Our experience


We work with you to create successful projects that meet both your objectives and the needs of those participating in engagement. Our clients and partners include local councils, government departments and agencies, health authorities and private companies.

Community Vision and Council Plan Recommendations

Following the introduction of the Local Government Act 2020, Max Hardy Consulting were instrumental in helping local governments across Victoria to deliver deliberative engagement approaches to develop their Community Vision, Council Plan and Asset Plans. 

Since 2020, Max Hardy has worked with over a dozen councils to deliver robust deliberative engagement processes within a complex and constantly changing environment. The key features that made these projects successful included:

  • Engaging with Councillors and internal decision-makers early to help co-design the process
  • Partnering with specialist consultants to deliver a robust process
  • Working with Council to develop remits that ask the right questions
  • Adapting to circumstances and delivering online, in person or a mix of both 
  • Facilitating events that are engaging, purposeful and process-driven

As the next round of plan review commences in 2024 and 2025, we look forward to working with Councils to push the boundaries of this process and work with the community to respond to some of your trickiest planning questions.


Deliberative Engagement for complex and divisive issues

Max Hardy Consulting has been involved in the delivery of deliberative community panels to address many complex and divisive issues, such as the development of a Climate Emergency Plan 2020 for Maribyrnong City Council. 

This project involved working with a citizen advisory group over a period of months during COVID-19 lockdown restrictions. Key success factors for this project included:

  • Tapping into the collective wisdom of a diverse range of participants
  • Using a diverse range of engagement processes, techniques and platforms over a process to engage participants and encourage retention throughout
  • Staying composed - sticking to process and engagement principles during tricky moments or discussions with no clear resolution
  • Making sense of the outputs offered in a clear way, without diluting the intent of community statements

Building Readiness and Co-Designing with CleanCo

In 2023, Max Hardy Consulting worked with CleanCo to build internal readiness for and facilitate a co-design panel to inform the Swanbank Clean Energy Precinct Masterplan. We worked closely with CleanCo for 4 - 5 months before beginning the co-design to build internal readiness for the process, focusing on:

  • Presentations to build co-design knowledge with internal stakeholders and decision-makers
  • Developing a clear engagement strategy
  • Using our new Traffic Light Readiness Assessment, to identify where the project was ready for co-design against a detailed set of criteria

Once readiness was determined, Max Hardy facilitated 30 participants through an online briefing session and three full days of co-design. The short briefing session provides an opportunity to present the project and answer any questions the panel might have without taking time away from the detailed work.

This process needed to be transparent about the early stage that the project was in, and what the co-design could and couldn’t influence. We also worked with an urban designer from the master planning team, who was able to create plans out of the rough work completed by the panel in between sessions. A valuable resource for the panel to help visualise their feedback.

We hope to work with more clients who see the value in ensuring internal readiness before starting a new piece of engagement.


Delivering external engagement for Melbourne Water

Since 2017, Max Hardy has partnered with Melbourne Water to deliver external community engagement. Of particular note, the Enhancing Dandenong Creek project, where Max Hardy Consulting planned and facilitated a deliberative panel of 25 to test the innovative solutions proposed by Melbourne Water has gone on to win several awards. 

The ongoing success of this partnership has been based on:

  • Developing engagement processes that are tailored to the project and are flexible to meet the needs of both Melbourne Water and the community being consulted
  • Working with Melbourne Water to build internal capacity and support a culture of community engagement across the organisation
  • Using a range of different engagement and facilitation approaches, including strategic questioning, appreciative inquiry, asset-based community development and systems transformation

Keynote Speeches and Presentations

Since presenting the TEDx talk 'Questions change everything in community engagement' in 2018, Max Hardy has been a popular presenter and workshop leader.

Most recently, Max Hardy worked with the Duke Cancer Institute (Durham, North Carolina) to deliver three online workshops to explore thorny issues, develop strategies, and learn the importance of appreciative inquiry in authentic community engagement.

Using his engaging style and personable approach, Max lead three workshops on the following topics:

  • Appreciative Inquiry: What is an expert? What works, and how do we amplify that?
  • Humility in engagement: Advanced skills building for those already in community engagement
  • Complexity Theory: Framing good questions and methods for engaging

These workshops focus on not only providing participants with the necessary background and frameworks for complex challenges but also providing opportunities for participants to experience and practice some of the tools first-hand.