Closed-door meeting

Channel description: 

Closed-door meetings are small group or even one-on-one conversations behind closed doors – typically taking place in smaller circles than Roundtables and usually called because of a few specific issues that are disputed among the participating parties. 

In the context of grid projects, Closed-door meetings with stakeholders can be initiated or requested by almost every stakeholder involved and they can be very suitable channels to enter into an intensive dialogue with important individuals who – as multipliers – communicate in turn with larger audiences. Closed-door meetings also work very well for a mutual briefing of stakeholders before a Town hall meeting or Roundtable.

In any case, Closed-door meetings should be initiated or requested on an ad-hoc basis because they remain – by definition – a comparatively non-transparent and secretive channel. Nevertheless, especially when opinions are diametrically opposed and long-standing disputes (e.g. among TSOs and Local citizen’s initiatives) are entrenched, personal meetings can be just the right channel to begin to resolve differences. In many cases, the simple fact that the meeting takes place will do a great deal in bringing two opposed sides together. Closed-door meetings can, however, be a controversial tool with regards to transparency. It is therefore recommendable to keep minutes of Closed-door meetings and agree on how the minutes shall be distributed before the meeting.

Audiences: 
Usual patterns: 

It may well be worthwhile for TSOs and other project sponsors to sit down with environmental experts in one or more focused meetings in order to discuss environmental issues arising along the route of the power line or cable in question – e.g. major crossings of birds or specially protected landscapes. As the local chapters of Environmental NGOs often possess expert knowledge about the immediate flora and fauna within the planning corridor, TSOs can learn and benefit from focused discussions on such issues: in meetings between NGO experts and TSO planners, mutually agreed upon routes can be identified and conflicts prevented.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • What are specific environmental issues that NGOs may have special knowledge about?   

  • Which Environmental NGOs are represented in the immediate environment of the intended grid project and how can they be contacted?

Potential audience size: 
Usual patterns: 

The very purpose of Closed-door meetings is to keep the number of participants limited in order to be able to discuss pre-defined issues in a concentrated manner. In order to be effective in this regard the audience should be kept to 4-5 people.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • How can the meeting be set up so that both the TSO’s and the other party’s side are equally represented at the table?
Cost/required resources: 
Usual patterns: 

Cost and required resources are limited because of the limited size of the event that requires minimal organisational effort. 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Who is best suited to host the event?
Type of communication: 
Dialogue

As early as in the invitation to get together for the meetings, the event should clearly be designated as a forum for dialogue, i.e. a meeting where the inviting stakeholder (e.g. the TSO) gives the participants the opportunity to provide feedback on the current state of planning presented. It is imperative for the TSO to be clear about the expectations of the stakeholders that are invited (e.g. representatives of Local citizens’ initiatives), so that it is very clear that participants will not only be informed, but that comments, remarks and questions will be discussed. However, as it needs to be clear for a dialogue-event, no joint decision making can be expected.

Content to be communicated: 
Usual patterns: 

Closed-door meetings can take and should in principle take any content on the agenda – due to their ad-hoc character. In most cases where meetings occur at the initiation of a dialogue between project planners and local stakeholders, the Project location will be the most frequent topic. Here it is important to discuss different route alternatives in depth and explain in detail the advantages and disadvantages of different options on the table. Wherever possible, the meeting’s agenda should be jointly agreed upon beforehand to include the attending participants in the process of calling the meeting and ensure that the meeting is worthwhile for all participants. 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Has the meeting been called to communicate specific information or to resolve a specific issue?    

  • How early in advance do participants have to be informed about the agenda so that they can prepare properly for the discussion in the meeting?

Project stage at which best employed: 
Usual patterns: 

With Local elected officials (e.g. mayors, county heads, and members of parliament) and other local opinion leaders, individual meetings at the Project preparation stage can help to reach large audiences by enabling them to spread information about the planning process to other local stakeholder like the wider Adjacent communities. 

Further project-specific questions: 
  • Which mayors and other locally elected officials are most likely to be the most far-reaching multipliers of earl project information?    

  • How can mayors be incentivised to participate in early project meetings even if it is not entirely certain that their municipalities will be affected?

Usual patterns: 

During the Spatial planning and permitting stages, it is more likely that meetings will be necessary on an ad-hoc basis with local stakeholders in order to discuss, clarify and resolve disagreements and conflicts – especially as regards the routing of the project and the choice of technology. It is crucial for TSOs to offer to leaders of local stakeholder groups the opportunity to sit down for a focused discussion in order to collect feedback on the current state of planning and enter into a dialogue with any potential local opposition.

Further project-specific questions: 
  • What essential steps in the legal procedures for Spatial planning and permitting need to be explained in the meeting?    

  • What are legally required elements of the current project design that the TSO cannot influence due to underlying legislation?