Regulatory guidance – User engagement

21 January 2020
Last updated:
11 April 2022

Case studies and useful resources

Here are some examples of good practice highlighted in our review of Defra group’s approach to user engagement. You can find more case studies on user engagement on the online Code of Practice for Statistics. Further examples of good practice are given on the GSS user engagement web page.

Promoting and supporting use of statistics

The Natural England analytical team responsible for the People & Nature Survey for England has run several user workshops and a user conference to promote the statistics and get user input on the development of the statistics. These were attended by many users from inside and outside government. The events gave the team the opportunity to tell users directly about the latest published statistics, and it encouraged interaction between different types of users.

The team continues to update users and other stakeholders about the release of statistics and development of the survey through a regular newsletter. The team is also supporting use of the statistics in specific ways, for example, by running training sessions for Natural England staff. Most attendees are familiar with the statistics but have never done their own analysis of the raw data. The training session gives them the confidence to undertake their own analysis, which increases use and understanding of the data within the department.

Collecting user feedback on an ongoing basis

To gather user views on the content, format and release of Defra’s Food Statistics Pocketbook, the statistics team launched a short, continuous survey through Google Forms. Almost 100 people completed the survey over an 18-month period and the team continues to receive responses. The team said it was a helpful exercise as users confirmed they were happy with the changes to the format, and the team made additional improvements to the output based on the feedback.  

Defra’s air quality statistics team launched a similar continuous survey to gather views on the emissions of air pollutants statistics, and other teams told us they have also considered this approach. There are advantages to such surveys – they are easy to manage and less time-consuming for users to complete – although they may provide less insight about user needs than a detailed survey or meetings with users and stakeholders.

A strategic and joined-up approach to user engagement

Defra has published a User Engagement Policy Statement, which contains a clear summary of who its users are, what users want, and how it engages with users. The key objectives are “to ensure that our statistics are of value to our users, informing debate and having an impact on decision-making” and it includes a number of commitments that draw on the practices of the Code.

The statement acts as a reference point for both statistics teams (it provides guidance) and for users (it is a public statement of ambition). It was developed collaboratively by the Head of Profession support staff and Defra’s User Engagement Working Group, a central team that takes forward specific user engagement initiatives. Other government departments and bodies, such as Ofsted, Ofqual and NHS England (PDF), have produced similar statements or strategies.

Defra has an internal implementation plan for the policy, to ensure that teams are working towards a shared standard of engagement. It has several aims, including identifying and categorising the range of users and user groups, determining usage trends, and developing insight into user needs, and for each aim there are a number of actions and measures of success.

Here are some additional resources which may be useful when planning your user engagement strategy:

Useful resources

OSR review: User engagement in the Defra Group

OSR blog: Collaboration is key

Government Statistical Service (GSS) User engagement website – head here for updates on the new user engagement strategy for statistics and tips on a wide variety of ways of engaging users, including:

  • Brainstorm
  • Build user personas
  • Use what you already have
  • Web analytics
  • Social media
  • Newsletters
  • Consultations and surveys
  • User events
  • User groups
  • User research
  • Online forums

Join the conversation with other statisticians and analysts engaging users by using the Slack #userengagement channel. It is a great an opportunity to network, ask questions and share good practice with the GSS Best Practice and Impact team (BPI) and other analysts.

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