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Understanding Best Practice in Engagement Dec 2012

 “I will definitely use the resources available to learn about different engagement techniques"

“[I will] experiment and use some of the new techniques I’ve learned about today with our Governance Group to aid democratic, constructive and action focused participatory decision making”...

“The workshop has opened up some new options/methods of engagement which can be used, all options can be used in different forums”...

Three comments from participants which give a flavour of this this highly interactive workshop which brought together 26 people from a wide range of different organisations including County Council; District Council; local involvement network; infrastructure other social purpose, patient and tenants associations. 

Challenges around engagement discussed included:

  • The challenge of reaching rural communities
  • The capacity and resource constraints – it takes time to engage effectively
  • The need to ensure that engagement would make a difference and that participants would know what changes had resulted. Expectations have to be kept realistic
  • Accessibility and inclusiveness and the risk of digital exclusion

Top tips for effective engagement included

  • Using experience of what works well 
  • Taking a bottom-up approach, identifying issues that are relevant for communities
  • People having a genuine chance to influence and understand what they can change which requires honesty
  • Using existing resources such as rural agents and key people in communities and taking a community-based approach
  • Good facilitation and approaches that enabled open and constructive discussion

Participants shared a range of ideas about new approaches to engagement that could help organisations ensure that engagement ensured value for money and ensured a positive result for all parties. In particular we looked at :

  • Crowdwise
  • The Fishbowl Technique
  • World Cafe
  • Open Space Technology
  • Participatory Budgeting

A short note highlighting these different approaches can be downloaded here.(600kb)

South West Forum will be organising further training and events around engagement. If you are interested please email Beverly@southwestforum.org.uk or Deborah@southwestforum.org.uk