Building Facilitation as an organizational capability for stakeholder engagement

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) is part of the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment of the Government of New South Wales (NSW), Australia.

NPWS manages over 7 million hectares of land across the state of NSW, including more than 870 national parks and reserves, 4 World Heritage-listed sites, a number of Australian National Heritage sites and 17 Ramsar wetlands. These protected areas play a critical role in conserving biodiversity, as well as natural and cultural heritage.

NPWS employs 1800 staff across 14 branches, covering policy, programs and operations functions, located across the state. The organization operates in an environment of intense and at times competing community and stakeholder interests as well as the enjoyment and conservation of natural spaces.

Our Approach & Solution

Beginning in 2015 Core Creators was engaged to assist in building the facilitation capability of the Community Engagement Team (CET) of NPWS. This involved a modular training program delivered over a period of 5 months focusing on foundational facilitation methods, facilitation expansion and integration and facilitating strategic planning and thinking.

Core Creators’ involvement with the CET continued in the form of building the capacity and confidence of the team to plan and deliver internal and external facilitated stakeholder workshops and focused conversations. Recently, members of the CET have assisted Core Creators deliver customised Stakeholder Engagement training across the senior and middle management cohorts of the agency.

From 2018 to date, approximately 120 Directors, middle managers and team leaders have undergone training in the skill sets of facilitating productive conversations and facilitating strategic change. The in-role application and strengthening of these skill sets by the cohort of 120 NPWS staff is supported primarily by the CET with external assistance from Core Creators.

The Results

Both the Executive Director and Community Engagement Team Manager were early adopters of the Technology of Participation methodologies early in their respective careers and have been enthusiastic in their leadership to integrate facilitation, collaboration and engagement practices in NPWS. They attest to the role Core Creators has played in building the organization’s capacity to apply facilitation skills and techniques to identify, plan and manage teams and the multiple issues they handle on a daily basis.

The strategic thinking and planning skills developed have provided team leaders, managers and directors with a framework that is robust and effective in driving fundamental cultural change across the organization. Additionally, Core Creators, via their design and delivery, has helped the CET and participating team leaders, managers and directors build their confidence, understanding and skill in facilitation and engagement.

I was first exposed to Kevin Balm and his unique facilitation and learning skills in the early 1990s. Kevin delivered a three day workshop that radically reshaped my approach to working with people and influenced my development as a facilitator, manager and a leader. 25 years later, faced with the responsibility of driving fundamental cultural change across an organisation of 1800 passionate and committed staff, Kevin and COrE Creators were the obvious choice. We worked with the team to develop and deliver targeted ToP training for more than 120 Team Leaders, Managers and Directors, with the goal of embedding true collaborative engagement as a core capability. The training has been modular in design to allow for application of new capabilities in participants’ actual roles, and recently adapted again for delivery on-line given Covid constraints. Feedback across our organisational leaders has been universally positive, and the benefits are visible across the organisation.

Rob Quirk
Executive Director, Park Programs NSW National Parks & Wildlife Services, Australia

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