Bilateral meetings

$0 to $1k
estimated cost of external help
  • Scan and research
  • Prioritise options
  • Consult
0-2 weeks
estimated run time
0-2 weeks
estimated lead time
Strong communicator
recommended experience
One-on-one meetings between the government and stakeholder representatives, with the purpose of identifying issues and defining the stakeholder group’s perspective and the rationale behind it. Somewhat similar to an interview, but the representative may take the lead on what will be discussed, rather than having an agenda and formal, predetermined questions.

In 5 steps...

  1. Invite representatives who hold a distinct view to a meeting. You may need to schedule meetings with their opponents or those who hold other views at the same time, to appear fair.
  2. Openly discuss all the aspects of the issue that the representatives want to discuss. A questioning style such as appreciative inquiry can be beneficial, as it comes from the perspective of trying to understand deeply.
  3. During the conversation, record any sources provided as evidence for later review.
  4. Record or take note of key points and any stakeholders whom the representatives believe feel the same way.
  5. Keep a record of which stakeholder groups you have held meetings with, to ensure transparency.

When to use it

When you are exploring and seeking information about the issues surrounding your project. It’s best to have these conversations early on, before you decide on a course or outcome. Bilateral meetings can be used in high-risk engagements where there are tense relations between opposing groups and collaborative methods are not possible.


  • Provides insight into issues.
  • Builds trust with representatives.
  • Ensures all sides can contribute.
Long term
  • Improved trust.


  • Does not help build bridges between opposing groups.
  • May not be representative of all stakeholders’ range of opinions.
  • The loudest voices will get the most attention.
  • May not be inclusive of marginalised stakeholders who are not able to make a strong case for their views.



  • Complete a stakeholder assessment so you know the groups, their power dynamics, and their position beforehand and can set up meetings with representatives from each.
  • Allow enough time to get in the calendars of all the selected group representatives.

During the process

  • Be as neutral as possible; don’t ask leading questions or show an inclination towards a particular outcome.
  • Have meetings face-to-face so that you can analyse unspoken information, such as body language if the person is less sure of their evidence.


  • Thank all representatives for their time and ensure their contributions are recorded in your final report.

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