Getting Started

Before engagement planning begins, we need to consider what is relevant, proportionate, or necessary. It should be clear what the aim of the activity is and what people can or will be able to influence.   

Engagement should happen at the start of a project. This is not always the case. For example, when policy decisions or changes come direct from Government. Even so, it is best practice to still engage residents and service users ahead of a change to what they are used to being implemented. They can and should be able to influence practicalities about the change and provide a local view.  

An exception to this might be something that needs to change because of an emergency. For example, if a service is going to very quickly become unsafe. This could be through a physical problem in the location or a staffing shortage that is going to be a long term issue. 

In this case, it is still important to follow the principles outlined in TLWT when delivering messages widely and to all groups.

Engagement planning 

Your engagement plan should cover: 

  • Aims/impact and influence of engagement 
  • Understand 
  • Equalities Analysis 
  • Stakeholder mapping  
    • Assessing risk 
  • Timescales 
  • Resources (budgets, staff, kit)  
  • Methodology (how will we talk, listen and work together?) 
  • Analysis – establish who and how you will analyse your results 
  • Sharing results 
  • Feedback  
  • Evaluate   

A key part of TLWT is about being up front about problems, issues, and local need. The scope of the project needs to be understood from the start: 

  • why is it happening  
  • why do you want community involvement 
  • Is it a delivery or development project  
  • Is it a behaviour that you need to change 

 Some examples:  

  1. Corporation Bridge needs repairing. There is a set budget and safety building standards to comply with. This means there is not much opportunity for residents to influence the outcome, but the project leads need to ensure that everyone is aware of what is happening, when and why. We could use this opportunity to understand more about local need for travel networks and highways in the town centre.  
  1. Government policy is to develop community diagnostic hubs across the country. In NEL we need to develop a facility and screening services that meet local needs and can and will be used by people in our area. With a capital and service delivery project like this, it is essential to involve both the diverse range of people who will use the service and staff who will provide or refer to the service to ensure the result is an accessible and inclusive facility. 
  1. 19% of local women still smoke during pregnancy. We need to understand the complex reasons why so we can develop interventions that may work to bring change.  

Quantitative data 

North East Lincolnshire’s Data Observatory (NELDO) hosts a variety of data and information about NEL and the people who live and work here. This includes results from health needs assessments and other major sources of information including the annual joint strategic needs assessment (JSNA). The annual JSNA contains information about the local economy, community safety, the population’s health and wellbeing, skills and learning and community sustainability. The data available on NELDO can be of real value to help understand issues at borough, ward and sometimes even street level.  

Nationally produced and held data sets from governmental and non-governmental organisations (like charities), or academic papers on previous research projects can also be a valuable source of information. It is well worth spending some time searching for available information, work and data sets on your area of interest – particularly if they are relevant to your target audience or illustrate a comparison with statistical neighbouring authorities. 

Qualitative data 

Results from past engagement and consultation activity can often be found on the websites of local partner organisations. Understanding the information and results of previous engagement can often help to inform next steps, fill in the gaps and/or update partnership insight. 

Engagement and insights officers in partner organisations will also be able to support with relevant data and community voice information, which may help to inform the questions you ask, or the focus for your activity. 

The Social Isolation case study will provide useful examples for this section. to find this, visit the Case Study section of the Toolkit.

Equality needs to be considered at the start of a project. An equality impact assessment will highlight the potential impact of a proposal/plan, and what needs to be done to mitigate the negatives and make the most of the positives. Equality analysis should be re-visited periodically throughout a project or commissioning process. 

We need to ensure that our equality analysis process is robust. This is not just required by law but is the right thing to do so that decisions are made in a fair, accountable and transparent way and consider the needs of all members of the community. We should always consider how services or policies impact people with protected characteristics. The protected characteristics covered by the Equality Act 2010 are:  

  • Age  
  • Disability  
  • Gender reassignment  
  • Marriage and civil partnerships (but only in respect of eliminating unlawful discrimination)  
  • Pregnancy and maternity  
  • Race  
  • Religion and beliefs (this includes ethnic or national origins, colour or nationality)  
  • Sex  
  • Sexual Orientation.  

In NEL, we also consider unpaid carers, social deprivation, veterans, looked after children and care leavers as characteristics we give due regard for.                                                                                                    

When do you need to complete an Equalities Impact Assessment?

It is best practice to use an Equality Impact Assessment at all stages of the solution design, commissioning, and procurement process.  We have created an equality impact assessment guide and form to help you through the process. 

The duty must be exercised in substance, with rigour and with an open mind, involving affected people in producing and developing equality analysis. All participants involved in equality analysis should have ‘equality consciousness’ (Consultation Institute, 2020). Equality analysis should be undertaken at different points of a consultation, engagement, or project development process. This includes proposal development and decision making.  

Equality Impact Assessments (EIAs) cannot be completed purely as desk-based exercises. They are most successful when stakeholders have been engaged in the process. The more exposed it is to the public, the less likely it will be that there are errors.  

If relevant material is not available to prove that public authorities have had due regard when decision making, there will be a requirement in law to ensure that this is achieved and more consultation with appropriate groups will be required. The responsibility cannot be delegated to external organisations carrying out public functions on a public authority’s behalf.                

Case study: North East Lincolnshire Community Equality Impact Assessment Panel  

Hearing the views of the people in our community helps us to plan and buy services that meet the needs of local people. One way that we do this is through our Equality Impact Assessment panel. Our panel, made up of community members, meet regularly to ensure that CCG plans and policies do not have a negative impact on local people, particularly those with protected characteristics. Our goal is to make our equality impact assessment process as robust as it can be. Therefore, we aim to continuously recruit to our Equality Impact Assessment Panel with an aspiration of making the panel as diverse as possible. It is important that we hear the views of as many people as possible to ensure that our equality impact assessments are not desk based exercises and are well thought through in terms of eliminating discrimination. Hearing the views of members of the community with lived experiences of their protected characteristics is a vital part of this process. Panel members are asked to read documentation before the equality impact assessment panel meetings and think about how various policies and service re -design requests will or may impact people with protected characteristics. Comments go back to the service or policy lead and any changes the panel have agreed on have to be actioned by the lead. It is important that all Equality Impact Assessments make use of data to show that careful consideration has been given to each characteristic in relation to local demography and the impact that different policies/ services may have on different groups.                                                                                                                                                                                                          

Questions to ask to mitigate any negative impacts of proposals 

  • Discrimination, harassment, and victimisation – will what we are trying to do cause, worsen or decrease/ improve these?  
  • Disadvantages – will we cause, worsen, or improve disadvantage with what we are trying to do?  
  • Differing needs or disabilities – will what we are trying to do improve meeting particular needs or will it make things worse?  
  • Prejudice – will our proposals damage relations between communities or cause prejudice? Could there be an opportunity for us to promote understanding between communities/ characteristics?  
  • Special treatment – consider whether some people may need to be treated more favourably than others to ensure equity of provision.  

Top tips for enabling people to participate and improving equality analysis  

  • Do not use jargon in any public documentation 
  • Choose accessible venues  
  • Ask people to let you know if they have additional requirements   
  • Make sure people receive feedback from previous engagement so they are more likely to participate again 
  • Talk to people about their experiences 
  • Provide ways that the people who have no access to the internet, or have no interest in getting online can access information about having their say or getting involved. 
  • Consider reading capabilities and those who do not have English as their first language. Make things available in other formats for those who need or request it 
  • Keep records of who you spoke to, when and where. If this information is not recorded, it did not happen in the eyes of the law.  
  • Extend a consultation exercise to keep things lawful if you have not met the equality duty 
  • Involve people from each characteristic group and include service users. These people should be involved to advise the experts based on their knowledge and lived experiences.  

References The Consultation Institute (2020) Practical Equalities Course [webinar] 26th November 2020 

People dislike being asked the same questions over and over. Linking with others within the same organisation or local partners can help coordinate engagement and avoid duplication. It also prevents engagement fatigue within our communities and reduces the possibility of the same people being asked the same questions. Partners who are working on similar issues, or towards shared outcomes may want to work together at events or during projects. This potentially puts more feet on the ground and increasing the engagement resource like this can increase the depth and breadth of the conversations and reach.   

It is advisable to speak to local partner organisations and those working in and with the communities which are the focus of your work. They will be able to inform about ongoing and upcoming engagement activity, or community events that may be of interest. 

Engagement Network and Information 

A public, voluntary and community sector Engagement Network group meets in NEL about six times a year with representatives from different organisations discussing plans, activities, issues, and support. This group includes organisations who may be your key stakeholders, including Humberside Police, Victim Support and Humberside Fire and Rescue. The network also manages an engagement calendar which is a place for organisations to share their planned activity. 

For information about access to the engagement calendar, to attend the Engagement Network or advice about linking up with other local organisations, you can email 

Your project group should involve project delivery managers, subject matter experts and representatives from the services who are leading or will be impacted by the change. Depending on the nature of the project, it also helpful to involve community members and representatives. If you are trying to reach a particular community or target group, you should try and involve representatives from these groups. Contact details for many NEL groups and individuals are held by partnership and VCSE support organisations and engagement officers will be happy to offer advice and help you connect to the right people. The Simply Connect website is also a great tool for finding local organisations and groups. Simply Connect North East Lincs – connecting you to your local community 

Understanding the influence and interest people have and how they will be impacted by your project will enable you to plan your activity, communications, and treat each group or individual to the best advantage.   

Identify your stakeholders 

An early workshop with your project group may help you to agree on your key stakeholders and activities required. This session should involve open and honest debate between all members who have knowledge and understanding of how different groups could be affected or influence decisions or solutions. Members of this session should know who the stakeholders are and what their hopes and fears may be in relation to subject matter and solutions. The following six questions may help:  

  1. Who will be directly impacted by this decision?  
  1. Who will be indirectly impacted?  
  1. Who is potentially impacted?  
  1. Whose help is needed to make the decision feasible? 
  1. Who knows about the subject?  
  1. Who will have an interest?  

Source: The Consultation Institute (2018)                                                                                                                                                 

Mapping stakeholders on a matrix  

If the project scope is controversial or a major change to or development of a new service, it may be helpful to map out your stakeholders by using an influence and interest matrix. This can be done visually (agreed by consensus) or by numerical scoring.  

You can ask more questions about each stakeholder’s interest and influence to be confident that stakeholder’s have been accurately placed on the matrix. The Consultation Institute (2018) recommend the following tests:  

  • Interest Proximity – How close is the issue to the main purpose/ role of the stakeholder? 
  • Influence (status) – Is the stakeholder a subject matter expert? Has the stakeholder successfully persuaded decision makers to alter their position or decisions in the past.  

It is important to remember that stakeholder mapping is like a risk assessment, and it is best that it is monitored regularly as different stakeholder’s interest/ stake can change throughout the course of the process or project. Continuously ask yourself if you can be confident that you have catered for the variety of stakeholders.

For more information on stakeholders, visit the talking section of the toolkit.

Page last updated: 06 Oct 2023