A dialogue process in three phases
For practical purposes and in line with many other dialogue methods, the INSPIRED approach is structured around three interrelated phases. These phases provide a clear framework for cooperation for all the actors involved and give direction to the dialogue process.
Each phase – (1) Collective Assessment, (2) Consensus Building and (3) Monitoring and Alignment – is oriented towards delivering different results of the joint work of the stakeholders involved: a Participatory Policy Assessment (1), a Roadmap for Reform (2) and a Policy Network Strategy (3).
The process and in turn each of the three phases is facilitated by a Dialogue Host, an organisation that assembles and guides all other stakeholders throughout the process. The Dialogue Host needs to invest itself in creating the conditions for trust to arise among dialogue participants, even those that may not be on good terms with each other.
Experience has shown that instead of representing a clear sequence, the borders between the three phases tend to be ﬂuid, which is due in part to the iterative nature of any dialogue process. Indeed, the stakeholders can always ‘take a step backwards’ to review their initial assessment of the policy under discussion (building on new data collected at a later stage, for instance) or pause to assess new developments with a view to ﬁnding room for a consensus. Therefore, rather than as phases stricto sensu, the phases of the INSPIRED approach should be understood as a continuum punctuated by a whole series of joint events and common achievements that need to ﬁt into the bigger political picture.
This degree of ﬂexibility with regard to the sequencing of dialogue meetings and events poses high demands on the Dialogue Host, which must remain alert to any changes in the policy landscape and in the delicate interplay between the political actors and stakeholders, and ready to adapt the whole process to those unknown factors that will surely arise in the dialogue process.