RPS infrastructure experts to help understand key social challenges for major projects

The University of Melbourne has partnered with renowned international infrastructure consultancy firm RPS to deliver its groundbreaking Next Generation Engagement Project.

RPS will participate in a series of workshops with researchers and other leading public and private sector groups, offering insights gained from more than 25 years developing and implementing stakeholder engagement programs on some of Australia’s largest infrastructure projects.

Executive General Manager of RPS’ Project Approvals and Communications Division, Meegan Sullivan said the firm looked forward to sharing its experiences working on major projects and complex engagement challenges to help shape the University’s research.

“We see it as our professional responsibility to continually lift the bar in all areas of project delivery. If we want to deliver best for project outcomes then it’s imperative that we have an evidence based approach across every project discipline,” Ms Sullivan said.

“The Next Generation Engagement Project represents a great opportunity to identify and address the challenges that are creating additional costs and delays for infrastructure projects and at the same time to improve outcomes for the communities that host infrastructure projects.”

Social license expert, Dr Sara Bice, is leading the project on behalf of the university’s Melbourne School of Government.

“Almost $20 billion in projects have been delayed, cancelled or mothballed after completion over the past decade in Australia. It appears that community opposition and the subsequent erosion of political support have been major contributing factors in this.

“RPS has been at the heart of infrastructure planning, approvals and delivery on some of the most significant projects in the Asia Pacific region for over two decades. Their insights will play a vital role in helping us to understand the core social challenges and opportunities facing Australia’s infrastructure delivery,” Dr Bice said.

Project Director, Kirsty O’Connell joins Dr Bice in delivering the project.

“As practitioners we need a solid evidence base to underpin the business case for better practices and ultimately deliver better outcomes for communities and proponents,” Ms O’Connell said.

“The Next Generation Engagement Project is an important step in developing that sound evidence base.”

Over the coming six months, the University of Melbourne and its partners will conduct the largest national consultation on engagement to date. This will include:

  • a national survey on engagement and social license challenges for Australia’s infrastructure sector
  • workshops in each capital city with leading Australian practitioners and international infrastructure experts
  • a gap analysis that details the most critical knowledge gaps for the community engagement profession
  • testing the gap analysis with infrastructure professionals across Australia.

“Through this work we aim to identify the biggest roadblocks around engagement, social risk management and social license for infrastructure delivery together with an analysis of emerging trends and challenges,” Dr Bice said.

“Our aim is to get this information in front of and onto the desk of key decision makers in Australia’s infrastructure sector to really inform the discussion. Our intention is that this work will seed longer-term research partnerships that will help industry to make meaningful progress on these issues.”