This report explores how the relationship between the public sector and third sector has changed, and what that means for consultation.

This is a time of unprecedented change and possibilities for the third and public sectors. Never before have there been so many opportunities for the third sector to work alongside government towards shared goals. As the roles traditionally played by third sector organisations and public bodies become blurred and partnership working more common, those involved are having to adapt to a new, more interdependent working relationship.

This report argues that for consultation to achieve its potential within this context it needs to be reconfigured.The framework for consultation has been too rigid to engage the broad composition and varied nature of third sector organisations, and therefore risks not making the best use of the third sector and what it can provide. This report has many great examples of techniques that can and have been used to help reach people on the ground. This report seeks to put people back into consultations, in the belief that it is only through recognising public and third sector bodies as comprised of individual members of the same society that consultation can become a basis for constructive dialogue, which will underpin shared efforts to meet society’s challenges. Consultation may be just one component of the important relationship between the third and the public sectors, but it is a vital one, a key path to policy influence for the third sector and an invaluable tool for public servants seeking to tap into the knowledge and experience of third sector bodies.

This publication is available in two formats: