To help councils build capability to reduce the productivity drag that is caused by conflict and help councils build trusted relationships, FairWay is working through EquiP, LGNZ's Centre of Excellence to help councils better manage conflict.
FairWay is confident that building conflict management capability in local government will result in an overall improvement in the performance and reputation.
How we are helping local government manage conflict
Building capability in councils by offering tailored conflict management training for local government
Resolving RMA disputes earlier by providing experienced, professional mediators who know local government and the RMA – at a much lower cost than litigation
Improving interactions with the community by providing independent facilitators to manage public meetings
Working with EquiP, we have designed a training programme to increase conflict management capability within councils to build new ways of negotiating, communicating and working with stakeholders, and reducing the transaction costs of conflict that results in increasing legal fees and damaged public reputation. The module topics are:
Negotiation – local government and stakeholders
Facilitation and mediation – process and skills
Conflict communication and constructive conversations
Working with complaints and difficult people
Personal safety is not an accident – strategies for working with emotion and stress
Designing systems and processes for managing conflict and disputes
Mediation of disputes
FairWay believes that specialist mediation services be provided in earlier stages of council planning processes, where earlier intervention can provide parties with the opportunity to at least narrow the issues – if not resolve them, therefore reducing costs, saving time and making the process much less stressful.
We have identified the best specialist RMA and local government mediators in New Zealand and invited them to join a FairWay panel set up specifically for local government work. Our extensive experience managing similar panels of mediators means councils can rely on a seamless, high quality mediation service.
Councils will save money. We will quote a fixed fee for our mediation service that is likely to be very cost effective relative to the costs of RMA litigation – particularly if used as soon as it becomes obvious that the issue is contentious. We estimate that this could potentially save a large council hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
Your disputes can be resolved quickly – we’ll aim to complete each mediation within 4-6 weeks. So if the mediation does not lead to the parties’ agreement, then the process will not be delayed.
Our independence gives the mediation service credibility – and communicates that the council is committed to a fair process
The mediated agreement may be a more creative solution than parties could normally expect from the court process, therefore, creating better outcomes that parties own
Confidentiality is preserved through mediation, in contrast to disputes resolved in the court
Facilitation of meetings
Having independent facilitators managing the interaction between councils and your communities – or even intra-council meetings – is becoming more important as critical issues become more complex.
Whether the forum is a public meeting where the purpose is to communicate council policies, or whether it is a senior management team strategy planning session, the value of a well-briefed, independent facilitator should not be under-estimated. Facilitators bring skills in helping parties declare their interests early, communicate constructively, find creative solutions and ideally to resolve conflict early.
The measures of successful facilitated meetings are that:
Council staff feel safer and less compromised in public forums – able to focus on what they need to communicate rather than managing meetings that are sometimes difficult to handle
Members of the public feel more confident participating in discussions where they will get to have their say
Facilitators can focus on guiding the group towards the goals for the meeting – ensuring better quality outcomes
Advising staff in conflict
Conflict coaching is a one-on-one service that will help council staff to understand conflict, and to quickly build the skills and competencies to manage conflict effectively.
The conflict coaching model provides a future, results, and a goal-oriented approach that combines coaching, and conflict management principles. It is designed to help reduce the confusion that people often experience when in conflict and gain increased confidence and competence to engage more effectively at these times.
Making independent conflict coaching readily available to council staff retains confidentiality, and has a positive influence on internal culture.
Customer complaints handling systems
Customer concerns and complaints provide a valuable opportunity for councils to engage with their customers and improve customer advocacy as well as a critical source of intelligence for continuous improvement.
Yet research has shown that customers don’t complain because they think it's not worth the time and effort, they don't know how or where to complain, or they believe the organisation would be indifferent to them. As a general rule, less than 2% of customers register complaints, despite 25% feeling dissatisfied. For councils, this adds up to public disengagement, and potentially voter apathy.
FairWay can help mitigate these outcomes.
Customer complaint systems can be as simple or comprehensive as your council needs. Councils may require a system of conflict management interventions, which may include training for all frontline staff in techniques for early resolution of conflict, a well-designed and documented internal complaints process, triage rules, an end-to-end case management system, dispute escalation protocols, and root cause analysis of complaint data.