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Case Study: Mind Membership focus group

Project lead's story

Our Mind Membership team worked with four people with lived experience to co-design Mind’s membership offer. We planned to hold a large public consultation event in March 2020, running a number of workshops throughout the day and involving approximately 60 people with lived experience of a mental health problem. As this was no longer possible given the government’s advice against all but essential travel, this was moved to involving people via online focus groups instead.

The lived experience designers ran five focus groups on Zoom. They designed these around themes that had previously been established, refining them and making them relevant. Some of the main themes captured included:

  • representation
  • communication
  • language
  • tone of voice
  • motivation (what motivates someone to take part)
  • connection to Mind
  • co-creation

We also looked at how sharing lived experience can benefit others, the way shop volunteers participate in Mind’s work and how we can best recognise their work and connect them with other volunteers.

These focus groups were part of the first part of the long-term planning process, likely to run over the three years. In our next stage, we will continue working with our project co-design group.

Why did you decide to involve people in this way?

We would like to listen more actively to our supporters and give them an opportunity to shape our future through our workshops. Influence and participation is a key principle and so it was really important to have lived experience designers being equal contributors in the process, designing and leading these workshops. They have been integral to the formation of our design principles and concepts to use in the next stages of membership development.

The great advantage of involving people online in smaller focus groups is that there is a lot more time to learn what is meaningful to each individual. Holding focus groups across five days allowed us to connect with a wide range of people and learn more about their backgrounds and motivations for shaping Mind’s membership. We were able to understand what influences them and what brought them to Mind.

How has involving people with lived experience benefitted your work?

The focus groups were well received and from these, six design principles were created, which we will be kept in mind throughout the development process:

  • I can be a powerful force for change with Mind (as a partner)
  • I find it easy to support Mind
  • I have influence – nationally and locally
  • I am seen and valued as a whole person
  • I am part of a diverse group of people who are engaged with Mind
  • I feel part of something bigger than myself

The lived experience designers were very motivated and integral to designing these focus groups and participants’ involvement was key to forming these principles, their suggestions making the principles more affirmative and person-focused.

Involving people with lived experience has had a considerable impact on membership so far. It has helped us to understand what people want to see from membership, how to make it more participatory and to think about ways to provide more opportunities. It has helped us adapt the way we talk to members currently and how we will communicate with members in future.

What have you learnt?

Although we made the decision to cancel our public consultation, we did not want to lose momentum on our project. The idea of involving people remotely felt a little out of our comfort zone at first but in a short period of time we were all felt more confident working virtually from home.

We hoped for six people to attend each Zoom focus group and made free tickets available on Eventbrite. We created a waiting list for those who expressed an interest in the event and gave them a place when others cancelled their tickets. On the day of the event, however, not everyone turned up, so in future we would recommend making more tickets available.

How did the activity benefit those involved?

The lived experience designers and focus group participants all had the opportunity to contribute to Mind’s work, shape it and tell us what they understand their communities and societies need. Some focus group attendees, who often find it difficult to access opportunities, enjoyed being involved in our work and representing what we do.

What support did you offer?

We created a two-way conversation from the outset, exchanging and setting out expectations of the project and what it hoped to achieve. This was done in person before Covid-19, but you can also do this virtually with mood boards and electronic whiteboards, using sticky notes as if you were in the room.

The lived experience design team wrote about how to use Zoom and sent this information to everyone taking part in the focus groups in advance, as not everyone had used the platform before or had previous experience of video conferencing.

Two staff members that were mental health first aid trained attended the focus groups in order to provide a safe environment and were ready to step in to reassure and support anyone in distress.

Top tips

  • Get comfortable with the technology yourself, so you can easily support others with it on the day of your event. Spend time learning and practising what you can do with it with your colleagues.
  • As you’ve recruited experts by experience after a thorough process, put your faith and trust in them and be open about passing responsibility across to them. In the true spirit of co-design, make a conscious effort to pass control over to your co-designers.

Remote Influence and Participation

How - Methods

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