The engagement and empowerment agenda is at a critical junction. A central aim of the Big Society is to improve outcomes for service users by opening up public bodies to greater scrutiny and involvement from the public. At the same time there is a growing recognition that ‘community representatives’ are unable to reflect the diversity of needs and attitudes that exist within communities. However, most public bodies still operate with a model of equality that requires engagement practices to be ‘representative’. The results are often tokenistic consultative measures that are damaging to both the individual engaged (who faces the burden of representation) and the public body (which is not presented with the true experience of service users).
Coupled with this thorny issue is the question of how organisations use the information gathered as part of consultation to positively affect outcomes. How can service providers analyse disparate, competing voices to identify the things that are actually important to obtaining relevant outcomes?
Our work in this area is aimed at helping a range of organisations design consultation and involvement strategies that extend engagement beyond the usual suspects and facilitate discussion of people’s genuine concerns and interests.
The problems we’re solving
- identifying the skills members of the public need to ensure their contribution to public policy making is cognisant of wider political and social needs
- using the principles of human rights to create set of standards for engagement and influence activities
- creating systems and processes that facilitate the use of intelligence, opinion, and perspectives to genuinely effect outcomes
What we’re doing
As part of the Total Place initiative, brap worked with Be Birmingham to organise a number of community engagement events across the city. Over 12 weeks we spoke to over 160 people across three wards, exploring how people want to connect with services on an ongoing basis.
We have also worked on behalf of Government Office for the West Midlands to map regional policy-making fora and provide an indication of the support needs civil society and public sector agencies have regarding equality-related engagement. The report also explores how diverging views of what constitutes effective engagement can create a disconnect of policy and frontline practice.
Research on behalf of the Government Office also explored how local authorities engage with black and minority ethnic (BME) communities. It sought to provide an understanding of how the concept of ‘race’ influences and impacts on public sector approaches to involvement and influence, and what best practice existed in the region.
See for yourself
Download EngagingPeople (348.54kB)
Download InequalitySocialExclusion (350.48kB)