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Back to School!

Back to school shout the news headlines, as children in England prepare to start a new Autumn term. But if our experience is anything to go by, many teachers and school leaders have been working throughout August.  Red Potato have been working with secondary (high) schools in Hertfordshire on a follow up to the East and North Herts NHS AGM and also the next Welwyn Hatfield Dragons Apprentice Challenge -more on both these initiatives in the next few weeks.

This post is about a school consultation we conducted with Presdales School.  We undertook a survey of staff at the Secondary School in Hertfordshire on behalf of the school Governors.  The survey consisted of online and paper based questionnaires which were completed by members of staff.  We worked with the school to make sure the questions followed a natural sequence and were not open to misinterpretation.  We were pleased to have secured a near 100% response rate.  Following the survey we produced Executive level reports which the school has used to inform future business strategy.

Here is what the School Governors said about this project:

“We liked the way in which Red Potato worked with us to make sure we achieved our aims and objectives. Red Potato worked with us to ensure the survey and consultation effectively contributed to the overall business strategy”.

We’d like to thank all the teachers, staff and school leadership teams who have worked with Red Potato during this summer and we wish you all good luck with next term!


Welwyn Hatfield Alliance

Welwyn Hatfield

The Welwyn Hatfield Alliance (LSP) is based in Hertfordshire, England.  Members of the Alliance include key public sector organisations, businesses, community groups and voluntary groups who have a shared vision: to improve the quality of life for all in Welwyn Hatfield.

Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council has a key role in economic development and supporting the Welwyn Hatfield Alliance.  The focus of the council is to provide strong community leadership.   This includes helping local people to compete for local jobs and supporting local business at a time when demand for services has increased and budgets are under pressure.

Welwyn Hatfield Council selected Red Potato to develop a 12 month work programme which would attract the involvement of local partners such as Colleges, Housing Trusts, DWP and the LEP. Red Potato project managed the work programme, including coordinating partnership work, communicating progress and demonstrating long term outcomes.

“Red Potato enabled the work programme to happen; by ensuring we stuck to our original vision, building strong relationships with the partners, and communicating with clarity”
Chris Conway Director of Strategy and Development, Welwyn Hatfield Council

Herts Action on Disability (HAD)

 HAD is a charity which helps older and disabled people to lead an independent life. HAD Occupational Therapists work closely with clients to diagnose mobility issues. Disabled and older people can attend the HAD Chair Clinic to assess their mobility.HAD wanted to promote the Chair Clinic to a wider audience and chose Red Potato to produce a video to show how the service helps people. Red Potato were chosen by HAD because of their track record in partnership working, understanding of the HAD objectives and flexibility.
“Red Potato worked in partnership with HAD to produce a video to promote our chair clinic service and has helped us with market research to support our social enterprise ambitions. We were pleased with the way Red Potato worked with HAD to help deliver our community engagement and partnership objectives” Annabelle Waterford, Chief Executive HAD
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Why I don’t like “Focus Groups”

Well the original idea was a good one, but I think the phrase “focus group” has become debased such that sometimes it can be code for getting a group of people together to legitimise a decision  – policy based evidence.

Effective engagement takes time, needs to be authentic and use different methods to attract different views.    Think again about “Hard to Reach”.   How well represented are white men, aged between 30 and 50 who are in work in consultation meetings, how do make your services relevant to a single working mother juggling work, school and home?   Not easy questions, but authentic engagement is not a quick fix either.

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The reason for consultation

The Consultation Institute provides a useful glossary entry on “consultation”

It says consultation is “The dynamic process of dialogue between individuals or groups, based upon a genuine exchange of views and with the objective of influencing decisions, policies or programmes of action”  

The quote says “genuine exchange”  – how often have we been involved in consultation where there has been a “genuine exchange”.    One area where we could improve the relationship with local residents is by making that extra effort to go back and inform local people about the results of the consultation.   This goes beyond a “you said, we did” press release; it requires time and patience, but the benefit is that local people will feel their voice is being heard.