As a small country New Zealand can be more innovative when developing policies, and we are disproportionately visible internationally. This creates an opportunity to show leadership and help other countries tackle difficult issues.
Motu uses an innovative stakeholder dialogue process for investigating challenging topics that are the subject of polarising public debate. Motu has run five dialogues since 2007 and is currently continuing its Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) Dialogue as well as setting up a group to examine insurance, housing and climate change adaptation and another group to look at modelling the impacts of the ETS.
A Motu Dialogue is not a decision-making body, but a group with a wide range of perspectives that can provide a basis for more constructive and informed public discussion on challenging issues. It is composed of up to 20 individuals who work together over an agreed amount of time, to frame challenges within the sector, and create ideas on how to move forward.
The group meets in person (with some participation by video-conference) for either half- or full-day meetings. The group aims to develop a shared understanding of the issues and current knowledge about them, identify creative ideas to address them, develop mutual trust among participants and develop potential effective, efficient and fair solutions to the identified challenge or pose well-formulated research questions. It does not aim to create consensus among participants though consensus on some issues is often reached.
The aim is not to have a representative selection from the New Zealand population, but rather to ensure that a wide range of perspectives and experience are represented. This involves including both the communities affected by the issue – from business, government and Māori representatives – and technical experts.
Participants are selected on the basis of their knowledge and their characteristics. Relevant personal characteristics include being a good thinker, knowledgeable, open-minded and amenable to working as part of a group.
The total number of participants is kept low to allow in-depth discussion. In addition, each individual attends in their private capacity, not as a representative of their organisation.
The dialogue process, developed with facilitation experts such as Common Ground NZ and Thought Partners, creates conditions in which participants learn from one another, come to a common understanding, and innovate together. The aims of Motu Dialogues are achieved by covering a wide range of relevant topics. Technical experts provide key background material and present the latest research; in turn the other participants challenge the scope and interpretation of existing research and contribute new ideas.
The small number of participants and the consistent attendance of members over time allows a strong group rapport to build. This rapport, and the length of time given to the process, allow the issues to be discussed honestly and in depth. Group discussion and thinking can progress and converge, rather than be subject to a polarised debate that solidifies existing views and positions.
The dialogue process creates a more informed policy and research environment. The results of the work are communicated to government and others in the policy community and beyond. The dialogue process also creates a network of well-informed and -connected people who are experts on the issues discussed.
Insights drawn are from the collective thinking of the participants. We do not aim to reach a consensus. Published outputs acknowledge the members’ participation if they choose but represent the opinions of Motu researchers alone.
As part of the communication process Motu has produced various materials, including short films, a presentation to be used with one of the films as a teaching resources, blogs, a game addressing the technical challenges of water quality or emissions trading, working papers and non-technical notes.
To find out more about our dialogues, including access to the resulting material, please follow the links below.
Motu’s first dialogue took place in 2007 during the design of the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme. This four day-long meeting ‘Climate Dialogue’ focused on clarifying issues with participants from industry.
Our second dialogue focused on water quality in Lake Rotorua and worked with farmers, NGOs and local and central government. Our third focused on the new and challenging issue of mitigating agricultural emissions in an ‘AgDialogue’.
Recently we have run two climate policy related dialogues: the Low Emission Future Dialogue and the ETS Dialogue. The ETS Dialogue will be ongoing through 2018. Two dialogue groups are in the establishment phase; one looking into insurance, housing and climate change adaptation and the other modelling the impact of the ETS.