What are the key traits of successful consumer representatives?

Advocacy experience and common goals are just the beginning

AF4Q Alliances rely on consumer representatives to speak on behalf of patients and families to ensure their needs are met. Their role at the multi-stakeholder table requires knowledge, networks, time, and passion.
 
We’ve found that consumer representatives who are successful in working with a group of disparate stakeholders to stimulate change in health care share key traits:
 
1. Experience advocating the patient viewpoint; 
2. Background in or understanding of the health care system;
3. Communication and storytelling skills;
4. Experience working in multi-stakeholder groups; and
5. Baseline knowledge of the technical components of health care quality.
 
Of course, not every representative possesses all of these competencies. While you can develop traits over time, the most important one is commitment to the Alliance’s mission.
 
Successful representatives help ensure Alliances achieve “meaningful consumer engagement” through a set of practices designed to involve consumers in all aspects of a project’s design, governance, implementation, and evaluation. 
 
Below are some key practices successful consumer representatives employ:
 
1. Sharing their expertise;
2. Asking how decisions are made;
3. Knowing how to summarize the Alliance’s work and mission to an outside audience;
4. Following through on commitments;
5. Doing their homework—learning about health care quality from reputable sources, including the Alliance;
6. Speaking up;
7. Asking questions;
8. Asking for more (or less) responsibility;
9. Spreading the word about Alliance work;
10. Knowing when to retire from the Alliance.