By Simon Denegri, Chair of INVOLVE

Did you see the recent news item about the research study suggesting that the more meetings we attend, the lower our intelligence quotient (IQ) becomes? It doesn’t bode well, does it?

Modern life seems a never-ending train of meetings, planning and strategising. Worse still, I remember a former naval officer telling me that all strategies and plans go out the window as soon as the enemy turns up! ‘Best laid plans …’ as the saying goes.

But the point is, of course, that strategies and plans do many other things as well: guide, focus energies, make transparent, bring people together and give licence, rather than tell us what, to ‘do’.

As I mentioned in my last piece for the newsletter, the INVOLVE group has been busy shaping and agreeing a strategy for the next three years, beginning 1 April 2012. You can find it on our website here:

It’s a good document with a strong vision – ‘A dynamic partnership between the public, researchers and others, to advance NHS, public health and social care research and improve the health and well being of the population’ – and a bold ethos of challenging ourselves and those we work with, not simply to strengthen and improve public involvement, but actually ensure that it thrives. 

I don’t know about you but I am of the view that strategies should be living, flexible documents, not left to amass dust on a high shelf somewhere in an office. And I hope you can help us bring our strategy to life. Please do take a look and, in particular, consider our four new objectives and what they mean for you:

  • lead on public involvement across the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
  • build and share the evidence base
  • develop capacity and capability for public involvement in research
  • influence research policy and practice.

More than that: please also tell us how you think you can help us achieve these objectives. To continue the military reference above: even the best armies need constant reinforcements and re-supply to keep them advancing, fresh and unified.

Our partnership with you and other colleagues is going to play an important part in the way we take forward our strategy over the coming months. Indeed, I hope we can look at different ways in which to engage and bring with us old friends and new partners on key projects and activities. Our challenge to ourselves is to be transparent about the way we do things and open-minded to new ideas and approaches to how we do them.

One more thing: it is important for people to remember that, while INVOLVE may not be a delivery organisation in the sense of providing services, it has much that it can, indeed must, deliver: leadership, intellectual rigour, solutions to problems, advice as well as guidance and, of course, influence.

The more colleagues I talk to across the immediate public involvement community and beyond, the more excited I become about what we can achieve by working together to put our strategy into practice. 

I hope you agree that two minds are better than one.

Now, when shall we meet?