Step 5: Do a reality check!

Effective engagement is based on first deciding ideally what you’d like to do, and then tailoring it to the resources you can muster to carry it out.

The danger of looking at resources first is that you may miss out some key elements which would make the activity more appropriate, innovative or effective. A reality check at this stage helps you to focus on what it is essential to do…

Why do this

  • Ensure that the activity you have planned will fulfill the aims you identified at the first step
  • Check if you need to modify the aims 
  • Plan out the time you have
  • Clarify what it is essential to carry out - bearing in mind aiming for good standards
  • Confirm the resources you have are enough to do the job 


  • Has the Essex Insight website been checked? 
  • How much time is there to carry out the whole process from setting it up to producing the report?
  • Will the public have enough time to respond adequately?
  • How much money is in the budget?
  • Are there any other sources of funding which could be used?
  • How many people are available to do the work?
  • Is there anyone from another team or organisation who can be involved?
  • Is there the extra capacity on top of existing workloads?
  • Can I work in partnership to reduce costs?
  • Is there anyone doing something similar I can work alongside with?
  • Does the expertise to do the work exist in-house, or will I need to buy in?
  • Are the methods used and the number of people involved appropriate to get the volume and type (qualitative/quantitative) of results required
  • If in-house, how am I going to analyse the results?


  • You can pilot a small sample first. Learn and improve as you go
  • If you decide to contract the work out, write a clear and comprehensive specification before you contact them 
  • Check if you have already approved companies to do the work
  • Check the Essex Framework Agreement 
  • The recommended time for the public engagement activity to be open to the public is 12 weeks, especially if voluntary and community groups are involved.

Tool: Tips on Writing Specifications



  • The public engagement activity is appropriate for and relevant to the aims set out
  • It gets to the right members of the public at the time and place most convenient for them 
  • It gets finished on time - especially if the information collected is needed for decision-making
  • The budget is adequate
  • You will feel a sense of accomplishment