Embedding community engagement
Bucks County Council

Embedding community engagement


Challenges and opportunities

In 2008, local authorities were being encouraged to embed a culture of engagement and community empowerment when developing services, with the view to achieve real service improvement and more economical delivery. Buckinghamshire County Council (Bucks) asked Engine to help them realise this approach through a practical project that would give them the opportunity to learn new skills and approaches to community engagement while improving the access to health and social care services for both urban and rural residents in the 50+ age range, which can be stressful, time-consuming and expensive.

Engine delivered a capacity-building programme which engaged residents and council staff to create HealthConnect, a service development proposal designed to improve access to health and social care services in Buckinghamshire. Aspects of the service were adopted by over five local authorities and health bodies, to improve the experience of residents accessing their services.

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What we did

To help Bucks engage their residents and community in the development of services, Engine demonstrated a co-design process to show how tacit insights could be drawn from residents’ needs and experiences and translated into efficient and effective services.

Engine developed this into a best practice methodology, using service design research, tools and methods to explore the problems and opportunities in the day to day lives of older residents, and used the insights to help elected members, residents, officers and service providers to co-design ideas and propositions to meet those needs.

The methodology, which came to be known as SHAPE: Services Having All People Engaged, also addressed the organisational challenges around how a local authority and its delivery partners plan the process of engagement and organise themselves to benefit from that process to see real and sustainable change. Engine approached this by balancing SHAPE to reduce complexity through managing expectations and establishing clear and focused objectives with tangible results, and to also be flexible enough to adapt to changes and ranges of involvement by keeping people with different interests engaged.

The methodology was demonstrated through the programme of work which would improve how 50+ residents could access health and social care services from all over the county, taking into account times, availability and public and private transport. The teams all worked together to generate, organise and plan the development of the service, with clear input from residents throughout.

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The result was HealthConnect, a service development proposal to improve access to health and social care services in Buckinghamshire. It includes a range of channels and ways of accessing more useful information and how healthcare and transport providers can work more efficiently together to support the access of residents to their services.

Engine also documented and refined the process itself to produce the SHAPE methodology for people-centred service innovation, which can be downloaded here. It contains the benefits and results of the process and details team roles, tools, methods and examples to achieve the best results.

The SHAPE methodology had immediate impact, with Wycombe District Council, Chiltern District Council, Oxford City Council, Bucks Primary Care Trust, and Wycombe Hospital Trust all integrating concepts from HealthConnect, such as journey planning information on their websites.

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