The Engagement Cycle

Stage 1: Working with communities to identify needs and aspirations

Commissioners should work with local partners and communities to identify the health needs and aspirations of local people.

Clinical commissioning groups, local authorities, Health and Wellbeing Boards and others need to jointly undertake an analysis of population-level health needs in order to develop a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) – a comprehensive picture of current and future health needs for adults and children. This should be based on a wide range of quantitative and qualitative data, including patient, service user and community views. This enables commissioners to make plans to improve health and well-being outcomes, address inequalities, generate solutions for unmet needs and guide decisions around where to invest or reduce spending.

Things to think about

Use what you know to bring it all together

  • Build trust, partnerships and a shared process. This will help support other stages in the commissioning cycle.
  • Build on assessments that may already have been undertaken with particular communities or client groups.
  • Work with others to gather information, this includes hospitals and social care providers; The local authority; Overview and Scrutiny Committee; Health and Wellbeing Board; other statutory partners, such as housing agencies, schools, emergency services and criminal justice agencies; local business.
  • Bring data and intelligence together from other stages of the engagement cycle (surveys, focus groups, patient opinions through social media) to build a picture of the community and its broad needs and priority issues.
  • Information gathered in surveys or through qualitative research may shed light on particular themes (e.g. access, integration, information and communication).

Go beyond what you know

  • Identify gaps in the data where you need to find out more (e.g. the views of particular communities or client groups).
  • Bring community and patient leaders into discussions on data, in order to generate more insight, reframe problems and help identify solutions.
  • Don’t overly rely on quantitative data. Often this will not reveal the richness of a community’s aspirations, or help when planning a service. For example, people’s cultural needs may dictate what sort of services are appropriate.
  • The local voluntary sector will know what’s been going on, and be able to draw upon a community development approach or community resources and practitioners.

Include people from all walks of life and parts of society

At each stage of The Engagement Cycle, you need to think about people from seldom-heard communities or client groups.

  • There may be particular access issues or demographic issues you need to consider (e.g. rurality, age-profile). Gather views about particular issues, for example access to services. It may be that assessments might be better undertaken by geographical locality.
  • Check your work against the Single Equalities Framework. 

Use the right method for your purpose

Many engagement techniques can be used across the engagement cycle. But some are particularly useful when engaging communities in health needs assessments:
 Involve – People and Participation

  • Community development approaches.
  • Social marketing and customer insight techniques.
  • Interactive events (Visioning, open-space, future search, whole-systems events).
  • Creative use of the arts.

The Engagement Cycle