Continuous engagement is, it seems, being talked about more and more and we therefore think that, as a concept, it is worth examining in more detail. As a starting point, the obvious question is: what do we mean by continuous engagement? In a forthcoming paper we have written for the Consultation Institute we described it as:

• Ongoing research and consultation rather than just engaging at critical moments.
• Engagement across multiple touchpoints.
• Ensuring that consumers, customers, citizens or patients are at the heart of an organisation’s culture and involving them at the earliest possible stage of idea development.

Certainly, across the sectors we work in we have witnessed a greater focus on continuous engagement in recent years. Southern Water conducted a lessons learnt review of the water industry’s engagement in the run up to the Price Review 2014 and concluded “as a sector we need to ensure we maintain a constant flow of insight from customers, in all its forms, throughout the delivery period and that this solid base of insight is harnessed in the development of future business plans. This is vital to give all stakeholders confidence that these plans reflect a deep understanding of what our customers expect, not just a snapshot of preferences at a point in time. We firmly believe that successful customer engagement should be a continual dialogue with feedback to customers… “.

Back in 2011 the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence stated that “…regulators should continue to move from solely engaging when needed to an approach that balances these opportunities alongside other methods that allows them to continuously listen to patients and the public .”

What is more, we have seen this talk turn into action and have helped a number of our clients put continuous engagement ideas into practice. Last year we started working with the General Dental Council to establish their first ever patient and public panel and this month it was presented as a case study at the PSA conference on ‘Regulating for positive outcomes’. The panel is a bespoke online panel of 5,000 patients and the public. One of the first tasks for panel members was to name it – they chose to call it ‘Word of Mouth’. We are pleased to say that the ‘Word of Mouth’ panel is providing an ongoing, flexible and cost effective method for the GDC for patient and public engagement. It has been used for large scale quantitative studies and also as a base from which to recruit groups of individuals to attend workshops and strategy events. We think panels and communities of this kind can provide an excellent tool for continuous engagement.

To find out more about how we can help you establish a bespoke panel or online community contact rachel@communityresearch.co.uk

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