How to involve all stakeholders in the design process

This article appeared in the June issue of Athletic Business. Athletic Business is a free magazine for professionals in the sports, fitness and recreation industry. Click here to subscribe.

Opening a new recreation facility is an exciting event in any community, but for those who have been personally involved in the planning and design, seeing the end product becomes even more important. The building represents the culmination of months (perhaps years) of planning, ideas, new technology, appealing aesthetics and budget considerations.

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Identifying and collecting contributions from everyone who will use or work in a facility is critical to the success of the project and ultimately creates a facility that respects their contribution and achieves the greatest good. How are stakeholders identified and ultimately involved in the multifaceted design process to meet not only functional and budgetary considerations, but aesthetic goals as well?

Whether it’s a community project or a college recreational project, identifying project stakeholders is a similar process. Stakeholders should be selected to represent all interests related to the design of a facility, from the various departments and organizations that will use the facility to classroom instructors and maintenance personnel. This list may include college administrators, student government members, facility staff, college athletic officials, sports teams, coaches, alumni, community groups, campus neighbors, and donors – anyone interested. by facility or university.

“We encourage the university to bring as many stakeholders as possible to the table,” said James Braam, vice president of Kansas City, Missouri-based architectural firm HOK. “From the first meeting, we want to make sure that everyone feels welcome, that everyone has a voice. We start with attitude and promote awareness that the project is primarily about students and the campus community.

Public recreation projects can be more complex in their development and therefore may start with only a few initial stakeholders – possibly partners – and then expand to larger focus groups, including neighbors and likely end users. All are considered stakeholders at various stages of planning, but the initial meetings are designed to lay the groundwork for a possible comprehensive public participation strategy. As a first step, the initial partners must develop an understanding of the level of involvement of each actor: Operational? Financial? Contributor of assets?

Once this has been established, the focus is on including as many community representatives as possible. “While the process of involving stakeholders in the planning of community recreation facilities has always been essential, it has become even more important,” says Ken Ballard, president of Ballard * King & Associates, a recreation consultancy based in Highlands Ranch, Colorado. . “We are aware of the need to not leave anyone out of the process. This extended inclusion is timely and expensive, but gives everyone the opportunity to be registered, and this is very important.”

Traditional stakeholders can be identified as board members, user groups, community leaders and school staff. Many of these groups can be made aware of the project and the possibility of participating in the planning through traditional media such as public announcements or direct mail. Technology offers increased opportunities to reach self-identified stakeholders through blogs, Facebook pages, and other social media efforts.

“Face-to-face is a richer interaction, but to make sure you don’t miss anyone, we rely on three to four different methods of data collection to do a full job,” says Ballard. The ultimate goal is to foster a sense of belonging and pride in the new facility.

Assessing potential stakeholders is an ongoing consideration, as planners return frequently to identify other people and groups associated with the project. Skeptics of the project should also be invited and encouraged to participate in the process, adds Braam. “The consistent message is that we want people to dream, while understanding the parameters.”

At every step of the planning and design process, meetings are essential to gather the necessary feedback. An initial meeting of all project stakeholders creates a climate of continuous communication and inclusion. Throughout the process, stakeholders should be encouraged to express themselves freely and contribute all their ideas. While not all ideas can be included in the final design, finding common ground through focus groups, meetings, public forums and the use of social media ensures that creative ideas are a priority and that budgetary considerations are maintained.

Start with the end in mind, says Troy Sherrard, partner at Moody Nolan, an architectural firm based in Columbus, Ohio. “Remove all barriers to ideas, focus on an ideal world, and think beyond current conditions, situations and experiences,” says Sherrard. “Work from there.”

Likewise, Braam encourages inclusive and open conversations. Subsequent meetings recap the exact words from previous stakeholder meetings, developing and building on previous ideas and thoughts. “This building will be unique to them,” Braam said. “Stakeholders make decisions, and we facilitate.

One method he likes to use to gather ideas and understand stakeholder goals is to organize a series of thematic workshops. “We literally go around the circle where everyone reads their answer – there is no wrong answer,” says Braam. “We listen and write each word on a board to confirm to everyone that all thoughts are important. Everyone can see and hear all of the contributions.”

A full gathering of stakeholders is ideal, allowing different representatives to hear the whole group and develop ideas. Collectively, the group comes to understand each other’s priorities. “The vice-chancellor can be seated next to a student,” says Braam, each expressing and hearing the other’s ideas given equal merit. “We want to facilitate a culture of collaboration.”

Sherrard recognizes the challenges of encouraging such a free flow of ideas and the impact it might have on the ability to reach consensus, but he says the payoff is worth it, with the discourse sowing the seeds of conceptions and ideas. advanced technologies. innovative use of technology. “Great ideas are born from a collage of many ideas and points of view,” says Sherrard. “By using this method, we gain traction and maximize the group’s contribution while building consensus.”

At every step of the design process, Sherrard says it’s important for the design team to “assess themselves” or verify that they really hear stakeholder feedback. “Ask questions and help better understand why stakeholders are involved in the design process,” he says.

The finished product is the ultimate testament to the success of a project, but it all depends on a coherent and content set of stakeholders. When designing a new recreation facility for Auburn University, Braam felt that the stakeholder group in particular excelled in inclusion and collaboration, and he likened the collaborative environment to a ‘family’. “. Making the process especially rewarding, he says, was watching the family atmosphere continue seamlessly as graduate students pass the torch to new students.

Ballard saw how essential stakeholder participation was when the Minneapolis Park District recently assessed the needs of all of its recreation centers. “It was a huge and very complex project,” Ballard said, adding that the engagement of a broad base of stakeholders at multiple levels produced results that exceeded even what was thought possible – while expanding the network and seizing all available opportunities for contribution.

This article originally appeared in the June 2016 issue of Athletic affairs with the title “Involving stakeholders in the facility design process”

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Abdul J. Gaspar

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