CASE STUDY: INFLUENCING PRICES & PRIORITIES

Barwon Water - MosaicLab case study - facilitators - deliberative engagement
 

SNAPSHOT

  • Process: Community Panel (deliberative process)
  • Timeframe:  June 2016 –  August 2017 (3.5 days panel deliberation)
  • Client: Barwon Water
  • Wider engagement phase design & delivery: Barwon Water, EY Sweeney and Newgate Research
  • Deliberative phase design & facilitation: MosaicLab
  • Panel selection: Deliberately Engaging 
  • Participants: 27 (community panel), approx. 5,050 (wider engagement), 1260 (community feedback phase)
  • Outputs: 20 recommendations (5 outcomes and 15 service preferences)

VIDEO: Barwon Water Pricing Submission - journey overview and participant interviews. 


I feel like this has really sparked a fire for community action because I haven’t been involved in my community in years and then suddenly I’m at the forefront of something.
— Panellist
It’s been great to get an insight behind the scenes into how the company runs. It’s more than just turning the tap on and getting water out.
— Panellist

REMIT

What do you value most about water and sewerage services and what do you expect in the future?

OVERVIEW

In 2017, 27 everyday Barwon Water customers came together to deliberate over what they expect and value most when it comes to water and sewerage services.  The group grappled with technical inputs, weighed up complex options, and considered diverse customer needs to determine how to balance prices and services.

These deliberations formed part of an 18-month engagement process that would help shape Barwon Water’s 2018 Price Submission to the Essential Services Commission.  The process offered customers an unprecedented level of involvement in and influence over Barwon Water’s future pricing and priorities.

MosaicLab designed and facilitated the deliberative phase of the engagement.  This included two and a half days of community panel deliberations, online discussions and a review day where panellists came back together to consider community feedback on their recommendations.

The process was underpinned by Barwon Water’s commitment to listen to, respond to and collaborate with its customers.  The project had a wide range of positive impacts, and, ultimately, a transformative effect on the organisation and its relationships.  

CHALLENGES

Challenges faced in designing this process included:

  • involving a broad range of perspectives in the conversation (i.e. people across different geographical locations and communities of interest)
  • effectively conveying technical and complex information to participants
  • responding to panellist questions and information requests quickly
  • resourcing and managing a deliberative process – a new engagement approach for Barwon Water 
  • deliberations needed to occur within a limited number of days/hours

You have to pick your facilitators wisely, the people who are guiding you on this journey, if you’ve never done it before, they are literally your guides and your signposts… they will give you the map and say ‘it’s ok you’ll get there’.
— Betsy Anderson, Senior Regulatory Analyst, Barwon Water

KEYS TO SUCCESS

A key objective of the process was gaining informed outputs.  This meant panellists had to digest a lot of information, including technical data and reports.  This was supported by:

  • having Barwon Water representatives in the room to observe discussions, clarify and respond to questions and requests,
  • giving panellists the opportunity to talk to industry experts and Barwon Water specialists,
  • preparing and communicating complex information in clear and accessible ways,
  • fast responses to information requests (often on the same day) to ensure panellists had maximum time to digest new information.

Other keys to the project’s success included:

  • Barwon Water response document: This was provided following day 2 of deliberations in response to the panel’s draft recommendations.  It helped the group to clarify intent and understand the impact of their recommendations.
  • Panel reconvening: The panel met to review community feedback, and refine and modify their recommendations.
  • Customer check in: Barwon Water re-engaged with the community, publishing proposed prices and services for review before they were finalised.
  • Barwon Water’s commitment to transparency:  This enhanced credibility and accountability throughout the process. 
Case Study: Deliberative Engagement - Barwon Water Pricing Submission

OUTCOMES

Barwon Water’s 2018 Price Submission was presented to the ESC in September 2017.  The submission included all recommendations provided by the panel.  The ESC has commenced its independent review of all Victorian water corporation’s price submissions. The final decision and price determination is expected to be released in mid-2018.

 

The positive impacts of this engagement approach went beyond the development of the price submission itself.  The process proved transformative for Barwon Water, setting new standards for engagement approaches, creating advocates for the process and proposed prices and inspiring internal conversations.  Internal collaboration was key, and the approach taken by the project management team exemplified the importance of inter-department engagement and co-operation. 


This panel did an amazing job in getting across both the depth and breadth of this topic in a very short amount of time and providing incredibly clear feedback to Barwon Water.
— Nicole Hunter, MosaicLab Facilitator
The efficiency and effort from the Barwon Water staff really made the whole process hum and provided us with an exemplary example of how to check in with a group throughout a process.
— Keith Greaves, MosaicLab Facilitator

LEARNINGS:

Key learnings arising from this process included:

  • Test the organisation’s interpretation of what the panel or jury is saying mid-deliberations - misinterpretations are addressed and the group can clarify the implications of their draft recommendations.  They can then refine them accordingly.
  • Fast turnaround in terms of fact checking and responding to information requests is essential.  The faster this is, the more time participants have to digest information.
  • Honesty is key:  Barwon Water transparently outlined why certain recommendations would or would not be feasible.
  • Reconvening the panel to consider community feedback on and refine their recommendations results in higher quality outputs that have been tested against public opinion.

The videos below feature excerpts of interviews with Tracey Slatter, Managing Director, Barwon Water and Betsy Anderson who was Barwon Water's project manager for this process. Their insights are provided along with interviews with other project managers and decision makers who have led deliberative projects for other organisations. 

VIDEO: Deliberative processes through the eyes of project managers.

VIDEO: Deliberative processes through the eyes of decision makers and leaders. 


The process of deliberative engagement with the community is a really powerful tool – it’s most powerful when you’ve got a real dilemma and you genuinely need a lot of input from the community to guide the (decision making) process.
— Tracey Slatter, Managing Director, Barwon Water

MORE INFORMATION

For more information on this project visit:

www.barwonwater.vic.gov.au/learning/proposed-prices-2018-2023

 

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