Today we launch our research into engagement in the not-for-profit sectors, which shows that involvement and partnership working are at the heart of many organisations, with almost half of respondents saying it is having a significant or transformative impact.
The report, based on 70 responses to a quantitative survey and a series of qualitative interviews, suggests that in most cases engagement is driven by organisational values, with a focus on engaging service users and communities to improve services or inform new strategies.
A long-term approach
A range of methods and tools is being used, but what’s important is the way it is approached. When asked what makes engagement truly meaningful, most respondents say valuing people’s expertise and experience, and following up on outcomes.
Not surprisingly, a long-term approach is favoured. Many respondents say that a focus on short-term results and a reluctance to explore alternatives to the status quo are barriers to meaningful engagement, along with a lack of time and budget.
Financial pressure is thought to be a continuing challenge into the future, however most believe engagement will become more important and will be taken more seriously – particularly if its effectiveness can be better demonstrated.
People feel what they do is working but struggle to evidence it
Many people appear to be struggling with evaluation and evidencing impact. People referenced a range of measures they use – interviews, surveys, feedback forms, attendance numbers – but it seems many would like to create more compelling narratives around the difference engagement makes.
The tricky issues of impact and evaluation, and the need to find and share new and more creative tools, are points from the research that we are exploring and expanding on at our ‘Fostering meaningful engagement’ event today. We will report on the event soon. In the meantime, download our report and let us know what you think.
Download report: Fostering meaningful engagement, The Participation Agency, June 2014