During the course of 2018, the team at Traverse have delivered over 70 engagement events and talked to over 6,000 people.
We talked to people all over the UK - in Glasgow, Leeds, Manchester, Nottingham, Abergavenny, Birmingham, London, Ipswich, Gloucester, Bristol, Reading, Southend, – just to name a few. We worked with regulated industries to discuss the management of water resources and gas distribution with their customers. For the Department for Transport and Highways England we talked to members of the public and asked stakeholders about what they think of self-driving cars and smart motorways. We worked with borough and county councils to lead engagement events about what people want for the future of their area in 2050 and beyond.
Recently, we’ve taken some time to reflect on what we learned this past year. Two important themes emerged from these discussions: impact and communication - ensuring that the outputs of an engagement process are used to bring about some kind of change, and making sure that change is communicated to those who were involved in the engagement.
Impact and communication aren’t often discussed at the start of an engagement process, and engagement itself can often be commissioned as a one-off process, and not as part of a wider strategy. As a result, we sometimes see insightful research findings not having as much of an impact as they could have, and valuable relationships not fulfilling their potential. To make the most out of an engagement project, it’s always worth considering the following, from the start:
- What change, or impact, could the outcomes of this process have? How might we be able to measure that change?
- Who might be affected by, or interested in, that change – both inside and outside the organisation? How do we keep them informed?
- What relationships need to be built during this engagement process, and how could those relationships be valuable in future?
- Who do we want to keep in touch with at the end of the process – and how are we going to ensure we have the correct data permissions and storage systems in place to enable that?
- What are the communications touch points throughout (and after) the engagement, and how can we plan for those to ensure clear, effective communication?
The reason we care about considering the impact of engagement, and how to best communicate that impact, is because when engagement works well, it can transform people’s lives. This is not only because of the decisions made by government and organisations as a result of understanding people’s views. It is also because when people understand the impact their views have had, and that impact is clearly communicated with them, they feel listened to and valued. They see a purpose in expressing their views, and in discussing their opinions with people they haven’t met before, and who might be different to them. They feel like engaged citizens.
As a social purpose organisation, we care about the lasting impact our work can have beyond the immediate project objectives. That’s why we’re particularly proud of the fact that over these many engagement events during 2018, the vast majority of the people we have worked with at our events, said that they felt welcomed, and listened to.
“Bottom line is that people did participate, experienced being listened to, heard and included in their own lives!”
Engagement participant, events for Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea
“I went home and I did research and found out new things I didn’t know. It was informative as we weren’t just being told stuff, it helped us gather information on our own.”
Engagement participant, events for Department for Transport and Sciencewise
“I think today has been brilliant. I feel valued as a customer”
Engagement participant, events for the water industry
If you are considering engaging with customers, stakeholders, or members of the public and would like to discuss your needs – whether for long-term strategic approaches, or more immediate delivery, please get in touch with Anna McKeon firstname.lastname@example.org.