Collective Assessment Phase

The Collective Assessment Phase maps the political context in the target country in order to validate, adjust, or change the policy area initially selected. Once the pertinence and opportunity of launching a dialogue process are confirmed, the Dialogue Host needs to map out the possible issues of conflict and the power relations amongst the stakeholders who can influence policy-making and/or will be affected by the policy change.

1. Building trust through joint research

To this end, the phase is built around a series of focus groups, collective mappings and participatory assessments of both the policy landscape and the policy players that have either a say or a stake in the policy area under discussion. Each new round of collective mapping brings more clarity about the challenges and opportunities for policy reform, as it allows the stakeholders to jointly validate the key issues and to assess whether there is a window of opportunity for achieving consensus on what needs to change.

The quality of the Collective Assessment Phase will influence the full process, as it will likely define the way the stakeholders work with and relate to each other in achieving joint commitments. Therefore, throughout this crucial phase, the Dialogue Host must work to lay the foundation for the dialogue to be inclusive and allow for real participation. Right from the onset, it must ensure that no key stakeholder is left aside, while working actively so that those taking part in the dialogue recognise each other as legitimate interlocutors.

Mutual recognition is intricately and intrinsically linked to trust. Indeed, starting the dialogue process with a collective assessment that requires participants to jointly define the main needs and priorities to be tackled, as well as the ways of working together for the remainder of the process, is likely to create an environment conducive to trust among participants and to increase their ownership over what may result from it.

2. Promoting a culture of evidence-based policy making

The phase ends when the stakeholders reach a first agreement in the form of a Participatory Policy Assessment (PPA) that will provide the necessary evidence and lay the foundations for the ensuing Consensus Building Phase. This document will be the result of the collaboration among the key stakeholders identified during the mapping and will consist on a joint analysis of the policy in question, thus contextualising the ensuing dialogue process within a concrete policy landscape and pointing out the areas of contention and potential conflicts that will need to be addressed to achieve consensus.

This document will also include a set of policy indicators jointly agreed upon by the participants to measure the state and evolution of the policy at stake. These policy indicators can already exist and be regularly updated by the national statistical office or other government bodies – in which case one of the key efforts will be to ensure that they are accurate and available – or not yet exist officially, in which case the participants in the dialogue process can undertake their development as part of their joint research.

Basing the discussions on concrete and reliable data stems not only from a belief in the importance of promoting a more rigorous approach towards policy-making, but also from the assumption that promoting a culture of dialogue requires, in the first place, to overcome the sort of partisan dialectics that tend to neglect facts when they contradict a given ideological stance.

3. The Participatory Policy Analysis (PPA)

The main result of the Collective Assessment Phase consists of a Participatory Policy Analysis that outlines the key aspects of the policy that will need to be addressed during the dialogue process. It takes the form of a policy document that represents the evidence base upon which the deliberations of the Consensus Building Phase are to take place. In this sense, it plays a crucial role in ensuring that the dialogue focuses on actual evidence instead of beliefs, prejudices, or unfounded assumptions.

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