Working with Consultants

It's hard to believe that our workshop titled Partnering for Successful Economic Development: Lessons Learned and Best Practices happened a year and a half ago. At the end of February, I began compiling the final report for the funder of the event, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). As I edited the overviews of presentations and discussions prepared by research assistance Nicole Johnson, and inserted bar graphs prepared by project manager Allan MacKenzie (who loves spreadsheets), I relived the event. I was struck in particular by the discussion that had centred on working with consultants and thought the recommendations represented solid advice for any partnership involving a consultant.

Our participants were very practical in their feedback on relationships between Aboriginal communities or businesses and consultants, suggesting that strong contracts be put in place, that policies be established around the hiring of consultants, and that everything be documented appropriately. But one suggestion stands out from the rest, I think. Our experts suggested that job shadowing be built into contracts with consultants. Very often, Aboriginal businesses and communities hire non-Aboriginal consultants because there aren't any Aboriginal consultants available with the particular skillsets needed for the project. By building job shadowing into contracts with non-Aboriginal consultants, it is possible to increase the capacity of the community.

Now, I would imagine that there are some consultants who might balk at such a recommendation, out of a desire to safeguard their employability. But my suspicion is that a willingness to engage in this way would probably create an even stronger relationship between the consultant and community or business. Indeed, instead of working oneself out of a job, I think the opposite might occur: the trust and committment demonstrated would open doors to new contracts and would be beneficial to all involved.

It's certainly a recommendation worthy of consideration. And you'll find more recommendations in the report coming next week. Stay tuned!