"Dialogue is a non-confrontational communication, where both partners are willing to learn from the other and therefore leads much farther into finding new grounds together"
The three orientations of the INSPIRED approach can be pursued through the combination of a number of complementary tools that aim at delivering outcomes at different stages of the dialogue process. This means that, in most cases, they can be used in each and every phase – Collective Assessment, Consensus Building and Monitoring and Alignment – but must nevertheless be clearly aimed at delivering one or several outcomes within the broader framework of the dialogue process (link to the types of outcomes):
- Policy: For the dialogue to succeed, it is crucial that all stakeholders agree beforehand on the cognitive categories upon which deliberations are to be based, as these will determine the effectiveness of their efforts to communicate with each other. As in any other type of dialogue, their respective claims will take the form of key messages, which may differ in many aspects but nonetheless need to remain within a given “wavelength” in order to avoid the sort of cacophony that can only lead to misunderstanding and distrust. This is precisely what policy has to offer: as a middle ground between the political and the technical, it is broad enough to encompass all the relevant aspects of a given reform, while providing all the actors involved with a common framework to address the challenges at hand. Besides, bringing the discussion to the level of policy is a means of translating values into public action, thus requiring the stakeholders to assess their proposals in terms of feasibility and to anticipate the problems that may arise in implementation.
- Process: As it has been repeatedly said, in dialogue the means are as important as the ends, as consensus won’t last much if it isn’t built upon mutual understanding and a shared vision of the problems at stake. This is, more often than not, the result of a long and often slow process, in which all the interested parties feel that their voices are being heard. This will in turn require strong facilitation skills on the side of the Dialogue Host, as well as the deployment of a wide array of trust-building techniques, but it will also depend on the capacity development of those stakeholders that are struggling to keep pace of the debate or the joint appraisal of potential policy alternatives through access to relevant experiences. As with any other process, timing is key, as dialogue will not yield fruits until the situation is ripe and all the stakeholders have developed a high level of ownership over the policy reform process.
- Partnership: Most of the tools used by INSPIRED are implemented in a collective manner, either because they aim at building trust through joint work or because they aim at identifying and fostering synergies to improve policy implementation. In both cases, they are conceived as a way of sowing the seed for a more regular cooperation among all the stakeholders of a given policy field. In that sense, they seek to strengthen the links between the different nodes that conform to a given policy network, in which both individuals and institutional actors interact on a regular basis along the whole policy cycle. Needless to say, policy networks that operate on the basis of trust are more effective and able to react to new developments. Of course, they depend on the individual capacities of their members, but at the end of the day, their performance will be determined by their ability to function as parts of a whole.