In 2016, South Australian Power Network undertook a deliberative engagement with a group of citizens and a group of industry stakeholders to develop principles that would consider how their decision making impacts on customers.
Problems and Purpose
As part of their wider consultation process for preparing their five year plan, SA Power Networks undertook a range of processes to engage with their customer base. One important element of this was engagement with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) groups across the state. The aim of this consultation process was to understand customer and stakeholders’ needs and priorities as SA Power Networks plan for the future.
Focus groups were held for four distinct CALD communities in South Australia, with the aim of ensuring that these groups could participate meaningfully and with the recognition that different CALD groups have different needs for participation .
Background History and Context
Whilst there are a wide range of migrant communities living in South Australia, some were more or less likely to engage with consultations and engagement processes. For example, longer established communities such as Southern European groups had participated in SA Power Networks mainstream consultations which were conducted in English. However, there had been very little engagement with other communities such as South East Asian.
SA Power Networks recognised that their understanding of South Australia’s CALD was limited and this is the case beyond the state; there is little research or understanding of CALD communities as energy consumers. In order to address this deficit, SA Power Networks sought to engage with this customer base in a meaningful and culturally appropriate way through specially designed workshops .
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The CALD workshops were co-designed and delivered by democracyCo, who in turn worked with the Australian Refugee Association and Multicultural Communities Council of South Australia to identify the relevant communities and design the workshops. The process was funded by SA Power Networks.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
Four CALD groups were targeted for the workshops: two well established communities (Chinese and Vietnamese) and two more recently established (Burmese and Bhutanese). Participants were all recruited from the Adelaide metropolitan area, although it is not clear exactly how they were recruited. In their project report, democracyCo note that for three out of the four groups, women were under-represented. They point out that there may be a variety of reasons for this and that future work should take this into account to ensure more equal gender representation .
Methods and Tools Used
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
The focus groups were co-designed by democracyCo and representatives from the relevant communities to ensure they would be effective. Each workshop was delivered in English and in the community’s first language with a translator working in real time .
The focus groups followed a ‘divergent to convergent’ methodology which began with participants sharing their personal experiences of a recent state-wide blackout, followed by broad perceptions and understandings of how the energy supply chain worked and how consumers fit into the chain. Participants then began to converge by discussing a range of priorities that were important for their communities in relation to the SA Power Network. At each workshop, representatives from the Network were present to answer questions and help establish a better connection with the communities .
The priorities identified in the focus groups were fed into the broader consultation process for SA Power Networks draft plan for 2020-25.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The draft plan for 2020-25 details the outcomes of the broader consultation process, of which the CALD focus groups were a part, and describes how SA Power Networks will respond to customers’ priorities. The draft plan was then opened for public feedback before being submitted to the relevant regulatory authority in 2019 .
Analysis and Lessons Learned
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 SA Power Networks (2017). Focus groups for culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) communities. Available at: https://www.talkingpower.com.au/phase-2/news_feed/focus-groups-for-culturally-and-linguistically-diverse-cald-communities
 democracyCo (2017). SA Power Networks Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Community Engagement Report. Available at: https://www.democracyco.com.au/our-projects/sa-power-networks-deliberative-panel/
 Ibid, p8.
 Ibid, p6.
 Ibid, p7.
 SA Power Networks (2019). SA Power Networks 2020–2025 Draft Plan. Available at: https://www.talkingpower.com.au/38336/documents/84356