User involvement is all about designing and delivering activities ‘with’ people rather than ‘to’ people. This way, power is shared and you can find better solutions to problems. Involving users in your impact practice can be done in different ways, at different levels.
Why is user involvement important?
Involving service users in your impact practice can be useful for several reasons:
- By better understanding users’ needs, while harnessing their knowledge and skills, it can help you prioritise and target your evaluation activities.
- It can strengthen staff-user relationships, helping to build user support for and engagement with data collection and evaluation.
- Showing that you listen to and involve users can have direct benefits, giving them a sense of confidence and agency.
- User involvement can give credibility to your findings about the impact your work is having, demonstrating that users’ views are valued and considered.
How can you involve service users?
You can involve people at different stages, and different levels, of your impact practice. At its most basic, this might mean asking people what they think of your priorities and overall approach. At its most involved, users might participate throughout your impact practice. They could co-design evaluation processes and tools, or sit on your board.
|Level of involvement|
|Plan: Deciding what data to collect|
|Do: Collecting data|
|Assess: Analysing data|
|Review: Presenting and using data|
To determine how you could involve users in your impact practice, consider the following questions:
- Does user involvement fit with your mission, vision and values as an organisation? Is user involvement and co-design an important principle for your work?
- Could user input in your impact practice further what you are trying to achieve as an organisation? How would involving your users benefit your impact practice? What would you realistically hope to achieve from this? How would findings be fed into your impact practice to drive changes?
- What level of involvement makes sense for your organisation and your user group? Would your service users feel empowered by user involvement? Would any or all of your users struggle to engage with impact practice at different levels and if so, what could you do to make it accessible? Could there be any negative or harmful impacts; for example, if you are working with vulnerable people?
Here we have focused on engaging service users in your impact practice. You can read more about engaging service users in your wider programme and service development in our guide to implementing and evaluating co-design.
This webpage has been adapted from the Inspiring Impact programme, which ran from 2011 until early 2022 and supported voluntary organisations to improve their impact practice. More information about the Inspiring Impact programme.