Here's what we do:
Our areas of expertise and our approach
Policy Development, Strategic Planning, Needs Analysis
It’s one thing to define strategic goals or a new policy for an organization quite another to get that organization and it’s stakeholders to really behind them. Giving stakeholders a meaningful role in setting the goals or defining community needs can make it a lot easier. Our approach to strategic planning, policy development, and needs analysis uses public deliberation to build community ownership of the decisions — and to give the community a meaningful stake in them.
Service Delivery, Organizational Change, Stakeholder Relations
Informed Participation can transform how organizations execute critical tasks related to service delivery, communications, or stakeholder relations. Our engagement techniques — in person, virtual, and online — reach the people who are closest to these processes and who are best-positioned to ensure that change is meaningful and sustainable. Informed Participation helps us mobilize staff and stakeholders behind a change process so that it not only transforms how the organization functions, but the culture around it.
Middle Ground is more than a consulting firm. We provide thought leadership in the innovative use of engagement processes to address complex collaborative tasks, especially in strategic planning, governance and accountability, and organizational change. Over the years, we have drawn on our consulting projects to produce an ongoing series of Ideas papers and books that capture and consolidate the learning from our projects. Many of these publications are posted on the Ideas page of our Access Publications page.
Training, Knowledge Transfer, and Capacity BuildingHands-on learning is the best way to build skills and capacity for public deliberation. Middle Ground often uses actual engagement projects as a tool for knowledge transfer to the client’s organization. Typically, we work closely with a team from the client’s firm, creating mentorship opportunities that help build capacity within their organization. Middle Ground also offers workshops and training courses on Informed Participation. As an accomplished trainer, our sessions are highly interactive and use lots of practical examples to illustrate the approach, along with group exercises to deepen the grasp of key concepts. Workshops can be custom designed to meet the specific needs of the client.
Here’s how we can help you:
Our skills and services
Designing and Implementing Engagement Processes
Because every situation is different, every engagement process — in-person, virtual, or online — should be designed and executed in ways that fit the issue and the circumstances. Middle Ground sees this as much more than making choices between big and small processes, or online vs. in-person engagement. It calls for a systematic approach that:
Defines needs: We start by assessing your objectives, your circumstances, and your engagement environment to define your needs.
Plans the process: Next, we develop and engagement plan that scopes the issues, and then defines how to use the right tools in the right ways to achieve your objectives.
Facilitates solutions: Different objectives require different kinds of dialogue. Our facilitators are trained to engage participants in ways that address your challenges.
Executes and reports: Finally, we monitor progress at every stage, adjusting if required. Our reports are analytical and strategic, drilling down to where the real solutions lie.
FacilitationPublic deliberation should be led by an experienced, impartial facilitator. Informed Participation relies on an approach that combines three different roles:
- The Traffic Cop: The facilitator ensures that discussion remains focused, well-organized, well-managed. Discussion must follow the agenda, and no one gets to dominate or hijack the meeting.
- The Referee: Informed Participation is a rules-based approach to finding solutions. The facilitator’s job is to ensure the rules are respected — for example, participants must listen to one another — and that disagreements are resolved through dialogue, evidence, compromise, and consensus.
- The Guide: Informed Participation is about finding win/wins. The facilitator is the expert on deliberation who guides the participants towards new ways to define their views; and on how to work together as a team, that is, to collaborate rather than compete with one another.
Report-Writing and Analysis
Over the years, Middle Ground has developed a distinctive form of report-writing that is recognized for its clarity, accessibility, and simple narrative style, especially when dealing with complex and often technical issues. We use a wide range of document types to support our process, including short discussion papers, research and analysis pieces, comprehensive syntheses, analytical summaries, and case studies.
We also regularly take on more traditional writing and analysis assignments, independently of our work on engagement processes.