Dialogue-MattersEnvironmental consultancy Dialogue Matters, based in Brabourne near Ashford, has won a prestigious award for the second time, plus an exclusive ‘best of the best’ award.

The CIEEM Best Practice Stakeholder Engagement award was presented to the company’s Project Manager Joel Pound at a ceremony in London on June 21. He was then presented with a surprise award, the Tony Bradshaw Award for Outstanding Best Practice, which recognises ‘an exceptional project that set an overall impressive standard’.

Director Diana Pound, who established the company in 2000, said: “To be recognised in this way – as practioners who strive for excellence – is a huge accolade.”

The project for which the award was given was about the future of Hatfield Forest, owned by the National Trust. It involved working alongside the National Trust to help locals, other stakeholders and the Trust agree the best solutions to manage the forest’s paths and rides for nature and people. By carefully designing a process known as consensus building, Dialogue Matters enabled people to share their knowledge and discuss the pros and cons of each solution during an initial workshop, tested reactions to the potential solutions with the wider community online and through a drop-in event, before facilitating the last workshop to help people focus on the favoured solutions and plan action.

Ade Clarke, the then General Manager of Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Essex at the National Trust, said: “We have obviously used consultation before when making changes, but never have I gone to the extent of full community involvement and stakeholder dialogue, where we are as much a stakeholder as everybody else in shaping the options and solutions to an issue.

From my perspective as someone usually making the decisions this was a leap into the unknown, but I quickly found it easy to trust the process and realised it was the only sustainable approach that would ensure the long-term survival of the forest. This was because of the expertise and professionalism of Dialogue Matters as they guided us all through the process.”


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