Colleagues working in advocacy and public affairs in the not for profit sector were recently bemoaning the amount of time they spend consulting, compiling and completing submissions to a myriad of government agencies inviting them to share their views on a range of issues, often very important ones for their organisations and the people they represent.
A new government, a slew of new departments, and now a line-up of new Oireachtas committees has increased the traffic in submissions as they all go out to the sector to consult or ask for responses to their range of policy proposals.
But do submissions make any difference? Does reaching out for a response to a planned initiative really constitute consultation with the people who will have to live with the results of a new policy or initiative?
According to those making the submissions, very often, they are simply a box ticking exercise for an agency to be able to say they have asked for a response and that this constitutes consultation.
Knowing this, and having experience to back up the opinion, why do them?
Firstly, because as a group or organisation who needs the state agency or department to listen to them, they feel they have no choice to respond when they have been asked to do so. You never know, this time it might be different.
Secondly, the people who use their services and whom they represent, more often than not believe that the submission, having been drawn up in good faith, will actually be read, and noted and might change things. They want their voice heard and often believe a submission will be carefully read and duly noted by officials at the other end. If only!
Thirdly, the list of organisations which make submissions is often published by an agency or a department or a committee, and is available under Freedom of Information. So, from the organisation’s point of view, it could be embarrassing not to be on that list.
But time well spent?
There are better ways to get attention, but when you are asked for your opinion, you really have no choice but to give it.
November 30th 2020
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