How do we measure and record community engagement?

Simon Phillips, Community Engagement Officer, West Yorkshire Police
How do we Measure & Record Community Engagement?

• Concept of transformational vs transactional leadership can be applied to policing – we need to move away from transactional culture of policing and policing training into a transformational style, focusing on interpersonal skills.

• What the public are saying – this should be based on measures or metrics formulated by the community – the number of knocking on doors, how many hours spent on the beat, or how many resident groups have been set up. GMP have a 10 week training programme, led by the community, which can feed into this.

• In GMP, calling cards/contract cards are handed out, which are completed by the community. GMP also survey around 80000 victims of crime per year, but also monitor complaints.

• How do we know something worked? Where can we find out that something worked?

• What is the activity (is it best practice? Is it what the community want) and what is the output from this?

• GMP train PCSOs on communication skills, and around 100 have been trained to date. This aims at rapport-building, saying no positively, and the power of language. “Be yourself”.

• Every 5 weeks, the front-line have a training day and have to listen to how they dealt with young people – young people themselves tell officers directly.

• Increasing confidence can lead to increased reporting initially as much as reduce demand in the longer-term. Colin, a PC who has done much to build links in the Cheetham Hill area of GMP, explained that there was a 27% reduction in crime from the year he didn’t engage to the year after he engaged.

• Working with May, a local member of the community, who “hated” the police previously, there has been an increase in Third Party Reporting Centres from 4 to 11. This was the result of education programmes led by the community to make the community aware of hate crime. May also gave an example of how the increased contact between community members meant that 2 families who were both doing work to educate the community on domestic violence were put in touch with one another.

• Colin’s view is that “You’ve got to go and see it”. Kids on local estates now wave at their local officers. Sir Peter Fahy previously visited and was met with shouting and distrust, but is now welcomed. If you say to a beat officer “Show me your beat” and they can’t, they’re not succeeding.

• In GMP, only 1 day in 8 weeks is spent on community engagement, which is why the 10 week course is so valuable.

• Colin also gave the example of officers conducting role plays in Piccadilly Gardens rather than Sedgeley Park. This meant that members of the public came up to them to ask what they were doing.

• There is a need to go back to old-style policing – now there can be an inconsistency in how one officer deals with a crime to another officer.

• A lot of guidance is encapsulated in GMP’s “Enhancing the Customer Experience: A Practical Guide”. Also see

• Don’t criminalise the kids – Colin gave an example of visiting a care home and not logging a crime unless absolutely necessary. They are in a care home for a reason of vulnerability. He would usually deal with the case through restorative justice.

• GMP have the Volunteer Police Cadets, but May would like to have something similar for 9-12 year olds “little bobbies”. It is so important to build links with schools at an early age. Cleveland Fire Service have an embedded firefighter. There is the argument that PCSOs should be in schools and Safer Schools Officer PCs should be on the streets.

• Colin and May gave the example of Christmas hampers being distributed by local officers and the Senior Leadership Team on Christmas Day. Feedback was extremely positive. Some people were crying! On one occasion, Sir Peter Fahy took part in a fashion show, dressed in a ‘onesie’!

• GMP work with an organisation called ‘Engage’, who work with young people. They bring a 40ft trailer each week to local estates.

Views from Digital Delegates

We sought feedback from two of our digital delegates, Cate Moore and Chief Inspector Simon Nelson. This post contains their perspectives on joining the conference virtually. If you were a digital delegate and would like to add your views please do comment, we find this feedback really helpful.

Chief Inspector Simon Nelson, Sussex Police (@CISimonNelson)
There were two reasons I joined into the conference virtually:
• I thought the subjects and speakers lined up would provoke interesting debates – often, the conferences and events I go to we are front loaded with briefings and they can feel quite predictable. You know you will be doing a lot of listening. This event felt like it genuinely opened issues up without a pre-set outcome. In addition, the sheer number of digital participants is something you don’t usually achieve with policing conferences and they created both breadth and depth to the subjects being discussed.
• I liked how you (@huxley06) and Susan (@mutualgain) engaged really early on with digital delegates and made us feel welcome. It was great to feel that we could have a say in setting the agenda and that we had people at the event who were bringing us into the room.
I would prefer to be there in person but with my current work obligations the time to be away from the office especially including the travel to Manchester it just would not have been possible so the virtual participation was a great compromise.

The best aspects of being a digital delegate were the freedom offered – I was able to dip in and out of the event but still able to deal with things arising at work and the event site was really easy to navigate either via the webcast and twitter stream next to it meaning I knew what was happening as I came back to it. The technology was intuitive and I found I could self-service as a digital delegate without support.

To an extent the police are comfortable with the non-conference style and digital tools ..but there could be more guidance, nationally, about what are acceptable platforms and boundaries for open debates in the public domain. Currently, there is a lack of clarity and this will affect level of candour and confidence with delegates. So when colleagues know what is acceptable and unacceptable these events will be even more useful in future.

The key outcome for me from the conversations at Policing Social Citizens was that there was a good opportunity for reflection through seeing how we do things from many different perspectives. A good example was the debate about corporate language around engagement. It’s easy to unconsciously to use this jargon as everyday language and makes you stop-check your normal behaviours. Language use is top down filtered…so if managers and the ACPO level are validating use of plain English it becomes part of culture. We need to think about addressing this or we will retain sustain a ‘professional barrier’.

In terms of the style and way the event was organised I observed that the level of engagement was high…and the consultative and democratic approach to the lead in and what should be on the agenda was very positive and important to achieving this result. Police have a traditional tendency to decide on agenda and launch it, so where appropriate I would use the techniques internally. One of the biggest challenges is increasing engagement with front officers so I believe we could ask the frontline officers to help us set the agenda for the conversations with senior leaders. I would like to try that technique in Sussex having seen it live.

My greatest dread was to get to the morning of the event and not be able to get involved because something came up which prevented me but I was able to, which was an excellent result!

Cate Moore, Active Citizen and former police officer (@cate_a_moore)

I joined as a digital delegate because I was unable to attend in person but didn’t want to miss more than was absolutely necessary.

It was very easy to join. The link worked well & the hash tag made Twitter comments easy to follow. (A thought – having ‘registered’ & given my email on the digital delegate gateway, an email with the links to the speeches or some such added extra may be nice in future.) The way you and a few others at the venue picked up comments online & ran with them meant that I felt I wasn’t having a secondary conversation, I was part of the primary conversation.

To make the virtual experience work, you need at least two, preferably more, delegates/staff at the venue constantly monitoring & responding to SM. They were the conduits that made it work. When I got that lovely unexpected shout out & wave, I really felt part of the event. It was lovely & spontaneous.

I learnt that I really want to attend next year! I still think I’d need to be there to really benefit but I do think I was able to contribute in some way which was very satisfying.

I liked the morning Tedx speeches and I was v interested in the discussion around ‘engagement’. I don’t know what conclusions were reached, tho I haven’t looked or asked yet.

Next steps – more of this kind of thing!

Getting Social Media via @jonsharvey

Originally posted at


Thursday, June 26, 2014
Getting social media…

Today was a good day: I have spent the time at the Policing Social Citizens conference in Manchester in the company of some old social media pals and some new ones. If you touch base with the hashtag: #psc14 you will get a feel for who is here and what we have been talking about. As always with events like this – a rich mix of fascinating people having even richer conversations!

As heralded, I ran one of the sessions today on: “How do you get people (involved in policing etc), who don’t get social media, to get it?” (And I added on the day… “who need to get it”)

We had a wide ranging discussion with me acting as ‘Faciliateur provocateur’… as it were. Here are some notes and reflections from the workshop:

The use (or not) of social media has to be about personal choice (although I later countered: would you employ someone who refused to use a telephone?) But I think we agreed, as the social demographics show, this is about a generational shift which will probably come along in time.

The key challenge question proposed was “what do you need to know about social media in order to be effective?” A question worth pondering on.

This led onto a discussion of how the police interacted with the public during 7/7 (apparently while the police were still issuing press statements about a ‘power surge’ someone had already uploaded a wikipedia page on the ‘London bombings’ with 30 minutes…) the 2011 riots and the Clutha helicopter crash. In simple terms, the importance of social media in such crises is becoming ever greater. We concluded that whilst some managers may well choose not to engage actively in social media, it is probably critical that they at least acknowledge their role in creating the milieu in which social media is deployed effectively.

The conversation then diverted into a wider analysis of how managing the use of social media is just another example of how managers need to lead the future. This branched into the value of scenario planning and organisations becoming more ‘intelligent’ as defined in Piagetian terms as ‘knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do’.
In other words, as was pointed out, strategic leaders have a ‘duty to understand’ all manner of things and social media is emphatically on that list. (Comparisons were made between police forces who were very active on social media during the August 2011 riots and those which struggled. Unproven perhaps but there is some anecdotal data to suggest that social media helped ‘keep the lid on’ in many places while its lack of deliberate use in other places, didn’t.)
Emma Daniel presented a model which argued that there are five main types of users on social media: creators, campaigners, connectors, curators and lurkers. Each group has a positive role to play online (which often connects to their work in the real world too) Each group has a part in triangulating the social media world and making it a navigable and accessible space.
And (in what as I say was a wide ranging conversation) we touched the role of social media as a social weather: a way of sensing how the world is & predicting how it might change (social media meteorology, as it were). Research in this area is just beginning but perhaps we can look forward to a time when news bulletins will end not only the FTSE index rises and falls but maybe also an indicator of community well being… (drawn from social media)?

A useful and stimulating debate. I look forward to more tomorrow… Please watch this space!

If not engagement, then what? via @jonsharvey

Originally posted at
Yesterday was also good day: I spent more time at the Policing Social Citizens conference (see previous post below) in Manchester in the company of an awesome mix of great people. We were told that just before John Grieve left, he had told one of the organisers that there was more intelligence and insight in the room than at a typical ACPO conference! A most charming man and his presentation was certainly one of the highlights of yesterday.

Challenged by Royston Martis (via twitter) to come up with a better word than ‘engagement’, I convened a workshop entitled “If we are not going to use the word engagement, what should we use and do?” This is a report of that workshop, ably helped by Sue Ritchie who kept flipchart notes. As you might expect, the conversation ranged quite widely!

I will begin with one police officer’s story who said he was once walking down the road on his patch and one his (dare we call him) ‘customers’ came up to him and said, with a wry grin “Are you engaging with me or reassuring me today?” Now we all know how the great unwashed British public have this irritating habit of raising an eyebrow (and sometimes more) to our carefully contrived words / concepts of the moment. And this doesn’t necessarily negate the value of some words. However in this particular instance, I think we may have to listen and reframe…

So what else was raised in the meeting. Here is in a fairly random order are some reflections on the discussion and points raised (with thanks to all who came along):

Is it essentially about a model where the police service is the vehicle, the public are in the driving seat and the gears that connect the driver to the engine and wheels is where the ‘engagement’ happens. In other words, are we really talking about is the public not only participating in but leading on the shape and direction of the public services?
So the public are anything but passive customers / consumers of public services, they are and should be the drivers.
But if we talking about ‘community engagement’, which community are we talking about. Or more correctly: which communities…
And moreover, do all these communities want to ‘engage’..? Is the role of the public services to pester the public for their judgments & opinions? Perhaps a greater focus on the future and the outcomes that the public want would be a better place to start.
Can an organisation which is poor at ‘engaging’ its own staff and listening to them ever really properly engage with the public?
Is engagement really just about listening and having good conversations… and then using the ideas / information / hopes / ambitions gleaned in shaping the direction of policing really all that it is about?
How come we even have to talk about engagement? Just how did we get to a point where the police service (like other services) is not delivering policing in ways that the public need and want?
Is what is being done at the moment working? If not (as we suspect so), what creative alternatives do we need use instead?
Why do I feel more connected to my postman than to almost any other public (?) service? Perhaps because I feel he knows me…
What are the barriers that get in the way to shaping and delivering public services that match what all communities need?

There was more of course. I have also uploaded a pdf file of the flipcharts produced by Sue. You can access them here. And if anyone wants to add their recollections and reflections, please do so below. Thanks.

Workshop on including excluded kids write up

Pitch: How do we include excluded kids?
What is exclusion?- School exclusion community exclusion
Outcomes: no self-esteem, no education, child sexual exploitation, offending behaviour, gang culture youth court

Discussion by participants
• Boundaries and control needed
• Neighbourhood beat officers on the streets, crisis intervention officers, help-line 24/7
• Troubled families agenda, complex dependency- negative wording is giving negative image to families
• Alternative curriculum needed and some alternatives out there e.g. Fire Service Cadet/Apprentice opportunities, school sited police officers
• How is a child referred to an alternative curriculum? How long are they outside the school system before they can access alternatives?
• What about children who don’t offend and are at home and forgotten about? How can they access alternative curriculum?
• Still room to pull projects together
• More police work needed in schools mentoring and coaching young people
• Measurement systems are flawed and outcome targets looking for short term wins. Insufficient longitudinal studies. PCC 4 year term is encouraging short termism.
• Could something be done around family trees and looking at families with a likely predisposition of exclusion poor family values and weak community structures?
• More need to collaborate and integrate services we are doing our best in silos.


To contact the pitcher and session facilitator –


Reflections on day one of conference

Today was day one of the Policing Social Citizens un-conference sponsored by Greater Manchester Police, Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service and the College of Policing. The event was co-produced by MutualGain, and Publici.

The event has been planned to examine the relationship between public services of (police and fire, but could be council and health) with the citizens that they serve. In order to achieve this a series of TEDx presentations were given and delegates were able to pitch for space to examine ideas or solve problems that they are facing in their own organisation. There was no shortage of pitches and plenty women pitching too 

Over 70 delegates in person attended the event and 300 viewed on line thank to the Publici contribution. This blog highlights some of the messages that emerged from the day that we picked up as we wandered around.

On the day that CoPACC published it’s thematic report on innovation, which MutualGain contributed to (we wrote about the place for disruption in innovation), the word disruption characterized the morning. It was mentioned in the presentations given by Gordon Scobbie and by Catherine Howe who brought the morning to a close identifying the challenges around the disruption phase of innovation.

Listening to and watching some of the people in the room it became apparent that those working in the field of innovation see disruption as a positive sign of change occurring and the indicators that innovation might be possible. But if the world of innovation thinking is not the world that you inhabit on a daily basis, perhaps as a front line police officer of fire fighter, then the word disruption may have negative or alternative connotations. If you use the word disruption positively (because you are excited about seeing the change) it is not always received that way. There is clearly room to improve and share what we mean by the word in this context to enable people to feel comfortable about the process of innovation and the place of disruption.

A second message related to the discussions that took place in a workshop led by Manchester Fire and Rescue Service. They were interested in exploring the challenge of engaging the community so that they might recruit a workforce that is reflective of the community. Greater Manchester Police was able to share a lot of their learning about how they have re-designed their recruitment process for PCSOs to enable greater take up at a neighbourhood level. This was a good example of learning from people outside of their organisation to challenge long standing and existing practice, and they found a shared inspiration speaker who they could use to help think about the process they undertake.

Professor Simon Holdaway was able to share his learning around the Black Police Association on this and gave a strong message that they should not see this as a ‘project’; it is a long term approach which requires the organisation to keep it’s ‘foot on the pedal.’ That message is the same in relation to broader community engagement – stop projects and pilots and keep your foot on the pedal to make progress. We must use what has already been done and the learning which has already been captured to help us innovate and create a new future.

The third message, relates to leadership and the challenge of ‘permitting’ people to have the time and space to engage, often on a one to one level. This was raised on a few occasions with police leaders challenging themselves and asking whether they would be brave enough to give people the requisite time, and remove them from the drive of hitting performance targets. The long term wins are obvious, reduced crime and reduced demand, as demonstrated by PC Colin Barnes. However, as a leader, charged with reducing such demand and answering to senior officers, this is a risk that requires the skills of a strong networked leader who is willing to ‘let go’ of the command and control version of leadership that emergency services are comfortable with, and to demonstrate a more mature style of leadership with a focus on engaging citizens.

All in all, a good day – looking forward to discussion about the face to face techniques tomorrow along with learning more in the organic pitch sessions.

Policing Under Pressure

Another one I did earlier!


Watching policing under pressure was so interesting I took a lot away from the BBC programme aired this week and I spotted a lot of twitter chatter on the programme. Cautious remarks from serving officers and leaders and anger from the public.

Typically, a lot of the anger on my fairly left leaning twitter stream was to blame the government for cuts for the situation that the cops and communities in the programme found themselves in. I, certainly, think to a degree that is fair. There does come a tipping point when service funding which is at least 80% staff is cut where the service just cannot reorganise to do the same for less and faces the choice between doing different or less or combining those options which I suspect is where many are at. Certainly my experience in the voluntary sector and working with councillors from all parties looking…

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Policing digital streets

One I did earlier!


This week as I looked forward to the start of the Policing Social Citizens conference in Manchester tomorrow (26th and 27th June) the BBC reported that nearly 1/2 of the crime that frontline cops are dealing with is online including abuse, threats and ASB. You can see the full story here at

As we have blurred social networks online and offline, feeling safe in both spaces feels important to us. Those of us with a reasonable experience of using social networks will appreciate when something is a genuine threat such as the Caroline Criado Perez incidents but can pretty much manage general anti- social behaviour using the the tools provided by the social networks themselves such as blocking or muting and reporting. The same as in physical streets, we use our experience to decide on keeping ourselves and others safe.

Quick list of the obvious stuff this throws up-

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Some early conference workshop pitches

This event blends traditional conferencing and unconference or open space techniques to ensure that this isn’t a passive experience where we waste the opportunity of bringing together creative and future facing leaders and practioners in the fire, police and engagement sectors to leave them languishing in powerpoint hell.

No, we are going to use the opportunity to hear from them and let them design the afternoon workshop conversations themselves. To find out more about how this works, I love these videos on explaining what an unconference is like from Shine conference:

And here is a nice guide to pitching at unconferences from Transparency Camp:


So far we have had these pitches, we expect more by the day and ideas to be stimulated by the wonderful TEDx speakers we have lined up on our agenda. You can start voting and commenting on them now …so ready, set, go!


To book on to this exciting and FREE event please click here.