Involving users in shaping services and strategies is increasingly considered to be both the right and most effective way for the social sector and charities to work.
Today, a range of levels of participation, involvement and influencing are found across the social sector and beyond. But the varied motivations for involvement are often left implicit. Without a clear purpose, it is hard to be effective or to assess impact of the involvement work.
This paper argues for a greater focus in the social sector on what user involvement aims to achieve, and better efforts to evidence the difference it can make. It covers;
- The purposes of user involvement and the need for clarity.
- The terms used, and how to think about the spectrum of approaches.
- The biggest gaps in evidence, and why they happen.
- How we can go about building the evidence base, with examples of work from across the spectrum of approaches.
Any charities or funders will find a range ways to improve their practice and reflect on the work they are doing. Though most of the examples come from charities, funder examples are included and the principles are all applicable.
The paper is a call to arms to the sector to make sure that emergent involvement practices are shared, tools are developed and we keep a relentless focus on benefits to the users.