Guidelines for all Shropshire County Council staff
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Shropshire County Council and effective participation
Shropshire County Council has become one of the best councils in the country by delivering high
quality services that meet the real needs of local people.
We have got there by putting our customers at the heart of everything we do. And we will stay
there by making sure we listen to them, and continue to involve users and non-users in the design,
development and delivery of services.
We have taken a hard look at how we support customers to participate in the work of the council
and have produced this toolkit to help you deliver effective research, consultation and engagement
programmes in your day-to-day job.
Whether you are gathering feedback from individual users or launching a major county-wide
consultation, these guidelines will give you the ideas and tools to do it well and to the standard we
should all expect.
I hope you find a wealth of information in here that will help you deliver outstanding service, but if
you have any questions or need a helping hand, then contact your Directorate Communication
Officer for advice and support (see contact details in appendix 1)
Good luck and best wishes
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INTRODUCTION - why participation is important
a. This toolkit has been put together to support you in your participation activities. The overall
aim of the toolkit is to help you to achieve active involvement of local people in the
decisions and plans of the council, particularly BME (black and minority ethnic) and hard to
reach groups, in the design and delivery of our services and in the quality of the customer
b. Participation means more than just consulting with the local communities. It involves
ensuring all local communities are consulted on and involved in service design and
c. Shropshire County Council works within an agreed framework with the voluntary and
community sector (known as a Compact), and this includes our commitment to:
work with VCS organisations to understand the views of citizens and communities and
create opportunities for them to influence policies;
where a decision is likely to affect the VCS, consult widely and early enough to make a
difference, allowing a minimum of 12 weeks whenever possible;
d. Benefits of Effective Participation
If your participation event is effective you will be able to say what is different as a result. By
ensuring your participation is effective and inclusive, it will:
help you design and deliver services better, to give users what they want and expect.
help you prioritise your services and to make better use of limited resources.
help you set performance standards relevant to users’ needs (and to monitor them).
foster a working partnership between your consultees and you, so they understand the
problems facing you, and how they can help.
alert you to problems quickly so you have a chance to put things right before they escalate.
symbolise your commitment to be open and accountable and to put services first.
e. This toolkit provides you with:
guidance and processes for effective participation,
references to more detailed tools to help you plan, action and evaluate your participation
a list of useful contact names and phone numbers you may want to use when involved in
your participation event.
Please read these guidelines carefully and ensure that you and your team are adhering to the
procedures in your everyday work. If you are unsure whether you are achieving the standards set
out in the toolkit, please contact your directorate Communications Officer (contact details in
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2. A Quick Guide to Participation
a. Research, Consultation or Engagement, What’s the difference?
This is an investigation to gain knowledge and understanding. You will select the participants
thereby ensuring that it is inclusive and representative for the outcome required. Examples of past
research carried out at the County Council include the People’s Panels and the Customer
Satisfaction Survey, both of which can be found at www.shropshire.gov.uk
This involves seeking contributions and views about a particular policy or service, whether from
individuals or groups. Participants self-select (i.e. they choose to be involved or not) and therefore
your sample is not likely to be representative but usually participants have clear views about the
issue under consideration. An example of this is the series of local meetings that are held each
year across Shropshire. We invite members of the public to attend a workshop where priorities for
the future of that area are discussed. This will not be representative because the public chose
whether to take part.
This is the ongoing process of involving communities in the development and management of
services and policy. The aim of engagement is to help build active and empowered communities;
however it is based, over time. This can range from simply informing the community of what is
taking place, to local people taking active leadership roles. Sure Start management structures are
very good examples of effective engagement, with members of the public taking active roles on the
b. Qualitative or quantitative involvement? What’s the difference?
Qualitative Research: is concerned with the opinions, experiences and feelings of individuals
producing subjective data. It is focused on gaining greater understandings of perceptions,
attitudes, and processes to increase our understanding of why things are the way they are in our
social world and why people act the ways they do. It involves the in-depth examination of small-
scale samples, results are not usually considered generalisable, but are often transferable.
Qualitative research is concerned with finding the answers to questions which begin with: why?,
how?, and in what way?
Quantitative Research: Is a systematic attempt to define, measure, and report attitudes or
behaviours, measure variables, compare, and point out correlations. It is most often conducted via
a survey on a sampling that must be representative so that the results can be generalised to the
entire population studied. Quantitative research, is concerned with questions such as how much?,
how many?, how often?, and to what extent?
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Step by step guide to effective Participation
1. Output expected
What do you plan to achieve through participation?
Are you researching, consulting or engaging?
2. Planning and preparation
Do you need to research, consult or engage with the community?
Research Consultation Engagement
Is a qualitative or Involves inviting people to Is the ongoing process of
quantitative investigation of have a say about a involving communities in the
a representative sample of particular policy or service decision making process
people within a defined framework
e.g. questionnaire surveys
e.g. statistical figures for e.g. public membership of
BVPI analysis management board
- Who will be involved? - Where will the event take place?
- What are the timescales? - When will the participation take place?
- What resources do you have available? - How will you evaluate and feedback?
Of the group you are involving, how will you ensure you are being inclusive of all
3. Methods of involvement
You may decide to use a mixture of methodologies to achieve
Research methods e.g. Consultation methods e.g. Engagement methods e.g.
citizens' panel, focus groups, service user groups,
questionnaires e-consultation on line, co-opted members of
interviews local meetings committees,
members of management
board of services.
4. Evaluation techniques
What difference has the participation made?
What did you achieve?
Have you given feedback to participants?
Methods of evaluation to be used? (formal and informal)
What was achieved? (planned and unplanned)
Was the original planned outcome achieved?
Were the methods used inclusive?
What lessons +/- can be learnt from the participation exercises?
Have you fed back to those involved?
What change has occurred as a result of the participation?
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3. Ethics and Inclusion
The following should always be considered when undertaking any participation event. The
Participation Registration Information form and Assessment Tool in Appendix 2 must be
completed prior to starting your event and sent to your Communications Officer (this can be done
on-line). This is to ensure we comply with our statutory obligations. The Communications Officer
will use this information to update the Participation Database. If you have any queries completing
the checklist, please call your Communications Officer for advice. (contact details in appendix 1)
Informed Consent -
Always get consent from the appropriate person before conducting research. Remember
that individuals have the right to choose not to participate. You must allow for a cooling off
period and discussion before participation starts. You should provide information about
whom complaints can be made to should the need arise.
If you plan to include children or young people, you will need to complete specific consent
forms. Please see appendix 3 for information and guidance.
Provide information -
About what you would like participants to do, why you are doing the work, the subject you
are working on, and what you plan to do with the information they give you
Make it clear that all information is given in confidence and any information used is
anonymous. Where possible data should be anonymised at the point of collection
Time to ask questions -
Give the respondent time to ask questions and seek clarification.
Take into account a person’s right to change their initial decision, both in terms of
withdrawing and participating.
Documenting information -
Honestly document what respondents say in their own words.
To fully understand what a participant is telling you, return true interpretations of what they
have said back to them to be confirmed.
a. Ground rules
It is important that participants establish ground rules for participation in order to try to ensure a
positive process for everyone involved. These should cover:
Listening to and valuing what is said;
Discriminatory language and actions;
Use of Jargon;
Boundaries and conduct of participants;
Raising complaints and concerns
A clear agreement on levels of confidentiality should be understood by everyone and included in
the group ground rules of any participation exercise. Child protection procedures also need to be
clear where appropriate. You should have a nominated additional person at the event whose role
is specifically to support children and young people.
Where the participation activity involves children remember that all adults need to be clear about
boundaries, responsibilities and their capacity to support, assist and ensure the safety of all
participants. All adults involved in conducting the participation exercise should be vetted in line with
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your organisational requirements in terms of child protection rules. For further guidance, contact
your Communications Officer or the Corporate Young Person’s Development Worker (details in
The consultation activity will need to be recorded and what ever method of recording you decide to
use, confidentiality needs to be assured. Different methods you may decide to use will depend on
the audience, but in order to evaluate your activity you need to be clear about this at the start.
Methods can include:
Method Examples of participants
Written notes Internal audience, adults, young people
Drawings, posters Children, individuals with learning difficulties
Audio tape/video Children, young people, adults
Maps, models Internal audience, adults
c. How will you ensure inclusion?
You will need to consider equal opportunities at all stages of your planning. This checklist will help
you to increase inclusion through your preparation:
Points to consider √/X
Identify the barriers to participation, eg young people may not want to attend what
appears to be a formal event with lots of adults
Accommodate different literacy levels
Ensure all the information is accessible to everyone, removing jargon, reviewing the
font size etc. (see the communications guidelines for help)
Choose accessible and appropriate venues eg. Village halls, youth clubs, other local
Provide practical resources like transport, crèche facilities, translation, signing. You will
need to plan for these in your budget.
Use a variety of methods of consultation, eg many people feel uncomfortable
answering postal questionnaires but would be happy to contribute in a smaller focus
Ensure group ground rules cover equal opportunity issues and that these are
Develop facilitating skills to enable those who are less confident and marginalised to
Meet regularly to build up skills and confidence of those participating
You need to consider whether the individuals and groups participating will need additional support
in order to engage in consultation; perhaps additional language, literacy or communication support
is required. If this is the case you will have to budget for extra support costs. Bear in mind however
that the presence of individuals to support participation may influence or restrict feedback,
depending on the nature of the process and those who are invited to participate.
d. Risk Assessments.
A risk assessment for the work you are planning should be undertaken to enable you to look at
potential conflicts and minimise risk. Factors to consider are:
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Points to consider √/X
Premises – consider accessibility for individuals with disability, and whether any
provision has been made for people who may be visually impaired or have hearing
Staffing – appropriate staff should be involved with participation activities, they should
be checked and cleared by the Criminal Records Bureau, trained, well briefed,
knowledgeable about the group participating and aware of the rule of confidentiality
Insurance cover – this is important, check it out in terms of the venue and staff
Transport – Insurance cover should be checked as well as coordination of transport
and the timing of events in order to ensure your event is a success
Activities – put safety first. If you think an activity presents a risk do not do it!
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4. Planning and Preparation
a. WHY are you doing a participation event?
Before you plan the how, when, who and what, of participation, you need to consider the WHY, i.e.
scope your expected outcome, what you want to achieve. When scoping the outcome it’s useful to
ask yourself the following questions:
Where are you now?
Where do you want to be?
What do you want to find out?
What do you want to achieve as a result?
As with any activity, participation is only effective if it helps to bring about change. The degree and
level of change expected will impact on the resources required, both in terms of time and money
for your activity.
The introduction explains the benefits of participation, (section 1, d) and it is essential at the start of
your planning that you are clear what you want to achieve. This can be a mixture of several
benefits, e.g. to plan services better to give users what they want and also to make better use of
When you are clear on the scope of the outcome, this will:
inform the planning process,
when it will take place,
when you need to plan your event,
who needs to be involved,
the method to use,
and it will give you a clear outcome to evaluate your event against.
b. WHEN will the event take place? What are your timescales?
The checklist below will help to ensure you have considered the relevant points when planning
your timescales. As part of your evaluation at the end of the process, you will want to check these
Points to consider √/X
Review the participation database on the intranet to see who else is doing any
participation exercises in the timescale you plan. You may be able to link your event
with another exercise, ensuring we do not over consult, and saving resources.
Consider when is the most appropriate time for involving people in your participation
exercise. For example, wanting to action an event with young people may not be
feasible in August as many are away on holiday.
Ensure you are being fully inclusive of all communities by using the contact details in
appendix .. for advice, e.g. it would be inappropriate to organise an event over
lunchtime during Ramadan as Muslims may not wish to take part.
Plan contingency time, as the length of time for participation is often underestimated.
You may give a deadline for responses, but what will you do if people ask for
Plan evaluation time and resources. This can often take longer than the participation
period itself. Section 5 looks in detail at evaluation techniques and how to plan for this
Plan how and when you are going to feedback to your different audiences, internally
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c. WHO will be involved?
You need to think about who will carry out the work (i.e. who is the consultor) and who will
participate (i.e. who is the consultee). Throughout this, you need to ensure you are being inclusive.
Who will carry out the work? - consultor
All officers and staff involved in consultation or engagement activities need to have a good
understanding of and a commitment to the principles of participation. Staff involved need to have
the appropriate values, skills and confidence to consult and to show that they value what is said.
Staff training may be needed and you may want to consider working with a partner agency or
service with experience in this area of work. Contact your Communication Officer, or use the list of
contacts in appendix 1, for advice and support. You may need to ensure that staff involved have
got CRB (criminal record bureau) clearance for instance.
Who will participate? - consultee
This will depend on the methods you choose, the information you wish to collect and the level of
involvement planned. If you are consulting on an issue that is particularly important to a specific
group then they are the group invited to participate first. However, it is worth remembering that the
membership of specific groups you consult are rarely static so it is not only useful to engage with
as wide a range of service users, groups or individuals as possible, but to recognise that their
response is only representative of the membership at that time. If you have a short time scale for
consultation then it will be quicker to contact individuals through existing groups, i.e. the citizen’s
panel, school governors, Senior Citizens Forums.
Advantages of using existing groups Disadvantages of using existing groups
Easy access to users or community groups/ Individuals who are hard to reach are excluded
Members of groups or representatives are Groups can be elitist and unrepresentative
usually knowledgeable and skilled
Cost effective Groups/ certain individuals are over consulted
Avoids duplication Promotes group’s/ individual’s own agenda
As you can see, the disadvantages outlined above show that it is better to try to ensure that you
have a long enough time scale to identify and include other groups or individuals to participate.
The following groups need to be considered for inclusion in your participation activities.
Stakeholders: i.e. partners, agencies and voluntary groups who are involved with your
service or have an interest in it.
Residents: i.e. the wider public who may have a right and interest in being involved.
Communities: i.e. groups of people that can be defined by identity e.g. minority or ethnic
groups, by specific interest, e.g. disabled representative groups, or defined geographically
(e.g. rural areas, or parish).
Businesses: i.e. local or national businesses in the private sector that may have an interest
in the service or policy
Service Users: i.e. the people who currently use your service. Service user groups are well-
established in many of our services, and prove to be a great resource in helping to design
and improve services.
A list of Young People willing consultees has been produced, with contacts for schools, youth
forums etc. A list of diversity groups has also been produced. Both can be accessed through your
Communications Officers. (contact details in appendix 1)
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A useful reference document for involving children and young people in participation events (Are
you Listening toolkit?) has been produced by Cambridgeshire Children’s Fund and Save the
Children. It can be accessed on www.cambridgeshire.gov.uk/childrensfund
There may be an opportunity to engage with parish councillors to promote and encourage others to
be involved in participation events. The Shropshire Association of Local Councils (SALC) contact
details are in appendix 1.
Some individuals who wish to be involved may require advocacy services of some kind which you
can offer. For example, some older people may want a family member to attend a meeting with
them, or people with learning disabilities may ask for a support worker. Appendix 1 gives contact
details for advocacy services.
Sampling methods - Who will take part?
There are several approaches you can use when selecting participants and these are likely to
overlap. You may need to consider these dependent on the method of participation you choose:
How do you decide who will take part in the activity? The idea of involving everyone in the local
community in a piece of research or consultation may sound attractive but it’s not very practical
with limited timescales and budgets. You therefore have to decide who in the population you want
to be involved in the activity, by asking the questions:
Whose views do you need to gather?
How many people need to be involved?
If you are conducting a consultation exercise sampling tends to be based on self selection, open
events are often held where people choose to attend, questionnaires are sent to all those affected
and people choose to respond.
If however, you have chosen to conduct a piece of research you will need to decide who is in your
sample. There are a large number of sampling techniques; the table below shows a selection of
sampling methods. For more detailed information contact your Communications Officer (appendix
Probability Sampling Methods
This means using an objective method to select the participants rather than choosing those who are
able and willing to take part. Such as drawing names at random from a hat. These sampling
methods are mainly used with quantitative research with larger sample sizes.
Random sampling Gives everyone who is eligible to take part a fair chance of
Simple Random Sampling A Simple Random Sample is one in which each person has an
equal chance of being selected from the population.
Stratified Random Sampling To take a Stratified Random Sample you first subdivide the
population into subgroups and select a given number or proportion
of respondents from each to get the sample.
Systematic Sampling In this method of Sampling, every nth person is chosen.
Purposeful Sampling Methods
This means intentionally seeking to select information rich cases; certain individuals who are likely
to provide greater understanding of the question; these methods often helps increase the diversity
or particularity of the sample. These methods are mainly used with qualitative methods with smaller
Snowball Sampling Is typically used when working with hard to access groups, where it
is difficult to access people who fit the study criteria. You initially
contact a few potential respondents and then ask them whether
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they know of anybody with the same characteristics that you are
looking for in your research
Criterion Sampling This means selecting all those that meet some set criteria
Purposive Typical Case This means that from all those that meet the studies criteria typical
Sampling cases are selected
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d. WHERE to hold your event?
In order to encourage everyone to fully participate in an event and to be fully inclusive, think
carefully about the venues you use. Settings will affect how people participate and how much they
enjoy the process. Key points to consider when identifying a venue include:
Points to consider √/X
Does the venue have access and facilities for an inclusive audience, eg disabled ramps,
hearing loops, facilities for children?
Is it easy for participants to travel to eg car parking facilities, public transport? You may
need to make this clear to all participants.
Are there facilities for catering? (providing refreshments is often a very good welcome and
Is the venue one that is “owned” by the participants or by the consultors? Participants may
feel more comfortable within their own environment and hence actually contribute more.
e. HOW to make participation effective?
Participation is most effective when people are empowered, have fun and feel valued – that is
when they really participate. This needs to be backed by effective communication, real
influence, feedback and evaluation. Some ideas on these themes are covered in the sections
You need to be honest with participants at the very start of any event of expectations. Those
involved need to know what the potential outcomes are, so expectations are not raised
Involving people in deciding what activities to do and how to run them, is the best way to make
sure an activity works well. Enabling people to make decisions on how to conduct every stage of
the event also ensures that they are empowered by your consultation. With the appropriate
support and resources, people can:
Decide the subject of the consultation
Design information for publicity and activities
Design questionnaires, surveys, focus groups, workshops, conferences, events, and every
other consultation activity
Distribute information and contact others
Conduct interviews and facilitate group activities
Write up and record consultation findings
Present reports of consultations to decision makers
Decide what to do next
Making It Fun
Whatever activity you choose and however much time you have, one key concern will be to keep
people interested. Making things fun is as much about your attitude as the activities you plan. You
need to show a sense of humour, be relaxed, creative and participate yourself. Remember!
Everyone’s attention span is only equal to their age plus 2 with the maximum age being 18 – that’s
only 20 minutes even at your age! Do more than just asking questions and writing down answers.
For ideas on fun forms of consultation see Dynamix (2002) Participation – Spice it Up in the
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You will need to consider the resource implications for your organisation and ensure you have a
budget to cover them. Factors to be taken into account include:
Points to consider √/X
Staff time and additional support worker costs. Include staff time for the planning and
evaluating of the event, as well as managing the actual event itself. Include time to
feedback to participants.
Training and support needs of staff
Production of materials, eg pictures if involving children, information sheets
Venue and transport costs, expenses for participants, refreshments.
Administration of the event, costs of evaluation if being done externally
In order to maintain interest you may need to think about ways in which people are going to be
acknowledged and rewarded for their time and work. These are some ideas:
Awards (evenings, events, celebration)
These are three ways of making sure you are understood.
Make things simple:
Be careful about what words you use. Do not use jargon or long sentences. If you write
things down at the event, keep it simple, add pictures and colour if appropriate for your
participants and check it out with participants.
Use various communication techniques:
Think about different ways of communicating e.g. spoken word, art, games, photographs,
video, audio tape, radio, collage, theatre, sign, internet, email, and communication toolkits.
Check things out with people:
Before you finalise a report, confirm details with those involved.
These are three ways participants can tell whether you are really listening.
Acknowledge what has been said by the participants (in print and/or verbally).
Listen to the whole group and acknowledge everything you hear – don’t just choose what
things to note down. People respond best to consultation when they feel their ideas are
being taken seriously.
Actively follow up what you have heard them say and undertake any appropriate action. Let
them know what you are going to do, do it, and then tell them what you have done. As
soon as you know what results are going to happen, let them know.
To be meaningful, participation must involve using the information you gather to influence
These are some suggestions on how to feed the information from participation into your
established process. All of these reporting mechanisms make more of an impact if people are
directly involved in producing them.
Reports Graphs and summary tables
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Posters Newsletter formats
Presentations Summary letters written by people
Computer websites Visual form e.g. drawing, art or photography
PowerPoint presentations Visual diagrams and summaries
Audio tape Exhibitions
Video Press release format
Feedback is a crucial element of effective participation since it demonstrates that views of
people are being heard and respected. Feedback regularly and as soon as possible – what
has happened as a result of listening to people’s views? Waiting for an official document can
take too long and it’s hard to keep motivated if it takes months (or years!) for feedback.
How can you avoid drop out?
Constantly review progress and celebrate achievements – encourage suggestion for
improvements and respond to these. Share information and feedback on consultation as
quickly as possible. The local media (specifically Shropshire Radio and the Shropshire Star) is
a much more widespread and user friendly method of communication than the web and this
could be considered for informing the public of participation events or for feedback. Many older
people read local papers daily and you may want to use this to en courage involvement or to
feedback on events.
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5. Methods of Involvement
a. What activities are possible?
In the preparation and planning section you considered some of these questions:
What is the purpose of the participation?
How will you involve people in designing, piloting and running the participation activity?
How much time do you have for the consultation – Is this a one off or part of a longer
The numbers, age and experience of people you can involve – will your
methods/resources/timescale exclude people with different levels of literacy, language, and
The answers to the questions above have a big impact on what participation activities are possible.
Look at this table to get some ideas on which activities could be appropriate for the participation
activity you plan to run. If you have a lot of resources, the longer-term activities may be achievable
This table is a quick guide to what you may be able to achieve in the time you have available.
What are you How much time do Which people to Activities to start with
consulting about? you have? involve?
1 month Existing workshop/focus group
New consultation groups (Consultation)
policy Less than 3 month Other established As above or survey
or groups (Research)
service More than 3 All Relevant people Any and all activities that will
month help you to achieve you
Short term Service users Survey, poll, referendum,
Evaluating event (Research &
policy or Long term Service users Design evaluation, include in
service project management
(Research & Consultation)
Long term Potential service Any and all activities
Less than 12 Representative Representatives on adult
Overall months people with support bodies (Consultation &
Organise children and young
people’s events and invite
More than 12 All people Establish on going
months consultation groups
Approaches to the involvement of people
A few approaches are set out below, showing some of their potential strengths and limitations.
The method that this approach applies to is indicated in brackets. The approaches all depend on
the extent of ownership and relevance, their representative nature and the quality of partnership.
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They are not mutually exclusive, though one may be the building block for another. They are not in
particular order, but they all require careful thought, commitment and resources.
1. Focus Groups and Workshops (Consultation/ qualitative research method)
Focus groups consist of a small group of participants brought together in order to explore
perceptions or ideas about a topic. Focus groups are generally made up of between 5-10 people
with a minimum of 4 and a maximum of 12. A discussion list containing possible questions and
prompts should be formulated to ensure all aspects of your topic are covered. A tape recorder or
video camera is used to record the session. It is recommended that two people conduct a focus
group, one to set the topics, steer the questions, and ensure everyone joins in, the other to record
the interaction (e.g. head nodding and nonverbal signs that can indicate agreement).
Focus groups should be used when:
You want to gain information relating to how people think
To explain perceptions of an event, idea, or experience
When seeking the perspective of the client
To generate a discussion of similarities and differences among participants
To gather the views of a wide and varied group of people
Group can come up with ideas Exclusive or unrepresentative
You can repeat the activity with a The data produced lacks depth and limits the
variety of groups complexity of topics that can be explored;
Potentially more in depth opportunity to It is difficult to document the data in a way that
explore ideas/suggestions allows individual speakers to be identified
Focus groups require people to disclose
information in front of other people therefore
should not be used to discuss sensitive issues
Need to make sure everyone is contributing to
the session and no-one is dominating
2. e-communications (Research & Consultation method)
Websites can help people access information about specific projects and plans, resources and
funding, programmes and organisations and they can be used to pose questions and issues for
debate and discussion, giving a means for direct, immediate feedback.
Potential numbers involved Needs dedicated and skilled input
Multi-purpose Specific and adequate budget
Building on existing resources Extensive publicity to make it known
Fun and engaging Exclusive channel of communication
Needs commitment to use information and give
3. Commission a task, develop a joint initiative or create a partnership to undertake an
agreed piece of work. (Consultation & Engagement method)
You might commission a task, develop a joint initiative, or create a partnership to undertake an
agreed piece of work. Examples include children and young people undertaking research, or co-
facilitating workshops with stakeholders to identify priorities or key issues.
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Working with adults as equals Possibility that group may take over the results
Payment, vocational relevance May not be inclusive
Use of knowledge and skills
4. Large scale event (Consultation method)
A larger event for a wider range of groups, may give more freedom and flexibility in influencing and
shaping ideas, priorities and direction. The event can also be used to elect representatives to be
on smaller advisory or committee structures.
More inclusive Preparation and planning
Shared identity and purpose Time and money
Fun and energy Raises the stakes; higher risk
Accountability Needs good follow up
5. Advisory or reference groups (Consultation and Engagement method)
A group of people advise and inform those planning, delivering or reviewing a piece of work, or
who manage a team or organisation. There is a series of meetings over a period of time during the
lifetime of the project or programme.
Influencing development Time consuming and drawn out
Ownership Rubber stamp
Representative No authority
Established and ongoing
6. Network of groups (Research & Consultation method)
A ‘body of people’ is set up to run alongside the decision-making processes to provide advice, or
act as a sounding board. Examples include a shadow committee at any level in an organisation, a
young people’s committee or a young people’s scrutiny group.
Link and support hard-to-reach groups Heavy on staff support time
Regular, consistent involvement No direct authority
Safe, familiar environment Must keep short chain of communication
Ongoing for reviewing change
7. Committee places (Engagement method)
People are elected or selected to be part of committees. There may be specific co-opted spaces
reserved for them. People may be trustees of the organisation.
Direct access to governance Not treated as equals (eg may not have voting
Long term influence rights)
Knowledge and expertise Tokenism
Continuous input Used to represent views of all young people,
Overcoming misunderstandings rather than in own right
Required change in attitudes, Demanding of skills and commitment
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representing significant cultural shift for Pressure to be seen to be successful
an organisation Lose touch with peers
Significant resources, staff support
8. Surveys, polls, questionnaires, referenda (Research method)
These can be face to face, postal, telephone or internet and can obtain simple or detailed
information depending on what sort of questions you use and how you record answers. Surveys
can be simple tick box questionnaires or complex written responses. Polls and referenda involve
large numbers of people making choices between given options.
Survey questions can be either:
Closed questions - where the respondent has to choose between set answers
Open questions - where people can write their own response.
Questionnaires should be used when:
Information is needed from a large number of people
Over a large geographical area or in a short period of time
The information that you need is not complex
You are seeking
o Attributes (personal characteristics)
o Behaviour and events (what people do or what has happened in peoples lives
o Beliefs/Knowledge (what people think is true)
Things to remember when designing a questionnaire:
Aim for a maximum question sentence length of 20 words
There should be no hidden assumptions in your question
Ensure there are no leading questions that suggest one answer over another or assume
Be sensitive to potentially irritating or difficult questions
Ensure questions are written in plain English
Do not tackle more than one subject per question
Can involve large numbers of people Responses are limited to the questions
Can be carried out relatively quickly Postal questionnaires typically have a low
Cheap to produce response rate
Postal questionnaires are inflexible - you cannot
probe for further information
You have no control over who completes a postal
questionnaire it may not be the person that you
Questionnaires are ineffective for exploring
peoples feelings etc because they require the
question to mean the same thing to different
respondents, which may not be the case when
In situations where literacy is an issue you will
require someone to facilitate completion of the
questionnaire this requires resources and time
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9. Interviews (Research & Consultation methods)
These can be face to face, via telephone or internet. Interviews can involve audio or video tape
recording. Interviews are different from surveys because they produce more information from
fewer people. Remember to think of the confidentiality and safety issues of everyone involved.
Interviews can take 3 forms
Structured meaning the participant answers a set of pre-defined questions
Semi-structured in which the main questions are open ended and fixed, but follow up
questions are improvised in order to gain more insight into the answers given
Unstructured in which a general topic is pre-defined by the interviewer but the discussion
is lead by the interviewee
Interviews should be used when:
In-depth information is required
When subject matter is potentially sensitive
The issues being discussed would benefit from development or clarification
More detailed information Time consuming, needs careful planning and
Interviews have the advantages of a preparation
high response rate; because they are They are time consuming to carry out
prearranged with participants, a It is unlikely that the results of the research will
convenient time and location can be be generalisable.
selected to ensure a relatively low drop Interviews require access to recording
out rate equipment
Answers given can be explored in Transcription of data is a time consuming
more detail process
You may require assistance when completing
the coding and analysis of interviews
10. Comments, Compliments & Complaints
Use Shropshire County Council’s existing Compliments, Comments & Complaints procedures, as
a method of consulting and gaining feedback on services.
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a. Evaluating Participation – ‘Was it worth it?’
An important ingredient in participation is evaluation. It’s essential that you plan your evaluation at
the start of the process. Your evaluation is very much linked to what you want to achieve,
therefore you need to be thinking about how you are going to measure if you have achieved your
The table overleaf shows how you can evaluate your success making sure you have covered all
the relevant areas. You can evaluate the methods used, the process you went through and then go
on to evaluate what action is going to be taken as a result of the participation process.
The success of any participation activity must be measured by the changes that have resulted on
specific issues and concerns raised by people.
You may want to ask the following questions to see what we can learn from participation:
Was it worth it?
This needs evidence to determine if it was worth it.
What would you do differently?
Noted changes to organisational culture
Perception of participants (evaluation feedback)?
Heightened awareness of organisational values
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What was Who did Which What did you find What did you What What could How do you plan
your aim you methods did out/what were the results learn about difference you do to use the
involve you use what worked did it make differently? findings?
What were and what that you
your didn’t? did this
To improve Existing Research and The questionnaire showed
the meals on service Consultation – that 69% of existing users
wheels users Questionnaire prefer a hot pudding and
service Focus Group 52% would like more
Front line choice on the menu
To assess The focus group revealed
the quality of that staff and users would
the food welcome the opportunity to
How it is work together in developing
delivered a new menu.
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b. Hints and Tips on Evaluating Participation Activities
- planning for evaluating is a key component of meaningful participation
- Be clear about the method/s you are going to use (refer to the above
- Are you using formal evaluation methods:
Or informal approaches
Questions about the activity
Creative / fun approaches examples
You need to make sure you use different methods according to your
audience. For example, a written report may be appropriate for your
manager to receive but you may want to use a different style to report
back findings and recommendations to those who were involved in the
- Use of language – ensure it is clear, open, encouraging and consistent.
- Feedback – a key aspect of meaningful participation is the feedback
offered to participants. Think of the timescale for feeding back and agree
- Next steps – at the design stage, think of ongoing / linked opportunities.
c. Developing an Evaluation Checklist
Meaningful participation can have lasting benefits to the organisation, the
participant/s and / or community /ies.
This can be measured in a variety of ways,
- Cost benefits - services designed that meet needs of communities
avoiding costly mistakes.
- Ownership - involvement leads to ownership, which can in turn lead to
- Empowering – promotes a sense of purpose for participants
- Capacity Building – can develop individuals/groups
d. What’s Changed? – mapping the impact of participation activity
This What’s changed? Tool is for mapping the impact of participation activity.
The success of any participation activity must be measured by the changes that have
resulted on specific issues and concerns raised by people. These changes must be
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fed-back to everyone who was involved in the participation. The feedback
demonstrates our understanding of the issues raised and what we are going to do as
Too often consultation leads nowhere. Too often people listen but do not act. For
example, how did the participation of local children actually affect the plans for the
new playground? Disabled young people spoke to officers and elected members of
the council about the problems of rural transport. What was the outcome? The school
council did a survey about school dinners. Did they actually get any better?
The participation of people in the issues that affect them is only as good as the
changes to their benefit that results.
“If the people who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of change do not know that it
is happening – then it probably is not happening..” Lord Herman Ouseley, Former
Chair, the Commission of Racial Equality.
Gaining evidence about the impact of people’s participation comes down to two
Is there evidence of dialogue with people?
Is there evidence of change as a result?
This tool seeks evidence on each standard for listening, planning and change that
has resulted from children and young people’s participation. You can use it to plan
participation activity and supervision, as well as to record success.
Gaining evidence about the impact of people’s participation comes down to two
Is there evidence of dialogue with people?
Is there evidence of change as a result?
The table will help you to demonstrate evidence of listening, planning and change -
three key factors in evaluating success.
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Extract from “Hear by Right” standards for the active involvement of children and
young people page 2
Issue or concern raised by people
Evidence from Evidence of listening Evidence of planning Evidence of change
People told us the We got a group of young people Usage up, income up,
Organisation programme we put on to set the programme, prices etc anti-social behaviour
was not what they wanted down
We were asked to come We put together our ideas and all We got it changed to
Specific people with our own ideas for the main ones were put into Saturdays from
how the evening should practice Fridays, the price is
be run cheaper and there are
better things to do
People and the You can tell that this was There are usually
wider designed by someone who knows about 150 of us there
community what people really want every Saturday. We
never used to bother
The streets seem quiet
on Saturday nights
now. It sounds like the
people are having a
Standard: evidence of listening
The organisation can describe and demonstrate how people have been
listened to on a specific issue.
People can describe and demonstrate how they have been listened to on a
Standard: evidence of planning
The organisation can describe and demonstrate how plans have been put in
place in response to what the people have said.
People can describe and demonstrate how plans have been put in place in
response to what they have said.
Standard: evidence of change
The organisation can describe and demonstrate what changes have resulted.
People who have been involved can describe and demonstrate what changes
A wider group of people and others in the community can describe and
demonstrate improvements in response to the specific issue.
This What’s changed? tool links to the Hear by Right standards framework, which enable
organisations to map the extent and quality of participation by people in the organisation and
plan for improvement.
More details from www.nya.org.uk/hearbyright
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New legislation is requiring many parts of the public sector to consult with their
communities more extensively than they have in the past. The challenges for
authorities will be to:
Carry out all consultation work to consistently high standards;
Take advantage of new technology and methods, alongside the best of
Ensure that no part of the community is excluded from consultation;
Demonstrate that consultation is being used to inform decision making; and
Consult jointly with other organisations, so that single exercises can feed into
a number of agencies plans – participation database
As participation becomes more widespread, the agenda may be set increasingly by
local people and less by authorities. Authorities should not necessarily see this as a
threat: it is also an opportunity to draw on the freely available expertise that exists in
their communities and use it to improve local services.
Participation can be a powerful tool for improving both the quality and cost
effectiveness of services, so its growth could bring significant benefits. However, this
potential will be realised only if participation exercises are carefully planned,
imaginatively designed, competently carried out and then used to inform decision
Public Participation – National Context
(Extract taken from Noel Park Sure Start Local Programme)
“Public participation is central to the Government’s drive to modernise public
services, as set out in the White paper ‘Modernising Government’. It sees public
participation as a way of achieving a ‘shift of power and influence away form bureau-
professionals and front-line staff towards citizens and service-users’”. (Martin and
Boaz, 2000, p.47).
Shropshire County Council is committed to extending its consultation beyond
statutory requirements. We want to ensure that residents of Shropshire, our service
users and all other interested parties have the opportunity to be involved in the
planning, prioritising and monitoring of our services, and that they inform the Council.
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Useful Contact names and numbers:
1. Directorate Communications Officers:
Gareth Profitt Corporate (01743) 252828
Zerina Mason Children and Young People’s Services (01743) 254529
Charlotte Crowl Community Services (01743) 253885
Chris Henshaw Economy and Environment (01743) 253318
2. Children and Young People:
Dawn Lewis Young People’s Development worker (01743) 254667
Michael Jarrett Children's Centres Development Officer (01743) 252039
Martin Principal Youth Officer (01743) 254488
3. Community Services:
Neil Evans Business & Administration Manager, (01743) 254039
Supporting People in Shropshire
Jayne Randall Drug Action Team (DAT) (01743) 252737
Peter Mental Health Team (01743) 254679
Denise Porter Older People Team (01743) 255721
Denise Porter Physical Disabilities Team (01743) 255721
Jim Roads Head of Libraries and Information (01743) 255019
Kal Parkash Diversity Officer (01743) 252056
Roy Jones Gypsy Liaison Officer (01743) 252364
Linda Gladman Employment and Disability Officer (01743) 252741
Della Potter Shropshire Partnership (01743) 252269
Karen Roper SALC – Shropshire Association of (01743) 252744
5. Advocacy services:
Age Concern Services for Older People (01743) 233123
PCAS Services for people with physical (01743) 444599
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Participation Event Registration
1) Title and Aims of Participation event:
2) Lead officer or Councillor
3) Department: Directorate:
4) Partner(s) involved
5) Start & End Dates
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8) Publicity method(s)
9) Feedback date
10) Publication method(s)
11) Evaluation date
12) Total cost
Please return this form (preferably by email) to your Communications Officer.
If you plan to involve young people, please also forward to Dawn Lewis, who will use
this form to arrange consent.
Walker House, Radbrook Campus, Radbrook Road, Shrewsbury, SY3 9BJ
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The Participation Assessment Tool
Title Of Date Name Of Lead Officer Contact No.
Please tick the statement that represents your participation event
Participant Informed consent & ability to withdraw from Informed consent & ability to withdraw Informed consent and ability to
characteristics study not possible or unlikely due to age of from study possible with a support to withdraw from study fully possible.
child or incapacity of adult. Communication overcome communication barriers e.g.
issues arising from language or literacy advocates, translators/ interpreters,
issues, sensory or speech impairments signers, or technology.
Competence of The person conducting the participation The person conducting the The person conducting the
person project has little knowledge of the topic of participation project is reasonably participation project is well qualified
undertaking the investigation, or the participants or the qualified with experience and with experience and knowledge of
event/project methods to be used e.g. undergraduate knowledge of two out of the three all three of the following factors –
researcher /student project. following factors – topic of topic of investigation, the
investigation, the participants or the participants and the methods to be
methods to be used. e.g. non- used. e.g. formal research training
researcher who may work in a and/or qualification and/or
professional area offering relevant experience and knowledge gained
experience and knowledge. from working in an appropriate
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Please tick the statement that represents your participation event
Nature of The topic and kinds of information being The topic or the kinds of information The topic and kinds of information
information being sought are likely to be regarded as highly being sought include items likely to be being sought do not focus on
sought personal or sensitive by those from whom it considered slightly personal or personal information at all e.g.
is being collected or about whom it is to be sensitive by some people e.g. age, opinions about services received.
obtained. e.g. criminal records, psychiatric ethnicity, income.
Methods/ nature High levels of face to face contact and /or Some face-to-face contact and No face to face interaction between
of data interaction between the person conducting interaction for limited amounts of time. investigator and participant
collection the participation project and participant e.g.
conducting interviews in people’s homes
Level of privacy Not confidential Confidential. Anonymous.
Relationship Participants are personally known to the Limited information about participants Participants are unknown to the
between person conducting the participation project is provided to the person conducting person conducting the participation
investigator and and they may have other duties or the participation project to make the project and cannot be identified.
participants responsibilities towards all or some of the study possible or more reliable.
research participants which may create
potential conflicts of interest
External Study is likely to be extremely sensitive. Parts of study may be sensitive. No known sensitivities
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Shropshire County Council
Children & Young People’s
Aim of this Procedure
To establish a best practice process for consultation with children
and young people, linked to Shropshire County Council’s
Community Consultation Strategy.
This document provides guidance to Shropshire County Council
employees on the steps to be taken for those wishing to consult
with children and young people using the Willing Consultees List.
Why has this procedure been produced?
This guidance has been produced because consultation with
children and young people is an increasingly vital part of our
service design and delivery. The guidance is important and needs
to be followed by every service for the following reasons:
Ensure consultation with children/young people is effective
and worthwhile for both:
- children/young people
Clarify what is required (through the pro forma)
Avoid duplication of work
Provide staff with a clear procedure, appropriate contacts
within their service and a support mechanism
Enable a co-ordinated approach
Enable the sharing of best practice through services
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For the purpose of this document, children are defined as up to
age 12 years and young people as 13 to 19 years.
Please use the following notes when completing the attached form.
1) Title of consultation e.g. Best Value Review of Accessible
Services and the purpose of the consultation, e.g. the opinions of
children/young people on transport policy or on a brochure design,
along with any supporting documentation, at the earliest
2) Please provide details of Lead officer or Councillor.
3) Department, Directorate. Who is responsible for managing the
consultation activity? This may not necessarily be the person
carrying it out themselves – the work itself maybe contracted out to
a consultant). Please provide a service contact – with a contact
name, job title, department and directorate and details (telephone,
email & address) as the contact to liaise with directly. If it is
contracted out then please include their details as well.
4) Any other partner(s) involved, please provide their details
5) Please specify start date and end date. For one off events
please state the date, time (start & finish) and venue for where the
consultation is to take place. Try to provide some flexibility of
dates and realistic timescales for undertaking consultation. Avoid
school/work hours if working outside of schools and colleges. If
working within schools (e.g. school councils) this will need to be
negotiated with the school(s) or college(s) concerned.
6) Method (s). Please identify consultation methods e.g.
questionnaire, focus groups.
Peer consultation – if you require children/young people to deliver
the consultation to their peers this process is possible but will take
longer to implement due to recruitment and training requirements
of children/young people.
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7) Audience. How many children/young people do you wish to
consult with/what age range/geographic area?
8) Publicity methods.
9) Feedback date – you will need to be clear how children/young
people’s views will influence the area they are being consulted
about. How children/young people’s views have made a difference
(or not) must be fed back to them at the earliest opportunity.
10) Publication methods - how will the information be used,
analysed, reported etc.
11) Evaluation date – who will you include in the evaluation of the
consultation and how are you going to do this.
12) Total cost – these may include such things as transport costs,
refreshments, venue hire & incentives. What is being provided
and who is going to pay?
13) Outcome(s) - what are your planned outcomes of the
consultation. Unplanned outcomes can form part of the evaluation
of the consultation.
14) How are children/young people to be thanked/rewarded for
their time? This is important for when children/young people are
recruited. Incentives should be age appropriate and could include:
having the opportunity to have an influence over children/young
people’s services; count hours towards school work or voluntary
award, payment or voucher of their choice.
Questions on this guidance and advice
The Corporate Young Person’s Development Worker and the
Principal Youth Officer are responsible for monitoring the Council’s
Children & Young People’s Willing Consultees list and overall
arrangements for consulting with children and young people.
If you have any questions about the guidance or require any
advice on consulting with children and young people, please
Martin Stephens Dawn Lewis
Principal Youth Officer Corporate Young Person’s
01743 254488 01743 254667
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Suggested Reading ……………. these texts are held by the
Corporate Young Person’s Development Worker at the above
Children as Partners Save the Children 1841870135 A training resource to
in Planning support consultation with
Children’s Save the Children 1899120513 A practical guide
Participation Carol Shepherd Save the Children A book of creative
….SPICE it up! methods for engaging
with children and young
Empowering Children Phil Tresedar 18991204755 As the title says
and Young People
Never too young Judy Miller 1870985346 How young children can
take responsibility and
Straight Talk E Hurley Joseph Rowntree Working with children
Foundation and young people in
Young People as Steve Worrall Save the Children A learning resource pack
Seen and Heard L Ward Joseph Rowntree Involving disabled
Foundation children and young
people in research and
Breathing Fire into Trudy Aspinwall & Funky Dragon A practical guide to help
Participation Cath Larkins taking you through the
process of increasing
children and young
Hear by Right Harry Wade & Bill Local Government Standards for the active
Badham Association & The involvement of children
National Youth and young people with a
Agency mapping & planning
Meeting the Needs of Janet Williams 187057083 A guide to service
Country Children planning and
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