Before initiating engagement sessions, it is important to lay the groundwork and create an engagement-prepared environment where you and your partners are ready and willing to engage. This is done through creating trusting, respectful relationships. If this is not done thoughtfully and carefully, the engagement strategies are less likely to be successful.
To prepare yourself for engagement:
- Reflect on previous engagement activities and outcomes. Was it successful? Why or why not? Click here for an engagement reflection tool to help you work through this.
- Think about the best level of engagement (according to the SHA Engagement Continuum). What is necessary and appropriate for this situation?
- Consider the risks of engaging? What are some mitigation strategies for these risks? What are the risks of not engaging?
- Think about whether you are reaching out to all relevant partners, including vulnerable and hard-to-reach populations.
- Think about underlying messages you are sending through your choices of engagement processes and strategies. For example, would it be better to meet with people on their ‘home ground’ as opposed to SHA facilities?
- Try to see the proposed engagement through the eyes of your partners.
- Think about whether you are acting in a trustworthy way. Are you acting with integrity, doing what you say you will do, and treating your partners with respect?
- Think about where, when, and how your partners would like to engage and whether you are addressing issues that are important to them.
- What has been their experiences with previous engagement? What is their current healthcare context?
- How can you address any potential concerns or obstacles they might have?
- Ask your partners about any protocols you should respect, or any processes they might prefer.
To prepare partners for engagement:
- Clearly communicate the fact that you would like to engage, why you are proposing to engage, and how you would like to engage.
- Clearly communicate the proposed level of engagement (according to the SHA Engagement Continuum).
- Ensure they know the potential outcomes of the engagement sessions as well as any limitations. Be open and transparent about what you can and cannot do. It is better not to make a promise than to break a promise.
- Ask how you can mitigate any concerns or help to remove any obstacles they might have with engaging.