In 2012 Amazon launched a new venture with our long-standing collaborators Public Service Works and Tap Arts Project. After working together on creative participation projects across the country for many years, we felt it was time to make things more official and give ourselves a proper name!

Last year The Participation Agency ran a series of inspirational events designed to help senior professionals gain a new perspective on their work. The Flourish2013 sessions proved so popular that we’ve already re-run one of the three sessions, and we plan to repeat the series, as well as creating new sessions in 2014.

In the course of our work helping organisations tap into the power and influence of their communities, we’ve become increasingly aware of the abstract and shape-shifting nature of the term ‘engagement’ – a term that has become engrained into the strategies and plans of many different departments, including communications, volunteer management, HR, service and business development, chief executive offices and boards of trustees.

Many funders, be they Government departments, trusts, foundations or philanthropic individuals, now expect to see evidence of meaningful engagement as part of their growing list of requirements. Partnerships can, we know, stand or fall on the rules of engagement that are drawn up. And successful service adaptations rely on the insight drawn from those that use the services themselves. But how long can we all work without agreed definitions of what we’re doing, and coherent ideas about the best methods to achieve our goals? Are we missing out on opportunities to share good examples and to learn from others, because we’re all labelling what we do in different ways?

At The Participation Agency we want to raise the level of debate about what it takes to successfully involve people – staff, users, communities and other stakeholders – in decisions, plans and solutions. So over the coming weeks we will be researching how organisations are using engagement, to what ends, and with what success, as well as finding out how the term is used and understood alongside some of the other buzz-words increasingly relied upon.

We look forward to sharing the results of this work, which takes the form of both a quantitative survey and qualitative interviews, later in the year. If you would like to contribute, we’d love to hear your views – you can complete the online survey here, or contact for more information. Please also pass these details on to anyone else you think might be interested.