The importance of confidential interviews

One powerful method for verifying information is to conduct confidential stakeholder interviews.

One powerful method for verifying information is to conduct confidential stakeholder interviews. Confidential interviews conducted by a neutral/third party charrette team uncover information that people might not share in a public forum and that local staff cannot possibly know, because of their closeness to the project and their history with the area and the people.

Through these interviews, the charrette team can find out what people are really thinking and doing. They almost always prove to be an invaluable source of information and give the team a clear understanding of the political and social context for the charrette. 

Confidential interviews should not be confused with “exclusive closed door” meetings. No decisions are being made in these meetings, they are solely information-gathering exercises. Although they are initiated by invitation, anyone, upon request, can and should be included.

Remember that the charrette is a collaborative process wherein all participants’ needs are addressed. All participants should feel satisfied with their level of involvement. The confidential interview is just one outreach method of many employed by the charrette team.

To be effective, the interviews should be held by non-client members of the project team only. Interviews are held in a neutral location, such as a hotel. During a single day, three interview teams can talk to up to 90 people in well-orchestrated 50-minute group sessions. Each team should include an interviewer and a recorder who captures all comments. Information gained from these interviews is then made available to the client and to the public without attributing the source.

Participants often leave the interviews happy that they were able to speak their mind and deliver crucial information to the team. They also come away impressed with the professional manner in which the interviews were conducted. Most importantly, they may now consider participating in the charrette.

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