UCL Psychology and Language Sciences


Advancing agendas: A grounded Theory of Engagement with Interagency Meetings


Therapist researchersJanet Wood (Developmental Science, University College London)

The aims of this research were to identify the main concern of public sector managers attending interagency meetings and to develop a theoretical framework that can account for the way in which they process this concern. Grounded theory methodology was used and the data consisted of video recorded observations of meetings and interviews with meeting participants. The research indicated that the main concern of managers attending interagency meetings is to achieve the maximum personal value from engagement with the meetings. Participants process the main concern of achieving maximum personal value by 'advancing agendas'. Advancing agendas, the core variable from this data, is a basic social process with four stages: agenda setting, strategy planning, engaging and evaluating. Agenda setting is the stage in which group members consider what they want to achieve from their engagement with the meetings, thereby setting a personal agenda. This is followed by the stage of strategy planning, in which they decide how to go about advancing their agenda. Then, during the meetings themselves, group members play out their strategies, by engaging in the meetings in a range of different ways. Throughout this process, members are continually evaluating the outcome of their actions and, in light of this evaluation, they may re-set their agendas, re-plan their strategies and adapt the manner of their engagement. At the same time, the actions of each person constantly interacts with those of others, resulting in an ever changing environment that further fuels the need to evaluate outcomes and to adapt agendas, plans and actions. The grounded theory of advancing agendas provides a framework that can be used by those who are organising or chairing interagency meetings, to ensure that they achieve the desired outcomes. Specifically, it can be used to understand the impact of people's differing motivations for attending meetings, to recognise situations in which group members' personal agendas conflict with the intended function of the meetings, and to identify ways of enabling full participation and engagement.