Best practice, evidence-based engagement guidelines

Best practice evidence-based engagement guidelines

Social licence, or lack thereof, is one of many challenges facing transmission development today. Social Licence is built on three pillars: 'credibility, legitimacy and trust'. Without demonstrating these three pillars in all engagement activities, it will be near impossible to acquire social licence.

Over the past few years, there has been a lot of confusing information circulated in the public domain with respect to transmission. This includes, but is not limited to; misconceptions around the costs of overhead vs underground; misinformation about alleged false claims and expert opinions; claims of price crushing renewable energy; claims that evidence-based submissions to the VNI West Regulatory Investment Test for Transmission (RIT-T) are both ‘reckless’ and ‘misguided’.

Disappointingly, many of these claims could not be substantiated due to significant lack of publicly available evidence. This has prompted the development of the 'Evidence-based engagement guidelines for electricity transmission.' A best practice approach to electricity transmission infrastructure development.'

The purpose of these guidelines is to provide an overview of the practical building blocks for social licence (credibility, legitimacy, and trust), and to help communities engage with institutions in a robust, transparent and meaningful way, to rebalance the power between institutions and the public.

This is a complex and ongoing process that requires systemic change. It involves fostering a culture of collaboration, trust, and inclusivity to ensure that decision-making processes genuinely reflect and prioritise the needs and interests of the public.

It’s extremely important during this once-in-a-lifetime transition away from fossil fuels that we are all open to having the difficult conversations and can bring forth our ideas openly and transparently so that robust and meaningful discussion can be had. It's also extremely important that if you are going to start a conversation, make sure it is credible, legitimate, and trustworthy and is supported by evidence. Unless this is done, there is no point even starting a conversation. Unsubstantiated opinion is not legitimate, does not show you are credible and makes an mockery of robust debate. Unsubstantiated opinion is guaranteed to dilute trust and therefore, social licence.

Evidence-based discussions are rooted in the principles of critical thinking, rationality, and the scientific method. They involve presenting and analysing relevant data, research findings, and expert opinions to support arguments and inform decision-making. By basing discussions on evidence, we can minimise biases, misinformation, and subjective opinions that may hinder effective problem-solving.

Evidence-based engagement enhances credibility, legitimacy, transparency, informed decision-making, and stakeholder participation. These factors contribute to building trust, acquiring social licence, and ensuring the successful implementation of projects or initiatives.

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