As a member of staff you may encounter competing priorities within your workload. These are always challenging but must be balanced with the needs of the people taking part in your influence and participation activities. It's helpful to create a timeline including all the known work and hard deadlines you are committed to. Underneath this include your influence activities and the tasks you will need to do to ensure these take place in a timely and organised manner. If you notice conflicting deadlines or bottlenecks in the tasks you need to complete talk to your team and/or line manager to see how things can be more evenly spread across the year. An annual plan allows you to be even more specific with the details of tasks including setting targets, deadlines and allocating responsibilities.
It's important you give yourself enough time to plan and carry out your activities, including giving feedback, and reduce the risk of conflicting priorities as much as possible. If this does become an issue think about who could help you, a person who has used your services and taken part in many influencing activities may like the opportunity to help you and take the pressure off.
"My role description really helped make it clear what I was expected to do, as well as what I could expect from the organisation. I felt I was being taken seriously this gave me the confidence I needed to take part."
When you ask people to take part in an activity, some might want to get involved in the hope that you will address their individual concerns, and that as a result of their participation, services can be shaped to cater for their specific issues.
It's easy to understand why that might be a motivation for someone to participate, especially if their needs aren't being met. But, the burden of expectation can be tough to manage, particularly when lots of people think their priorities are more important than those of other people.
Again, it helps to be explicit from the start, setting out in advance what participants can reasonably expect to happen. Having this in writing can be very helpful, if you encounter this challenge you will have something to refer to that can help move the conversation on. It can also be helpful to signpost people onto a relevant member of staff or service that is equipped to deal with the issue.
It can be useful for both sides if you put in place an agreement or terms of reference at the very beginning, to pre-empt a variety of issues. Ideally, you should ask everyone involved in the process to sign or acknowledge an agreement and its terms and conditions; you can refer back to it at any point, should things become challenging.
The process should, of course, be a two-way one. For that reason, it's good practice to have a group agreement, role description and your organisations commitment made clear in an influence and participation policy. Documents specific to the role or opportunity can set out how and why you are asking for people's time and experience and what they can expect in return, this promotes mutual respect and understanding.