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Case study: Strategy advisory panel

At Mind, we think it's important for people with lived experience of a mental health problem to influence our strategy. This means our future plans reflect the true needs and priorities of people with lived experience.

We recruited a panel of 12 people from across England and Wales to work with us and shape our strategy plans.

Why we involved people in this way

We chose to work with a panel because we wanted to work with a consistent group of people. This means they could:

  • Get to know our strategy work in detail
  • Hold us to account, to make sure we included their thoughts at every stage

We chose to run a focus group, so we could explore what drives people to prioritise certain things and not others. A focus group allowed us to have a rich discussion, in a way that a survey wouldn't.

We planned to meet in Birmingham. But because of covid-19, we had to hold digital focus groups instead. We held 3 groups with 4 panel members in each.

The benefits of involving people with lived experience

We can now be more confident that our strategy reflects the experiences and thoughts of the people we work for.

The panel members emphasised the need to properly tackle inequalities. They challenged our thinking on different areas of our strategy, including campaigning, service delivery and community.

The panel reminded our staff of the realities that people with mental health problems face. This helped us put these people at the forefront of our work.

This heled us develop our 3 new strategic challenges, and we're making a real commitment to target those who are in greatest need of Mind’s work.

“Being involved in the panel has allowed me to voice my views and have them listened to. Drawing upon our experiences as members empowers us to be catalysts for change. I think it is important for Mind to understand and use the perspectives of people with lived experience to inform its future strategic focus."

What we learned

We learned how to run a digital focus group on Zoom, and how to facilitate a session when you’re not all in the same room.

Next time, we would add more breaks. We only had 3 breaks lasting 5 minutes, in sessions lasting 2 and a half hours. This was not enough for participants to focus.

We would add in more interactive activities, like doing polls on Zoom, because discussion after discussion can be tiring.

We'd also make more space to be comfortable with silence and sit through awkward pauses, so there's more time for participants to speak.

How did the activity benefit those involved?

Those involved told us they felt they'd contributed to Mind’s future plans, and helped to define the future of mental healthcare in England and Wales.

They found this hugely rewarding and empowering, especially as they were people who care a lot about mental health and often haven't had the best experience of mental health services.

They also told us they found out more about mental health as a result of hearing others’ experiences on the call, and found this very interesting.

By the end of the year, participants were able to say they’d advised on Mind’s strategic direction as part of a group. This gave them great experience for their CVs.

We also paid the panel members for their engagement. This was a great way to show people that we really valued them and wanted this to benefit them.

"There were so many innovative ways that made the online advisory panel just as good, if not better, than if it was run face to face. Conversation is more to the point and focused, and you have more time to compose your answers and questions. As strange as it was, I wouldn’t have had it any other way."

Support we offered

We prepared the panel members for the meeting by calling each of them in advance to welcome them. We also sent out activity packs to read, so they could familiarise themselves with the content and feel prepared for the kinds of questions they'd be asked.

We offered digital support calls with each person before the sessions. And we ran a trial Zoom call for those who  didn’t know how to use Zoom.

We asked what support people might need and adjusted our plans based on this. For example, 2 panel members with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) wanted their activity pack printed in certain colours, which made it easier for them to focus.

There was a designated wellbeing support person in the room, who was mental health first aid trained. We said that anyone could contact him on the Zoom chat, or via our email. The email was monitored during the session in case anyone needed extra support.

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