with these specialists to ensure the integrity of the engagement process remains intact.

Risk management

We specialise in dealing with contentious and contested issues and maintain a strong focus on proactive risk identification and management. The success of our work lies in the absence of negative media coverage – we successfully manage projects with acute sensitivity, highly active stakeholders and extreme levels of scrutiny.

One of the key issues underpinning the design of effective community engagement activities is the scope of decision-making – how much influence, if any, communities can have on a project. As a general rule, the earlier in project development, the more opportunities there are for influencing and shaping final decisions. Regardless of the level of influence, timely, responsive, regular communication is vital for establishing trust in the relationship with community members. Effective communication and engagement can effectively minimise outrage.

Engagement training

Straight Talk delivers training through IAP2 Australasia and offers bespoke training customised for our clients.

The new IAP2 Australasian Certificate in Engagement provides an exciting, effective and practical framework for the design and implementation of effective community engagement.

Straight Talk’s Director Lucy Cole-Edelstein is accredited to deliver the new IAP2 Australasia course.  We provide this training in-house for clients at competitive rates, offering clients the opportunity for their staff to complete the Certificate in an environment focussed on team building and the issues that confront and challenge them.

We offer the following IAP2 Australasia engagement training workshops:

  • Engagement Essentials Training (one day)
  • Engagement Methods Training (two days)
  • Engagement Design Training (two days)
  • Engagement Conflict training (one day)

Our specialised engagement training is grounded in the IAP2 approach (Spectrum of Public Participation, Core Values, Community Engagement and Design, Plan, Manage models) and based on our extensive, practical experience. All training materials, presentations and participant kits developed by Straight Talk for in-house training become our client’s property. Lucy is an energetic and engaging trainer. She draws on over 20 years of hands-on experience to provide interesting case studies and engaging activities and to impart key concepts.

Director Lucy Cole-Edelstein facilitating a 21st Century Town Hall Meeting