Service user participation – let’s do it differently?

Verita Team

Published 2 November 2015

Health innovation network

Jackie Hardy is a member of Verita’s Mental Health Advisory Group.

In mid-October, I attended an event hosted by the Health Innovation Network in South London. The event focused on service user-led participation. Its purpose was to facilitate sharing and learning, across South London, to improve the way in which diverse groups, who can often be excluded, participate in improving mental health service design and delivery.

The event was opened by Philip Wells, The Fire Poet, who warmed up the participants with an interactive session using his poetry. Across the rest of the day, attendees were guided through practical case studies to learn inclusive participation techniques.

During one of the workshop sessions, Philip asked participants to write a short poem in which they likened themselves to something, perhaps from nature, and in doing so explain the obstacles that they face when trying to participate in the mental health debate.

At the end of the workshop attendees read out their poems to the wider group. This proved really successful at getting those who were struggling to participate, to engage.

Following this event, I ran a focus group at a club for the deaf. In light of the success of Phillip’s approach, I followed his lead and adopted the techniques he used in his workshop. The results were amazing, the participants engaged openly and confidently. The Club has invited me back to run focus groups more widely.

I am now inspired to find new ways of making participation exciting. I would urge anyone trying to encourage service user participation to use this method.

If you would like to learn more about the Health Innovation Network then please contact our Ed Marsden on 020 7494 5670 or [email protected].

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