Author: Kate Sonpal, Senior Public Involvement Manager, INVOLVE

The start of the year is known for new beginnings and promises.  However, these are often made in the post-Christmas haze and many do not last until the end of (dry) January.  Nevertheless, we hope that the INVOLVE pledge campaign will be different! At the INVOLVE conference in November 2017 the pledge challenge was launched.  Director of INVOLVE Zoë Gray asked all delegates to make a public involvement pledge in partnership with Patient Focused Medicine Development (PFMD).  Louise Wood, Director of Science, Research and Evidence at the Department of Health launched the campaign by publically making her pledges during the opening plenary session:

Commitment to hear from lay member(s) in two of our all-staff meetings a year.

Lay member to join meeting of each Deputy Director’s team each year.

Inspired by what they had heard at, or read about, the conference the pledges began to fly in from researchers, members of the public and public involvement leads from around the world.  A hiatus followed after Christmas, but motivated by a brand new year of possibilities, and perhaps the odd tweet from INVOLVE, the pledges increased.  We were particularly pleased to see an institutional pledge made by the Cicely Saunders Institute.  Individual pledges are fantastic, but to see an organisation embrace public involvement and thread it throughout its culture is amazing, as public involvement is everyone’s business.

At the time of writing, 237 pledges have been made.  However, we want more!  It takes less than five minutes to pledge.  Pledge when waiting for the kettle to boil, or when the train is late.  Pledge while waiting for your favourite programme to start, or when early for a meeting.  All we want you to do is pledge!

In six months INVOLVE will contact you to ask you about progress with your pledge.  If you haven’t managed to achieve what you set out to, don’t worry!  We are interested in what might have stopped you and what can be done to help. Is it a lack of support?  Is it that you require some training?  Of course this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try and accomplish it…

You may be thinking what difference will my pledge make?  It will make a difference to patients, carers and other members of the public; to researchers, clinicians and charities; and to public involvement leads and their teams.  And the more pledges the more of a difference we can make!  Imagine a world where public involvement is the norm and not an added extra.   This is not some unreachable utopia.  The power is in our hands.  As the inspirational Malala Yousafzai once said:

Do not wait for someone to come and speak for you.  It is you who can change the world.