The Time for Engagement is Now

03 July 2023 - by Cris Cloyd

It’s been 13 months since the May 2022 Assembly elections and civil servants have been at the helm of departments for nearly eight months after Ministers ceased to hold office.

While we are all waiting and watching for the announcement that the parties are entering into government again, plenty of departmental communications are being released every day.

Departments are consulting on their budgets with most asking for preliminary responses by the fifth of July, giving organisations across the board the opportunity to advocate for the programmes and policies that are under threat.

Every week Twitter and LinkedIn report on events and roundtables connecting policy to stakeholders and decision-makers.

So why do people keep expressing that there is no point in engaging because of a lack of Assembly and Executive?

When in fact, the time for engagement is now.

One of the most obvious arguments is that practically, there is more capacity and time for exploring new ideas and contributing to existing policies using new and refreshed data and case studies.

As human beings we all have the tendency to want quick and easy wins, it’s in our nature. However, influencing change has always been long and hard fought. Our advantage at the moment is that we are not competing with busy committee business diaries and logjammed schedules.

If you need a reminder of what the parties have committed to in their manifestos to get a sense of the priorities we can expect to see, we have collated the Assembly manifestos here and local government manifestos here.

Now is also the time to examine how prepared you are should the Assembly return tomorrow.

Do you have your public affairs and engagement plans set for the year? Do you have a contingency plan in place incorporating Assembly business? Have you mapped your political stakeholders? How are you going to engage committees, and influence legislation?

Do you know how your priorities align with the direction departments are likely to take? If there is no room on the Executive agenda for your priorities, do you have a plan to progress them in an alternative way?

In the previous mandate, we saw an increase in the use of Private Members’ Bills (PMBs). Here is a refresher on what PMBs were introduced in the 2017-22 mandate.

We know that because of the success of PMBs, MLAs are already making plans to introduce their own in the next mandate, such as making school uniforms affordable, mandating flexible work, and strengthening anti-poverty measures.

Take advantage of this period to get your messages and priorities on political agendas. And as famously said by the American actor Milton Berle, “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.”

To speak to us about how we can support your engagement, contact us on