Frederic Michel-Verdier: The keys to infrastructure projects

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Frederic Michel-Verdier shares stakeholder engagement and advocacy key to infrastructure projects




Welcome to the Frederic Michel-Verdier blog. Frederic Michel-Verdier has held various directorship positions on the boards of Spanish FCC Acqualia, Turkish Mersin International Port, and was Vice Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Veolia Energia Polska and Veolia Energia Lodz.  Looking at the role of stakeholder engagement and advocacy in infrastructure projects, Frederic Michel-Verdier provides his top tips.

Brexit negotiations are in the early stages, and uncertainty around the topic remains. One thing that’s clear, however, is the importance of continuing investment in major infrastructure, to drive growth.  So where do stakeholder engagement and advocacy fit in? The answer - it’s the key to making these projects happen!
Frederic Michel-Verdier
Frederic Michel Verdier

Stakeholder engagement means building relationships with the communities and groups that are interested in your project and creating opportunities for decision-makers to hear from the people their decisions directly affect - the stakeholders. Engaging with stakeholders means better policy decisions are made.

For example, engaging with disabled people’s organizations and involving them early in shaping your scheme will ensure you get things right the first time, rather than spending money on expensive retrofitting later. Involving local communities in plans will also help improve a project. After all, local people are often experts on what will and won’t work for their area. And importantly when people feel they’ve been listened to and have had an opportunity to contribute, they’re more likely to become advocates for a project.

What is an advocate, and why do we need them?

Advocates are people, or groups, who are willing to support your project. They can help make the case for and shape the scheme. And stakeholder advocates will applaud delivery of the project if their views have been considered and things have been done well.

Infrastructure projects, especially major ones, need advocates from a range of sectors; including business, industry, communities, campaign groups and equalities groups. As an example, young people, and the organisations which represent them can be fantastic advocates for your project.
By involving young people, we will ignite interest in engineering and related careers. Young people are a major stakeholder group, so we need to get our infrastructure schemes right for them.

Do infrastructure projects need stakeholder advocates to make them happen?

The answer to this is undoubted "yes!" If we spend time engaging a range of stakeholders on infrastructure schemes, it will not only help to gain their support but will also help drive the project forward.

At which stage can stakeholders help your infrastructure project?

Stakeholders can help at every stage in an infrastructure project’s progress, from initial concept right through to delivery.  If you take your stakeholders with you on the project’s journey, and provide meaningful involvement, from design through construction to operation, they can help you turn a good scheme into a great scheme.

 Frederic Michel-Verdier's top tips:

So we know that stakeholder engagement is vital to a project’s success.  If you want to improve stakeholder engagement on your project but aren’t sure where to start, you may wish to consider my top five tips:

  1. Identify your stakeholders: The first stage of stakeholder engagement is to carry out a thorough mapping exercise to identify and understand your stakeholders, and their views of the project.
  2. Have the conversation: This is a major part of stakeholder engagement. Don’t be scared to talk to your stakeholders. All interested groups have the right to be heard.
  3. Engage early and often: It’s important to make contact with your stakeholders early on in the project. I’d recommend going above and beyond what planning law requires. 
  4. Aim to build advocacy among your stakeholders: You should engage with a wide range of stakeholder groups and aim to build advocacy for your project by carrying out top-quality, meaningful engagement. This will help make the case for your project, drive it forward and protect its reputation. But, be aware, building advocacy is a long-term process. It doesn’t happen overnight. 
  5. Consider the impact of social media: Social media can be an excellent tool for promoting your project. 

Check back for more!

Frederic Michel-Verdier served as a board observer at FCC Aqualia, the Spanish water management company in which he led the acquisition of a 49% from FCC last year. He was vice-chairman since 2010 of the supervisory board of Polish heating networks operator Veolia Energia Polska, in which he led the acquisition of a 40% stake.  Learn more about the work of Frederic Michel-Verdier here. Check out Frederic Michel-Verdier's 'guide to infrastructure financing here. Alternatively, you can also join Frederic Michel-Verdier's professional network by connecting on Frederic Michel-Verdier's official Linkedin page here.

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