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Tackling Inequality Lab update: Involvement and engagement speaker session

Discover Jamie and Farhana’s top tips on community involvement and engagement with health services.

Written by Rachel Abbott | 30th of June | Reading time: 10 minutes


For our most recent speaker session, we were joined by our fellow Diabetes UK colleagues, Jamie Bedford-Low (Senior Innovation and Development Manager) and Farhana Darwich (Senior Engaging Communities Officer) Their experience, achievements, and wealth of knowledge across the charity and healthcare sectors made them ideal guests for our Lab cohort, who are continuously seeking ways to improve community involvement and engagement within their health services.

For this 1-hour session, Jamie and Farhana shared with our Lab teams their top tips and favourite frameworks to use when designing services and engaging communities.

Innovation and Involvement 

Using his knowledge of service design, working with clients, and innovation processes, Jamie has highlighted the following 3 areas of insight: 

  1. Understanding the importance of the customer lens 
  2. How to use insight and feedback 
  3. What happens at the end of a project? Do you scale up or hand over?


Customer lens

  • You always want to bring the community into your work and design your processes relevant to their experiences. Journey maps help identify people’s touchpoints and pain points with a service or product. It pushes us to consider how the individual may be feeling at each point, what they might be thinking about and what actions they’re likely to take. Knowing this can help you decide where you can introduce your work to create an impact. You can also use journey maps to think about how your work will affect your partners and other healthcare professionals- remember your stakeholders are customers too.
  • If you identify an area where someone is likely to be scared, can you include the role of friends and family in some way?
  • Meet people where they are. If they use social media or attend the local park, or if there’s a local restaurant that’s visited by a lot of your population, use these slightly unconventional ways to tap into communities and be part of their daily lives.  

Insight and feedback

  • The best way to achieve buy-in for your work is to win over both hearts and minds. Use quotes, sound bites, and short videos of people who’ve taken part in your work to help bring your data to life.
  • If your insights reveal you may not be reaching your target community or that your work isn’t succeeding, there’s no shame in pivoting, tweaking or even scrapping the work and starting over. Don’t ignore your insights.

What happens after prototyping?

  • Scaling up on paper is easy, but in real life it’s messy- people, processes and systems all add to the complexity. Try to never lose your original insight. If your process was designed specifically for face-to-face, don’t move it online to save costs as you may exclude the people you are trying to reach.  
  • Consider how your process will continue to fit naturally in with your stakeholder’s day-to-day processes. Is it something you can tag onto an existing system, or have as a part of a consultation process? How will your work add more value to the existing system? 
  • Share your work in a completely new space! Make sure your work isn’t lost as soon as your project ends. Share your resources with other charities and organisations within the health space- people will be very happy to receive and share in kind.  

Innovation and Engagement 

Farhana used her years of experience being both on the frontline and managing those on the frontline to identify her 4 key areas to remember when engaging communities: 

  1. Confidence 
  2. Capacity 
  3. Community engagement 
  4. Co-creation and Co-production 


  • The best way to grow confidence in engagement is to go out and talk to people. Talk to them informally, with respect and in their community- not from behind your desk- so you can build their trust.


  • Consider how much capacity you’re able to commit to this work. Building confidence, trust, and relationships across communities, with stakeholders and key organisations takes time and can’t be rushed 
  • Engagement is a continuous process and will require a consistent level of capacity. You won’t be able to view this as a one-off tick box.  

Community engagement 

  • If you want to reach particular people, consider making links with organisations rather than solely individuals. You’ll open a network of people.  
  • Ask yourself the difficult questions. Do you honestly feel that you know the key organisations and stakeholders within your community? Or have you developed relationships with whoever was easiest?  
  • If you have good relations, are they strong enough to be used in a way that can be helpful to yourself and your work?  
  • Once you’ve created these relationships, strike while the iron is hot. Buy-in doesn’t last forever, so be sure to keep them engaged and interested. 
  • Can you incorporate the use of community champions in your work? These are trusted people from the community that you can train to continue your work once you’re gone, increasing the longevity of the work.  

Co-creation and co-production 

  • Once you’ve built connections, this is the opportunity to work with people from the community. Challenge your assumptions. You may well produce something quite different than you originally thought.  


What happens next?

Our next Lab session will be dedicated to our teams showcasing their work from the last 6 months. We’re expecting to hear about the processes they took, their learnings, and discover their barriers. As always, we’ll keep you updated here on our blog.

If there’s anything you’d like to find out more about, or if you’d just like to share some comments, please send us an email at

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