D3’s consulting practice focuses on supporting leaders and teams in working cooperatively and dialogically on the challenges facing their organizations, communities or other groups.  Always keeping in mind the four fundamental building blocks of sustainable results, we help our clients gain clarity on the problem to be addressed, the options for moving forward and the people who need to be engaged at different steps along the way.  While we bring considerable knowledge and experience to this role, we approach our clients as thinking partners, not as outside experts coming to tell people what to do. 

Our consulting services fall into three main areas: situational assessment and strategy development; assessing readiness for stakeholder engagement; guiding and supporting co-design of engagement processes.

Situational assessment and strategy development

Through extensive conversations in practitioner communities as well as our own work in the field, D3 has developed a simple framework – the Design and Learning Protocol – to support rigorous group inquiry and help lay a foundation of shared understanding. In using this protocol, we draw on an eclectic mix of process and thinking tools to help teams and stakeholder groups

  1. Develop a shared analysis of the context in which they are operating
  2. Uncover and articulate a clear intention
  3. Gain clarity on their strategic options, including the underlying assumptions that guide them
  4. Evaluate how prior strategies have worked and determine necessary corrections 

We emphasize that this is a group process because we know from experience that how an initial assessment is conducted can be a defining moment of intervention in the system that is being assessed.  Taking a dialogic approach at this stage builds trust and creates conditions supportive of developing shared understanding, co-owned strategies and coordinated action down the line.  This is our “gold standard” for activities such as conducting individual interviews, interacting with focus groups, reporting back our findings and advising our clients on how to move forward. 


Assessing readiness for stakeholder engagement

In the complex contexts most leaders are operating in today, effective strategies often call for engaging a broad range of actors within the system in co-ownership of problems and co-responsibility for solutions.  Yet the step of mounting a process of stakeholder engagement is time consuming and resource intensive, with many potential pitfalls that can derail the process or keep it from achieving its intended results.  D3 Associates brings deep knowledge and experience to the all-important tasks of assessing the conditions working for or against a successful engagement process, deciding if the time is right to proceed with a process or, alternatively, devising ways to create more favorable conditions for launching a future process.

Chapter 2.2 of Democratic Dialogue provides a detailed overview of the inquiry and analysis involved in this kind of situational assessment.  As consultants and partners with you in this process, D3 can help ensure that it is conducted in a way that

  1. Models the kind of dialogic process that stakeholders feel they can trust and participate in
  2. Interacts with stakeholders in a way that tests their openness to and capacity for engagement
  3. Develops an analysis of the context that incorporates different stakeholder perspectives and “maps” the issues at stake
    • To provide a basis for moving forward with designing an engagement process if/when the conditions are right
    • To share with stakeholders, as a way of raising awareness and helping to set the stage for engagement

We are great believers in the efficacy of stakeholder engagement processes in finding sustainable solutions to systemic problems.  At the same time, we know well that dialogue is not the answer to all problems, and that proceeding with a process can be ineffective and even counterproductive under certain circumstances.  D3 Associates helps its clients develop a range of options for moving forward and feel confident about the choices to be made.  

Guiding and supporting co-design of engagement processes

In dialogic change processes, process design is the first – and often the defining – phase of stakeholder engagement.  D3 brings expertise and extensive experience to this key activity. In addition to advising on process options, we guide and facilitate participatory process design. We work closely with our clients to ensure that the design process is transparent and inclusive, to create the legitimacy and co-ownership that a process must have to produce impactful and lasting results.  Chapter 2.3 of Democratic Dialogue offers an in-depth guide to designing stakeholder engagement processes, including how to follow through on this principle of co-design. 

Event Facilitation and Process Design

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