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Formal groups – Doing Together

Formal groups are useful when you need to gather views and influence the shaping and direction of a particular project, on a long-term and/or ongoing basis.

Service user forums meet regularly and are usually based within a service. They contribute to making decisions about service provision and help to guide the service provider. They can also feed into strategic service user forums that support organisational development.

Advisory groups are often used when planning a project or event; they meet regularly and provide staff with advice based on information that is provided to them.

Things to consider:

  • Is the group diverse? You may need to involve people in other ways, as not everyone will feel this format is relevant to them or are confident in a group setting.
  • How will you manage the balance of power? It's important everyone in the group feels equal and that the organisation shares power.
  • Is there training and support available to help people to participate equally?
  • How do different groups of people engage with each other?
  • Is it sensible to bring people with different experiences together? For example, are service users and experts by experience likely to be more candid if staff aren’t present? Is it useful for staff/senior leaders to be present to hear discussions?
  • How will you make sure group members aren’t excluded or side-lined?


Creating a group agreement

When asking people to join a one-off focus group or discussion event, a group agreement lets everyone know where they stand. It will also help to create a safe space for openness and honesty. If you’re setting up a regular forum, make sure you have some terms of reference in place to clear expectations.

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Charlotte's video

Charlotte talks about the SCRAP advisory panel that advised Time to Change in the direction of their work.

"They come with local knowledge, their own networks, and their own groups of people that maybe can’t best be reached by those stakeholders. The people on the lived experience panel really steered the whole direction of the hubs, and it wouldn’t have been a success if they hadn’t been on board."

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