This Handbook offers a structured and logical way to work through the task of designing and planning any engagement process. It is aimed at citizens, community or public engagement practitioners, elected or government representatives, and other sponsoring organisations or stakeholders. 


This Handbook seeks to deepen people’s skills in designing and planning effective public engagement processes, by providing a structured four-stage framework for tackling the task.

Four circles overlapping. The first is pink, has the label Strategic stage and overlaps the second circle; the second is purple, has the label Requirements stage and overlaps the preceding and following one; the third is turquoise, has the label Design Stage and and overlaps the preceding and following one; the last is orange, has the label Planning stage and overlaps the preceding circle.The framework is a structured and logical way to work through the task of designing and planning any engagement process. It involves four overlapping stages, each with a specific task which feeds into the next. By addressing each stage in turn and clearly articulating the reasons for each decision, the framework should help people develop engagement processes that work for everyone and deepen reflective practice.

A crucial message of this Handbook is to make time to think strategically about the context and goals of an engagement before doing the necessary planning work.  This staged approach encourages practitioners to think strategically about what ‘requirements’ the engagement process must meet, and to draw up an overall ‘process design’, before elaborating a detailed process plan.

Stage 1: Strategic stage

Public engagement processes can involve a diverse range of possible goals, participants, settings and duration. The task in this first stage is to map strategic considerations for a particular engagement process. The point is to identify anything that might have a bearing on the goals of the engagement process and any other ‘requirements’ the process needs to meet. This task can involve securing commitment and support from key participants and decision-makers.

Stage 2: Requirements

The task of this stage is to identify and agree on what ‘requirements’ an engagement process must meet if it is to be fit for purpose. Also to agree the arrangements concerning time/place and recruitment. The goals and facilitation challenges identified will be guiding principles through the process design and planning work.

Stage 3: Design

The task of this stage is to develop a process design – namely, a progression of steps, each defined by a mini-objective, that can take participants from where they are to where they and the initiators of the public engagement process want to be. Because the process design details what needs to be achieved at each step, it provides an excellent template for process planning.

Stage 4: Planning

The task of this final stage is to elaborate a fully detailed plan for how each step in the process design will happen. A good process plan is a workable set of instructions for how to conduct an engagement process. It must be capable of meeting all of the requirements and attend to each mini-objective in the process design. This is an iterative task.

There is also an section on evaluation of your process

Download the report

The Handbook is available to download from the Policy Scotland website.

Its is also available in print; please contact Policy Scotland for copies and information on related training.

More details

To cite this publication: Faulkner, W. & Bynner, C. (2020) How to Design and Plan Public Engagement Processes: A Handbook, Glasgow: What Works Scotland.

Related resources

More What Works Scotland resources about community engagement