One key agreement for an engagement plan is a “no surprises” policy, whereby all partners have an opportunity to review a report before it is released to the broader public. Partners need time to give and receive feedback on findings, and to craft thoughtful responses to questions and concerns that may arise upon release of research findings, particularly when findings are unexpected or nuanced.
Partnerships should also maximize opportunities to meet in-person. Often, the most effective and fruitful discussions involve informal, but frequent, exchanges. Top administrators, especially, might also be engaged through informal discussions that allow the space to engage findings and consider implications candidly before they become public. “Some of the most important communications were ones in which I picked up the phone and just talked through what we were finding,” observed one researcher.
Other internal structures such as standing workgroups provide an effective platform for communication and engagement. They are ready to hear findings with a particular lens of understanding, and are well-positioned to know what those findings mean for the system. They can be among the most influential champions of the work. Consider what kinds of information can help partners make the decisions most relevant to their work, including data and research findings that are not in their final, polished form.