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Consultations with women's groups

A consultation is a way of finding out what the views are of different people about a particular issue. Women Connect is in the process of writing some guidelines.

What is a consultation?

A consultation is a way of finding out what the views are of different people about a particular issue.  It is literally a process of consulting people about a certain topic.  The government departments organise different consultations concerning the policies they are implementing.  Women Connect has carried out consultations through feeding into this process to give the government the views of women about the effect of the different policies on them and how we would like to see these policies more women - friendly !!!  We feel this is an important way of letting the politicians know what we think.  Recently we have been involved in the E-democracy consultation and the Equality and Diversity consultation.  We carried out the consultations using a questionnaire sent out to women's organisations through a consultation tool, "Zoomerang".  More details can be found at the website: zoomerang http://www.zoomerang.com/  It is important for women's organisations to become involved in consultations taking place and to do our own as it is a way of expressing the views of women concerning specific issues and showing this evidence to the policy makers. 

 Different forms of consultations that can take place. 

 There are different ways you can consult:

¨      Questionnaire (on or off line)

¨      Online discussion

¨      Group meeting

¨      Telephone call

¨      A combination of the above methods


Guidelines for carrying out consultations.

Before starting the process of contacting potential participants the consultation itself needs to be thought through in terms of what is the aim of the consultation, what information do you want to find out and who is the information for?  Here are some pointers to be considered:


1)     Who will be targeted to participate in the consultation, why and how many women will be contacted?  It is important to remember to allow for those who are contacted and do not participate.

2)     What method will be used to carry out the consultation and who will be contacted by what means?  Do some women have preferred means of contact maybe some have physical disabilities that need to be considered.

3)     Information must be adequately disseminated about the opportunities available for consultation.  Information should be in plain English not jargon and targeted to suitable networks.

4)     Acknowledge the power of the spoken word.  Outreach even by telephone is useful and encouraging.  Use translations if necessary but also ensure that this will be followed up by language support. 

5)     Be clear and honest about what is being offered.  Set the ground rules for discussions.  Explore different perceptions and expectations before starting the process.  Is it consultation or participation that is being offered?  Are people who can be responsible for decisions present?

6)     Be prepared for anger and backlash from some participants in the consultation.

7)     Develop appropriate consultative structures and mechanisms for women's groups.  Review the existing consultative mechanisms to improve representation of women.  This process may involve deciding what method of consultation is best to use, how the consultation should take place and through what structures. 

8)     Provide support to enable participation.  If the consultation will take place through an online questionnaire include access to a telephone help line for example.  If the consultation will take place through a mini workshop offer creche facilities and interpreters if needed and consider the time and location of the workshop. 

9)     Consider the style and level of formality of the consultation.  If it is through an online questionnaire, is the language used accessible to the target audience?  Is the questionnaire patronising?  Does it encourage participation or intimidate?  If the consultation is through a mini workshop consider the style of the meeting, is it bureaucratic?  Be creative and visual.  There may be a need for discussion of the information presented before moving on the consultation. 

10) Representation - If organising a workshop take care to have a democratic process to decide who is present or not and ensure a pro-women perspective. 

11) Listen to what women are saying rather than consulting to confirm an agenda.

12)  After the consultation feedback as quickly as possible so that groups do not feel it was a tokenistic exercise or have unrealistic expectations about change. 

 Web Based Survey Tools

For help in creating a web based survey see the following website:



date created:22/4/2003 15:30:58

last updated:17/7/2003 12:27:58


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