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How do we work?
We like to build good working relationships with our clients, and we place communication, evaluation and learning at the centre of our activity. We believe that using consultants should be an empowering experience and we place great emphasis on the importance of clients feeling that they own both the process and the outcomes.
We have a stringent set of quality standards which we apply to our work to ensure that our clients can have complete confidence in our work.
We are aware that our clients need to feel confident that we fully understand their context. Having accurately determined their needs, we like to develop and manage projects creatively and responsively. We understand that needs will sometimes change as the project progresses and that ultimately our clients want outcomes which are practical and meaningful to them: they want outcomes they can use.
We are committed to developing strong, effective and dynamic working relationships with our clients which enable us to better understand and meet their needs. This document outlines our professional philosophy and the approaches we use to ensure the quality of our work.
Ownership of Process and Outcomes
At the core of our approach is a belief that meaningful results can only really be achieved where the project is owned and driven by those individuals or groups which have a primary interest in it. This will usually be the client but may extend to include the individuals or group on whose behalf the client acts.
By placing control of both the process and the outcomes into the hands of the client and client's community we can multiply the value of the consulting process and empower the client or community in their decision making process. In this approach we as consultants play a facilitating role, seeking to use our knowledge and expertise to guide and support the client through the process, rather than managing the process on their behalf.
Establishing a Partnership Approach
To truly achieve ownership of outcomes by the client or client's community we much prefer to adopt an approach which encourages a mutual understanding of roles and responsibilities. We spend a lot of time listening to our clients. We form strong partnerships with the groups and individuals involved and place great emphasis on establishing effective ways in which to communicate. This allows us to better understand the context and to help our clients to accurate identify and articulate their own needs.
We discuss options and approaches at length with our clients and tailor the process specifically to the unique needs of the project concerned. We are always keen to allow the process to grow out of the context concerned, drawing on our experience and judgment to ensure that the process and outcomes are credible and meaningful.
We see each project as a learning opportunity for both the client and ourselves and place evaluation at the heart of our activity, as a way of assessing where to begin, where to go next and how the process can continue to progress after the project's conclusion.
We maintain a high level of person contact with the client throughout each project and on into implementation, and where ever possible we seek to establish networks or structures which will continue beyond the life span of the project.
We are committed to ensuring that the outcomes of the project are provided in a range of formats and accessible to a wide range of interested people.
As a small business concerned with the long term viability of communities and enterprises, we are doing a few things ourselves that contribute to maximising the economic, social and environmental outcomes from what we do.
Assessing our footprint
There are a few different ‘ecological footprint’ tools on line which allow you to work out how your activities impact on the environment. If you are interested have a look at:
Offsetting the greenhouse gas emissions from our work
Our small consulting business generates only about 3 tonnes of carbon dioxide each year through direct energy consumption. But our travel, especially by air, generates much more. Since 2005 we have made annual donations to Greenfleet to offset the carbon emissions from our office and travel. Greenfleet (www.greenfleet.com.au) is a non-profit organisation that plants mixed species of trees to offset carbon dioxide emitted by subscribers’ cars, travel and other activities. The SES company car is not a petrol electric hybrid, but it does drive as happily on lower emission LPG as on petrol. And the SES bicycle goes really well around Canberra on person power.
In 2006 we tested a process of including reference on invoices to the volume of greenhouse gases generated by each project, with the twin aims of raising awareness and promoting transparency. We included a note on some invoices that we would donate funds for enough trees to offset those emissions to Greenfleet.
Ethical super fund for staff
We have established a relationship with an ethical superannuation fund as the default fund for our staff. There are a few funds to choose from nowadays, and the choice depends on your values and your own feelings about what should and should not be invested in. Our relationship is with Australian Ethical, a long-established and well-performing fund with clear principles set out in its charter (www.austethical.com.au).
Energy and water audit
An energy and water audit of our office led to installation of low wattage compact fluorescent lights, a dual flush toilet and use of evaporative cooling in summer.
The office collects and recycles as much waste as possible, especially office paper and cardboard. We also use great paper sold at quite reasonable prices by a community enterprise (SCRAP Ltd – www.scrapltd.com.au) that might well be the only 100% post-consumer recycled paper available in Australia. SCRAP’s Evolve Office and Evolve Business papers are made in the UK (transport is a pity) from waste paper recovered from users, whereas other recycled paper products in Australia use industrial waste paper. The major brands use of industrial waste is a great start, but we like to see a higher value market for higher value office paper. And buying through SCRAP Ltd also supports a grass-roots school-based recycling network.
Support community activities
We donate 10% of annual profit to worthy activities, and this year contributed modest amounts to Oxfam’s international programs, the Australia Institute’s research agenda and to the Tasmanian Land Conservancy’s land rescue and management activities.
On the list for 2007 are:
Including a dedicated ‘greenhouse offset cost’ with every project and invoice
Evaluating various GreenPower electricity options (see www.greenpower.gov.au for a listing of what’s available and www.greenelectricitywatch.org.au for an evaluation)
Greening our office by improving its passive solar design
Ensuring Quality Outcomes
We have great pride in the quality of the work we produce and feel that it is important that our clients are confident in that. The quality of our work is promoted by our commitment to work within a set of guidelines which we have developed through our consulting experiences and professional training.
Data Handling Guidelines
In managing the collection and analysis of primary data we are committed to being:
- Thorough by ensuring that all relevant data is efficiently collected and analysed so that our clients receive as complete a picture as possible.
Accurate by ensuring that error and bias are as far as possible eliminated from our work so that our clients can have confidence in making decisions on the basis of the information derived from the data
- Reliable by ensuring that our sampling techniques provide as representative a range of responses as possible to allow our clients to apply the information to their broader community.
- Transparent so that our methods are clearly understood and available for scrutiny.
- Defensible so that our conclusions can be traced to the source data and proven to be reasonable.
These guidelines are applied to both our quantitative and qualitative work and ensure that our clients can have faith in the recommendations which stem from them. Thorough, accurate, reliable, transparent and defensible data handling ties the decision making process into the real context from which the data has been drawn and consequently promotes effective decision making.
Confidentiality Handling Guidelines
- The collection and use of primary data must incur some discussion of the responsibilities of the researcher and the ethics of data collection and use. We are very aware of the delicate nature of some of the data we handle and seek to protect confidentiality by:
- Ethical handling of data sources - We feel that information provided to us is owned by the respondent and given to the researcher in confidence for the specific uses defined at the time of collection. Consequently we expect to protect the individual identity of the people who provide us with data and use that data with integrity.
- Recognising ownership of project outputs - We are mindful that the outcomes of the project are owned by the client and consequently work closely with the client to define the appropriate distribution of the information.
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