The most important first step is to involve other people.
Making sure you are speaking to and involving a wide group of people is essential if you are going to follow the principles of the cooperative council. In particular service users and the local community need to be at the centre of any discussions about the design and delivery of services.
To involve people and organisations there are a range of techniques that you might want to use, depending on who it is you are wanting to engage with.
You can use existing channels where they already work, or you might need to develop new channels. Think about each of the people you want to involve and how you currently communicate with them (if at all). Are these channels the best ones, remembering that we want to ensure maximum accessibility? Are there other channels that you need to consider using to reach some of the groups you have identified?
Some of the channels of engagement and communication you might want to consider are:
- newsletters, e-bulletins or leaflets are frequently used, especially with service users.
- team meetings, management meetings, staff noticeboards and one-to-one meetings are often ways of engaging staff.
- social media – many public services, as well as private and voluntary organisations, are using social media such as Facebook and Twitter to engage with new and existing users. This can be a great way of building and maintaining links with service users and the local community more widely. Facebook have produced a best practice guide for businesses who are using their site as a marketing and engagement tool, and many of the messages are relevant to public services as well.
- residents’ meetings, existing community groups or local events are often already happening in different neighbourhoods. Before you start to plan your own individual event, why not consider whether there is already a similar event happening in the local area that you could be part of instead? This will help you to save resources, enable you to build closer links with the local community, and prevent the local community from being invited to lots of separate meetings and events.
- posters, leaflet drops and word-of-mouth can help to engage the wider community.
How are you going to bring people together?
Once you have identified and engaged with the people who might want to be involved with the service, thought needs to be given as to how you bring everyone together to discuss the future of the service. Some techniques that have been tried previously include:
- open meetings, where the agenda is focused on discussing the service and in particular what could be offered in the future;
- open space events, where the agenda is set by the attendees giving them more control over what is discussed. If you haven’t been to an open space event before you might want to look at these tips for running an open space meeting;
- crowdsourcing, online-based discussions and formulation of new ideas in a collaborative way allowing people to contribute at a time that is convenient to them.
- forming a working group by bringing together those who have shown most interest in designing and delivering services, whilst ensuring that all others are kept informed and involved through other communication channels and still able to have their opinion heard.