Service user involvement is about getting the people who take part in your projects, and/or use your services, to take an active role in the organization, either as staff or volunteers, or as a trustee or advisor.
By getting your service users involved in the organization you can make sure that the work you are doing stays relevant and well delivered. This is because users can tell you directly what they need from the project, and they can help deliver it in the best way to other users. If your project or service is delivered in the right way, then more people are likely to join, more people will benefit and this can lead to more funding.
It also confirms to you, and shows people outside your organisation, including funders, that you are doing a good job.
It’s also really good for the service user as it gives them valuable experience through volunteering, which can be a stepping stone to employment. This can raise confidence and self-esteem, promotes community action and provides the organisation with additional help in delivering services.
It’s also great for people to have their services delivered by someone who has similar experiences to them, often giving more meaning to the support they receive.
Absolutely. Getting your users involved is easy and it can happen in lots of different ways. Tell people who come to your group that you’d like them to be involved in how the project is run and see if anyone wants to volunteer their time. This can start in a very small, informal way and grow into more a more formal role. They can help with delivering the project, become peer supporters to others in the group, become volunteers, and even paid staff. Users can also become board members, if they want a longer term or strategic role. Or, if being a board member is a bit too much input, you can set up a service user committee or steering group who can work together to feed in suggestions to the board.