Regulatory guidance – User engagement

21 January 2020
Last updated:
11 April 2022

How to approach user engagement

The goal is to engage effectively by:

Proactively involving users in the development and improvement of the statistics

Be proactive in involving users and other stakeholders by seeking their views rather than waiting for those with an interest in the statistics to come forward. Look to anticipate how their needs are likely to evolve over time. Explore a range of ways of involving users in the production and development of their statistics. This can help ensure you hear from a mix of voices. Otherwise, there is a risk that certain voices dominate and that the feedback collected does not reflect wider user needs. Consider how you might target different user groups – communications routes to reach expert and non-expert users may be different, so tailor your communications and engagement to different audiences.

Listen to the suggestions from users about how to engage – they can steer you to the preferred means for providing their input. Map or understand the range of users you engage with and identify possible gaps. Review the range of users you connect with and keep challenging to broaden your contacts. Consider who might have a potential interest in your statistics and look out for new uses of your statistics.

Being flexible in ways of engaging and proportionate in investing resource

A proportionate approach to understanding use, based on the public profile of and interest in the statistics, may be needed. Not all sets of statistics, particularly those with a specialist audience, have a large or meaningful broader user base to access. You can show your understanding of use by regularly publishing information about the types of users and uses of the statistics. You may need to balance the needs of different types of users – being open about the trade-offs and the rationale behind them is essential. It may be the case that you cannot satisfy some users’ needs immediately but can put in place a programme of development to deliver the improvements. A strategy for improvement can ensure that resources are used effectively, as well as help make clear your commitment to deliver statistics that meet users.

Being open and transparent in all aspects of engagement

It is important to be open and transparent in your engagement approach. Be open to hear about the issues of concern – don’t presume to know the areas of greatest concern to users. Consider the broader social, economic and political contexts for the statistics. Allow users to plan or volunteer for engagement opportunities. Be open to challenge, be aware of your own potential unconscious bias. Often producer teams are good at telling users about changes to the statistics after they have happened but may be less forthcoming about upcoming developments to the statistics – instead, anticipate the need to alert and inform users and if possible think about how they can be involved in the changes.

Being transparent about the outcomes of individual user engagement activities, and making it clear publicly how and when you have taken on board feedback, can mean that users can see the impact of their contributions and understand the rationale for your decisions. Be open where user needs cannot be met, by giving feedback about the reasons for the decisions made and the constraints. Publish the findings and actions from user surveys, even if feedback is gathered on ongoing basis.

Working together and joining up user engagement activities wherever possible

Where possible work with other teams to engage with users and share learning and insight. This may reduce the burden on individual producer teams and maximise the impact of user engagement. It is helpful to regularly review the outcome and effectiveness of user engagement activities, to ensure that user engagement is, and continues to, support the value and quality of all statistical outputs. Where necessary, adjust your approach to engagement to allow you to better promote your statistics and capture the views of a range of users as you develop your statistics.

It can also be invaluable to have specialist user researchers involved in leading engagement activities and gathering evidence about information needs and gaps. Find out about and get involved in public engagement activities in other parts of your organisation and collaborate with other statistics producers who share similar users and stakeholders. Build relationships and connections across functions in your organisation, with policy makers, operational staff and other analysts – they will also be gathering insight from stakeholders. Your combined efforts will be more productive and fruitful as you learn from each other.

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