Involvement. User voice. Inclusion. Feedback.

Whatever term they use, more and more charities see including stakeholders in decisions as the right way to work. A group of organisations, particularly in the criminal justice and health and social care subsectors, have been leading the way on good practice.

For our recent work in the criminal justice sector, we partnered with one of these charities, Revolving Doors Agency, to make sure our research reflected the views of those with lived experience of prisons. One of the clearest messages was how having people with lived experience involved in service delivery in the criminal justice system was one of a charity’s greatest assets. Those in prison hugely value the authentic perspectives they bring.

One woman in our focus group said:

If you’ve got somebody that’s (got) lived experience, they will come and look out for you…To me it’s like, a language thing as well. I can relate to you if you’ve done certain things that I’ve done.

Charities are hearing this message and are making efforts to involve people in different ways. This is undoubtedly a good thing. However, knowing it’s a good idea means that sometimes charities don’t ask what successful involvement would look like or what they’re trying to achieve in their own particular work. This can mean the end results are not as impactful as they could have been otherwise.

Next month, I will be speaking at Clink’s Involvement Practitioners Forum. I’ll be outlining some of the messages from our paper on impact in involvement: Make it count to some charities starting to think about involvement. For organisations who are beginning on this journey, there are four things we would recommend to keep in mind:

Be clear on purpose

Most importantly, you need to know what you are trying to achieve. This will allow you to focus your effort and achieve better results.

Be open and transparent.

Both with those you are involving, your staff and your peers. Agreeing your aims and processes with all involved is good practice, and being open about your results can help improve evidence in the future.

Monitor your progress and regularly review your approach.

Are you moving towards the aims you outlined at the start? How can this be improved? Best practice organisations will make sure that evaluation is conducted alongside those involved wherever possible.

Finally, you could come to our event Making user involvement work for everyone on the 23 March. Our speakers have a will be going through the strategies suggested here in more detail, and sharing their experiences making involvement work. They include:

• Paula Harriot from the Prison Reform Trust;
• Eve Jackson and Ciara Lawrence from Mencap;
• Rosie McLeod from NPC;
• And we are chaired by Bec Hanley—Facilitator at the Shared Learning Group on Involvement.

We will be discussing when and how to involve users in an ethical way, what approaches you can take and how to assess its effectiveness. You can sign up here.

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