Planning and preparation is key to partnering and working with consumers. You will need to be clear on the goals and purpose of the activity to ensure the partnership is meaningful, mutually beneficial and successful.
This information provides some key considerations and tips for planning and preparation for successful consumer partnerships.
Determining your level of partnership
Deciding which level of partnership to use should be determined by the goal and purpose of your project or activity.
Whether you are working on a unique project or you are looking to embed consumer partnership within your organisation, you will be using different levels in different contexts.
The importance of psychological safety
When thinking about representation on a committee, seek more than one consumer representative. If the committee has a large membership, increase the number of consumers accordingly. This moves the activity beyond tokenism to equal representation and distribution of power. This brings a richer experience and broader perspectives to the discussion.
Watch our video on Balancing power.
Having a clear purpose for partnership will help you to focus, communicate clearly and maximise the impact of your partnership. Defining the purpose may involve outlining the problem you are trying to address; the decision you wish to reach; the outcome you are hoping to achieve; and/or the relationships you wish to build.
Before you reach out to consumers, identify and work through any resistance, barriers and concerns that exist about consumer partnership. Build group buy-in and support.
If the whole group is prepared, committed and positive about the consumer partnership, the consumer/s will feel welcomed and safe when they join.
Partnerships can be impacted by time, stakeholder capacity, funding, staff, and project risks and obstacles. It is important to outline the scope and limitations of your engagement as this will allow for a transparent and achievable partnership process.
Scoping should include identifying factors or decisions that can be influenced by consumers and those that cannot. These should be communicated to consumers so they can understand what they can and can’t influence.
Not only is this the respectful thing to do and in line with NSW Health values, it will also reduce the likelihood of the person/s becoming disengaged or frustrated with the system.
It will also reduce the likelihood of the individual/s attempting to assert their own agendas and steering the activity off course.
A sense of security is achieved when people are clear about the scope of their role and what they can influence. Uncertainty can lead to stress and then disengagement.
A partnership plan should describe how you will partner with consumers. It should include a strong purpose and objectives; roles, responsibilities and timeframes and a clear articulation of the level/s of participation you are adopting (among other things).
Use a consumer partnership plan template to help plan your consumer partnership strategy for the program/project. This plan can sit alongside (or be incorporated into) a broader project or organisational operational plan.
The plan will act as a roadmap for consumer partnership for the duration of the project/program. Intended as a living document, it can be updated and adjusted at any time. It is useful as evidence for National Standard 2 activity, as well as for any reporting back to organisation boards/governing groups.
The consumer partnership plan could be made available to the longer-term consumer partners you have. This will help them to understand how their involvement links to the project/program goals and objectives.
There are many ways to involve consumers to help plan, design, deliver, measure and evaluate services. All have value and are suitable for different purposes.
If you understand what you want to achieve, then it is easier to determine the level of engagement and the mechanism you will use. The best partnerships often use a combination of approaches from one-off or short-lived activities (e.g. surveys/focus groups), to long-term (e.g. consumer representatives on steering committee).
Refer to the partnerships foundation to determine the most effective level of engagement for your project.
Learn more about methods of engagement.
If you are considering co-design, you may like to watch our Introduction to co-design video.
Information about your partnership activity, and the accompanying ‘expression of interest’ and consent forms need to be prepared in readiness for circulation. All the information you have put into your planning will help you to create these documents.
For more guidance and templates, visit the advertising and recruitment page.