In any dialogue, the means are as important as the end and compromises, or even consensus can only be achieved progressively, taking one step at a time and ensuring that none of the key institutions or stakeholders that are willing to participate are left behind.
Indeed, one of the main potential advantages of inclusive and participatory policy dialogue is that it paves the way for mutual recognition among otherwise confronted stakeholders. For this to happen, these actors need to feel that they are being listened to and that their insight and inputs are taken on board by the other dialogue participants and as well as the facilitators of the process. Involvement leads to engagement, which is the basis upon which real ownership over policy reform must be built in order for such reform to yield fruit in the medium to long term.
Besides, policy work is seldom static, as circumstances change and priorities are frequently redeﬁned – mainly by the oﬃcial policy-makers, which makes it even more important for policy dialogue projects to focus on the many overlapping processes that unfold simultaneously during policy formulation and implementation. Not to speak of those other processes –political, electoral, budgetary, etc. – that are shaping policy to a great extent and that are crucial for understanding the positions and interests of the different stakeholders involved in policy-making.
In such a complex system, where most elements are closely interconnected, the success of any given reform depends entirely on the capacity of dialogue facilitators to understand how and when each of the key stakeholders can inﬂuence the policy process. And this is arguably one of the main advantages of adopting a multi-stakeholder approach, as it allows the different types of actors to inﬂuence through dialogue those aspects of their respective agendas or mandates that would otherwise fall out of their reach. Moreover, the exchange of views fostered through dialogue becomes a way of improving policy coordination and promoting a division of labour where speciﬁc tasks are taken care of by those actors who are best placed to do so.
Aware of the growing importance of civil society in the policy process, some years ago – coinciding with the implementation of INSPIRED – the EU delegations have been defining their Country Roadmaps for Engagement with Civil Society, consecrating its approach towards the role of civil society organisations in development by moving its focus beyond service providers and watchdogs to full-fledged partners in policy dialogue.