Workshop best practice
- Establish a clear structure for the priority setting meeting and the ‘taking turns’ aspect of the feedback – this should help restrict any dominance of particular individuals.
- Agree ‘ways of working’ (ground rules) at the outset of the meeting (to include confidentiality, respect for different opinions, aspects of communication and use of jargon).
- Ensure everyone is aware of the nature of consensus decision making: it requires pragmatism and compromise.
- Provide biographical information about participants ahead of the meeting.
- Ensure that the items for prioritisation are accessibly worded, unambiguous and free from duplication.
- Ensure that all participants are familiar with the items to be discussed – offer them an opportunity to discuss these beforehand with JLA team members or relevant partners.
- Consider in advance how late arrivals to the workshop will be managed. It can be disruptive to the small groups if people arrive in the middle of discussions. While delays may be unavoidable, no participant should be invited who only plans to come for part of the day.
It is not unusual for participants to suggest merging questions. While some suggestions may make sense, it may also be seen as a means of creating more space in the Top 10 for more topics. This risks creating questions which are overly broad and non-specific. It should be noted that most questions in the list will have been a result of merging survey submissions already. However, suggestions for merging may also be made because participants can see a genuine duplication that the Steering Group has not previously noticed. The Steering Group should agree its position on merging and enable the facilitators to manage that discussion consistently.
Similarly, participants may want to suggest ways to reword the questions. The JLA does not object to this if the rewording does not alter the original meaning of the question and is agreed by all participants in the plenary session. It is up to the Steering Group to agree its position on this in advance, so the facilitators can maintain that throughout the meeting.
Finally, some participants may argue that questions are not unanswered, for example when there may be some evidence around specific aspects of the question. The Steering Group must ensure that the questions can all be defended as being broadly unanswered and/or contain some elements of uncertainty that research still needs to address.