Partnership foundations

There are some foundations to consumer partnership and engagement that can help set you up for success.

This information provides some thought-starters and suggested actions to set you on your way.

Levels of consumer partnership

Consumer partnership can be viewed as a continuum, ranging from low-level to high-level engagement. The International Association for Public Participation describes five levels of engagement.

These range from providing information about services available (low-level) to co-designing and empowering consumers to lead the development of services, products and activities (high-level).

The ACI has adapted these levels for use in healthcare redesign.

How do I know which level of engagement to use?

The best approach should be chosen based on:

  • the nature of the project
  • the time and resources available to support engagement
  • the quality of existing relationships between consumers and other stakeholders.

Higher levels of participation are not always better. It is more important to be clear about the type of engagement being undertaken, why that level of engagement has been chosen and to deliver on the promises made to consumers.

Increasing level of engagement and influence


Consumers lead the development of activities, products and services with appropriate advice and support


Consumers co-lead the development, design, implementation and evaluation of activities, products and services


Consumers are represented and can make recommendations and influence decisions


Consumers are invited to provide feedback about products and services developed


Consumers receive information about the group's activities (e.g. by being subscribed to the mailing list)

The spectrum of public participation.  Adapted with permission: International Association for Public Participation.

Partnership in practice

Some ways to inform

A range of tactics can be used to effectively communicate with patients. Some examples are:

  • Fact sheets or brochures
  • Newsletters, social media or media relations
  • Community education and awareness campaigns

Tip! Identify a target group and consider the best way to reach them.

Some ways to consult

Seeking feedback from consumers will help you to develop and deliver better health services. Some examples are:

  • Surveys
  • Targeted focus groups
  • Public consultation meetings

Tip! Some population groups can be difficult to reach. Consider how you will consult with people from disadvantaged or non-English-speaking backgrounds.

Some ways to collaborate

Aim to work with a cross-section of people who would be using the health services that are being discussed. Some examples are:

  • Committees and working parties, with consumers as equal members
  • Processes to build consensus
  • Workshops and roundtable discussions

Tip! Capture the experiences of consumers, carers and community members who will all bring a different perspective.

Some ways to co-design

Working together to find the answer to problems is more likely to result in the right solution that is sustainable. Some examples are:

  • Project sponsorship and steering committees
  • Co-facilitation of planning activities
  • Co-leadership and facilitation of collaborative and design activities
  • Co-leadership of implementation and measuring success
Some ways to empower

Equal decision-making – where consumers have an equal share in decision making – supports consumers to lead the development of activities. Some examples are:

  • Representation on an organisation’s board of directors and in clinical councils
  • Clinical councils (consumers have an equal share in decision making)
  • Peer-led health services; programs devolved to consumer-led community organisations
  • Consumer-set key performance indicators (KPIs)

Learn more about co-design:

Trauma-informed consumer partnership

When working in partnership with consumers, it is essential to behave in a way that is considerate of, and responsive to, any potential current and past adverse experiences and trauma.

Watch our videos on Making participation safe and Balancing power.

For more information about developing trauma-informed partnerships, visit our library of resources.

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