A good scope will frame the boundaries for your engagement, the objectives you are seeking to achieve and any clear rules of engagement, we call these rules ‘givens’. When set up well, the scope, objectives and givens create clear expectations and boundaries which allow a group of participants to focus where they need to.

Whether your aim is focused on communicating a message to an audience, facilitating a discussion or driving deep collaboration these three questions are a great starting point to define and develop your approach.

Three questions to define your scope

  1. What outcomes are we looking for? Or more specifically, what do you, and others, need to be able to do as a result of this engagement?
  2. Now that you’ve clarified your desired outcomes, what will people need to know in order to achieve them?
  3. Who needs to be involved and why? Consider this from a range of perspectives that will benefit the ultimate aim.

What outcomes are we looking for?

Or more specifically, what do you, and others, need to be able to do as a result of this engagement?

Start by asking: At the end of this process, what do we want ourselves and others to know, feel and do? These questions will also help you to uncover both tangible and intangible aspects of your goals.

You may also want to consider the following:

  • Do you want people to think they are a part of this entire journey or a contributor at a point in time?
  • Do you want people to feel excited about the opportunity presented?
  • Do you want people to approach (do) their organisation’s planning differently as a result of this engagement?
  • Do you want to produce a document or framework for a specific purpose or audience?

What do people need to know in order to achieve these outcomes?

Now that you have a clearer idea of your desired outcomes, it is important to identify what you need to know in order to achieve them.

Whether it’s technical information, another group’s perspective or the sequencing of events, engagement is always about learning from one another.

Consider what educational content you can prepare and share in advance of the engagement (such as prior research, analysis or program planning), and what education will need to occur during the engagement (such as sharing perspectives).

Shared understanding is often the precursor to effective decisions and/or the design of possible solutions. You may want to consider the following:

  • Is there a clear purpose or objective of the engagement? How does it relate to your desired outcomes?
  • What information or perspectives have you assumed and how important are they?
  • Is there any key background context that participants need to know in advance so that everyone is on the same page

Who needs to be involved and why?

An invitee list can span a range of people for differing reasons. Consider not only those who have the knowledge you need in the room but also decision-makers, influencers, those who can adequately test ideas (users) and others whom you need onboard and engaged.

Having key decision-makers in the room, hearing the conversations first hand, can go a long way to effective and timely decision making. And with the right decision-makers in the room, it can be possible to make decisions in real-time and progress the work even further.

Influencers and others you need onboard may include people who are not in a position of authority but have the ability to influence groups of people. Bringing such people into the room can set them up as advocates for the work.

Users or others who can adequately test the ideas can contribute to ensuring the feasibility of ideas and the identification of practical next steps. You may want to consider the following:

  • Who are the most relevant people to involve? Will they be sharing their knowledge or expertise? Will they be making decisions? Or will they be advocating for a particular perspective?
  • What leadership level(s) are the participants? What unique or specific lenses can they bring to the discussion? How much notice do they need to be able to attend?
  • Are there specific people outside of your organisation who need to be invited?
  • If specific people are not involved, how may this affect the engagement and the achievement of the desired outcomes? (i.e. Will a key stakeholder voice be absent?)

Setting expectations in a placeholder for your participants

Navigating diaries can be very difficult and we encourage you to get any workshop times held in the diaries of your participants as early as possible, even if the fine details of the engagement are not yet fully agreed.

A high-level scope and expectations for your invitation may be something like:

“As part of the review of infrastructure priorities in NSW we are looking to bring together representatives across the key state government agencies. You have been identified as someone with important knowledge and experience and we would like to hold this time in your diary. Further details on the scope and expectations for this session will be provided in the coming weeks however if you have any questions please reach out to [insert name, role and contact details].”

In this example we’re providing a clear focus of the engagement “review of infrastructure priorities across government agencies”, we’re framing whey we would like them involved “identified as someone with important knowledge and experience”, letting them know more information will be provided to offset any concerns about the lack of detail being provided at this point in time and we’re providing a contact person for any questions.

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