As implementation nears its eighth month, and states begin to tackle many important decisions, engaging stakeholders becomes critical. I had a chance to interview Lorez Meinhold, Colorado’s Director of Health Reform Implementation, who is in the midst of meetings with stakeholders in nine Colorado locations. She shared this top 10 list for engaging stakeholders.
- Involve a professional facilitator. A professional facilitator can set ground rules for the meeting, manage the discussion, and focus on the fair exchange of information.
- Create background information so everyone starts from the same place. Keep the background information brief and clear. Colorado’s rule of thumb was “under four pages.” Colorado began by using existing materials, and then developed a series of policy briefs:Exchange Influence on Private Market, Consumer Experience, and Governance Options and Considerations.
- Develop specific questions you want stakeholders to focus on at each meeting.Colorado used the first meeting to ask what the goals should be for the five subsequent meetings and then focused each meeting on a key question: (1) What is the goal for the exchange? (2) How should an exchange influence the insurance market? (3) How can the state help consumers and small businesses compare and purchase insurance? (4) How does the exchange support transparency and value? and (5) What is the best governance and sustainability plan?
- Don’t let the discussion be driven by who is in the room or who is the loudest. It is important to keep an awareness of who is attending, participating, and that different perspectives are valued. A facilitator can help with this.
- Be clear about the role of partners. Colorado collaborated closely with consumer groups to plan the meetings. In the future, they will also find a key role for business.
- Consider your audience when developing your engagement process. The state’s process should be accessible both logistically and conceptually to the goal audience. This includes evening meetings for citizens, day time meetings for health sector professionals, and different levels of explanation and styles of communicating for different audiences.
- Create a record of stakeholder input that future decisions can draw upon. Colorado is drafting and publicly posting a record of all discussions for the legislature and future decisionmakers to rely upon. This is particularly important given the governor and legislature turnover this year.
- Be transparent throughout. States should be transparent about the process, levels of involvement, and how stakeholders will be able to engage going forward. Builds the trust necessary to move forward with implementation efforts.
- Timing is key. Don’t begin a discussion about legislation right as the legislature is going out of session.
- Keep it up. Stakeholder engagement is not just important in the formative stages. It needs to continue throughout implementation. As Colorado begins to make decisions and prepares to role out changes, they want a feedback and input loop.
We hope these tips are helpful to other states as they refine their stakeholder engagement strategies.