Tamar Bourne, senior project manager, highlights the risks of engagement fatigue as Ofgem requires more and more evidence of effective stakeholder engagement
Have you noticed that you’re getting a lot more invitations to stakeholder engagement events? Or perhaps you’re the person who’s sending them?
Engagement fatigue has become a bit of a problem for the regulated energy industry. Ofgem is requiring more and more evidence of effective stakeholder engagement, which is right, but also a big challenge.
This is a challenge we took face on at Regen when we began working with Energy Networks Association and its members to update the gas and electricity network innovation strategies. Our mission at Regen is to transform the energy system for a net zero future and seeing as network innovation is an essential building block for net zero, this piece of work was important to us.
So I asked myself, how can we engage stakeholders in an effective and innovative way? I broke this down into the following questions:
- What would pique my interest and stop me from deleting the email straightaway?
Firstly, I care about the future of our energy system and understand the importance of network innovation. And secondly, I’m an innovator with ideas about new business models that need funding to explore their effectiveness.
How could we reach a wide range of stakeholders from across the industry and beyond? So I wanted to make sure these messages came across clearly in all communications.
We’ve built up a large database of over 8,000 individual contacts at Regen and have 5,500 followers on Twitter. We also have good relationships with umbrella organisations serving the renewables industry, tech companies, academia, community energy groups…the list goes on. And we asked the network companies to contact all their existing stakeholders too.
- What would make the whole engagement process appealing and painless?
We found online survey software that was user-friendly and felt quicker and more interactive. We kept all webinars under an hour and had lots of polls to keep everyone’s attention. And ran two different styles of workshop to adapt to the number and types of participants: one with roundtables to allow in-depth conversations; and another with quick-fire market stalls to get a wide range of input.
- How would people know that their input mattered?
After each stage of engagement, we shared a report on what we had learnt and changed as a result. We wanted the whole process to be transparent and give people a chance to disagree with the decisions we made. The process we went through is shown above.
The result was over 240 instances where stakeholders shared their thoughts on what should be included in the strategies, which made the documents stronger and more relevant. You can find the revised strategies on the ENA website, as well as here on the Regen site.
We were pleased with the engagement process, but there is always room for improvement and innovation. A potential benefit of the coronavirus outbreak is the opportunity to develop new ways to engage people remotely, making it easier for people, wherever they live, to get involved.