Public and stakeholder consultation is increasingly important in the policy process, both in the UK and elsewhere. Social scientists have considered consultation primarily in terms of how it relates to decision-making – either as a means of involving a wider constituency of actors in the decision-making process, or as a means of legitimizing the decisions taken by policymakers. This article shows that consultation can also serve a rather different role in relation to policy: as, in effect, the first stage in policy implementation. Based on direct observation of a stakeholder consultation on Scottish mental health policy that took place during late 2007 and early 2008, it draws on elements of social movement theory to show how that consultation served as a means of enrolling, orienting and mobilizing stakeholders to implement a largely pre-existing set of policy aims.

Source: Social Policy and Administration 46 (7) 823-844