Health Service Co-Design


Start-up workshops

Start-up workshops involve gathering a wide variety of people together in one place to discuss different points of view about issues, learn together and make decisions about next steps.

Why use it

Start-up workshops help you develop relationships with a variety of stakeholders and reach a common understanding about the way forward.

When to use it

Use this tool during the early stages of your work to help you to make key decisions abut your service improvement project.

1. Identify your key people

  • Identify the owners of the project and the key decision-makers
  • Identify the people and groups who have a stake in the results of the work
  • Identify who else needs to be informed of the project and its results
  • Review your lists and decide who should be invited to the workshop. Get a second opinion on whether the invitation list covers everybody. Make a separate list of those who do not need to attend but should be informed of progress.

2. Develop a workshop agenda

Key discussion items should include:

  • The need for the project.
  • The need for stakeholder input, both in managing the service improvement work and in developing improvements.
  • The major concerns stakeholders already have about existing services, with any initial suggestions for improvements.
  • A proposed (draft) work plan, including stakeholder involvement.
  • Any proposed methods, including patient and staff involvement.
  • Decisions needed by the end of the workshop.
  • Any questions stakeholders need to discuss.

3. Invite attendees

Invite people to attend the workshop and send them an agenda. Make arrangements for the venue, transport, refreshments and any other needs.

4. Hold the workshop

Key discussion items should include:

  • Start with a welcome and a brief round of introductions. Emphasise that everything said in the workshop remains confidential and reporting will focus on agreed improvements only
  • Prepare to present agenda items 1-2 and 4-5 in a very brief (bullet points if written) draft form
  • If there are more than eight attendees discuss agenda items 3, 6 and 7 in sub-groups and then report back. Be prepared to develop a master list of comments on these topics
  • Move through the agenda, providing five-minute breaks every 45 minutes or so to avoid fatigue
  • At the end of the workshop, thank attendees and arrange for a brief draft report to be sent out for final comments. If appropriate, commit to the next stage of the project at this time and outline any likely steps.

5. Circulate and finalise the report as appropriate.

You can use the workshop summary template below to assist you.

6. Stakeholder updates

Update stakeholders on progress regularly and hold further workshops to work together on shared concerns, ideas and decision-making as required.

Workshop summary template


  • Allow at least two hours for this workshop.
  • Appoint an experienced facilitator and develop a flexible plan for the workshop.
  • Have a staff member available at the workshop that can support patients who may get upset. Introduce this person at the beginning of the workshop.
  • Ensure all attendees feel free to share concerns and ideas throughout the workshop. Remind people all comments are made in confidence and should not be reported outside the workshop.
  • On balance, patients are more likely to be critical and service staff defensive/uncomfortable. Remind patients that discussing their concerns and ideas is vital to the workshop.
  • Remind staff the aim is to improve service processes for them as much as for patients. Prepare a way to involve the whole workshop in confirming any final decisions to end the workshop.

Example: Start-up workshop

The Breast Service at Waitemata DHB used a start-up workshop to begin their service improvement project. They invited managers, healthcare improvement team staff, doctors and nurses, patients and community support groups. They also invited executives from housing and banking sector organisations to give them a different and fresh perspective. They learned that a wide mix of stakeholders helps ensure a strong mandate for change overall and helps the project team develop a very practical and robust project.