A specific, one-size-fits-all model for consultations is unrealistic because each consultation is defined by specific objectives and contextual factors that will affect how they are designed. However, in general terms, adjusting consultations to make them more stakeholder-centric and deliberative, based on an understanding of consultations as systems rather than linear processes, is likely to improve outcomes for all stakeholders. With this in mind, we have made the following general recommendations for change in the way consultations are designed and implemented. You can also download the Final Report on our recomendations, as well as a shorter, Policy Consultation Design and Evaluation Toolkit for consultation leaders.
1. Design consultations as a system using the principles as benchmarks for assessing the value and effectiveness of each part of the process. Ask: To what extent does this activity ensure the consultation is inclusive, well-informed, equitable and accountable? To what extent does it help us achieve democratic or epistemic outcomes? To what extent does the range and mix of activities adopted produce a consultation system that realizes the principles overall?
2. Prioritise novel solutions that can address multiple challenges, because these will enhance the overall quality, efficiency and effectiveness of the consultation. Ask: How many of the challenges are addressed through this solution? Are there alternatives that would enable the same outcomes but demand less of organisers and stakeholders?
3. Use a mix of solutions that minimise tensions. Where tensions are unavoidable, context-specific solutions for reducing them should be explored. Ask: If we implement this solution, what impact will it have on other challenges? Will it enhance or conflict with other solutions? Who/what is the source of tension? Is there a way of engaging with them/changing the process to reduce tension but achieve the same or similar outcomes?
4. Explain and justify decisions about the design and implementation of consultations. When decisions are controversial, deliberation about the principles to apply in relevant situations can help provide an agreed basis for decision-making. Ask: How will stakeholders view this decision/outcome? How can we explain it to them clearly? How can we ensure they know their contribution has been valued?
These recommendations add a new perspective on copyright consultations that takes as its starting points the complex, uneven copyright policy landscape; the stakeholder experience; the value of deliberation; and the recognition of consultations as systems rather than linear processes. Our participants’ insights are a direct result of this ‘consultation about consultations’, a form of meta-deliberation that provided a basis for thinking differently about practices that may, from an institutional perspective, seem set in stone. While the recommendations have been developed through a close examination and discussion of the copyright ‘case’, they have value in any policy context where there is a tendency for decisionmakers to use known, tried and tested consultation methods that align neatly with institutional requirements – even if they do not work so well for stakeholders.