Principles of Engagement

I had the opportunity this past spring and summer to have a modest role in MLA Fred Horne’s public consultation about a new Alberta Health Act. Towards the end of the report some principles for ongoing public engagement were recommended.

These principles should be the cornerstone of any engagement initiative and qualitative research project, and they are principles that underlie Stormy Lake’s approach to engagement, research and even client relationships.

Principles are that engagement should always be

Timely – Involving people at a point in the process where their input management can be most effective.

Meaningful – Important issues are identified and discussed. Outcomes of engagement are used in meaningful ways.

Appropriate – Engagement is designed to suit the issue and the audience. Engagement is managed responsibly.

Transparent – The intent and objectives will be clearly communicated, objectives will be realistic, and how the people’s input will be incorporated  will be clearly stated and reported.

These principles require a two-way dialogue, not a one-way search for opinion. They also require a longer-term commitment to engagement.

I have used engagement and research together a lot in this post, and that is deliberate. Qualitative research usually is managed as a below the radar, almost guerilla approach to gathering insights. In most situations, research can be better managed an implemented as an open system, where every qualitative research opportunity also is an opportunity for engagement – with customers, with stakeholders and within your own organization.

A final note – I first started working on this post before all of the Alberta Health controversy hit the media. And, to be honest, it did cross my mind to not publish this post. But controversies have a way of overshadowing good work, and Fred’s work was excellent. It deserves to be talked about.