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Working and Steering groups – Deciding Together

A working group consists of people who bring the specialist skills and expertise you need to a project. The working group could be several individuals with lived experience of mental health problems or a combination of staff and individuals with lived experience. It will be their responsibility to identify and fulfil all tasks, sharing decision making as they go.

A steering group is similar in its makeup and the sharing of decision making. However, the role of this group is to steer work undertaken by others. Members of steering groups use their experiences, skills and knowledge of specific topics of sectors to help make strategic decisions.

Groups of this kind focus on specific topics and are invaluable to making sure the voice of lived experience remains at the core of our work and decision making - be it the design and delivery of services, or influencing broader mental health policy and practice.

Things to consider:

  • Have you created a role description that will set clear expectations for everyone involved?
  • Do you have a diverse range of people with relevant skills and experiences taking part?
  • How will you ensure power is shared and the group makes collective decisions? Be aware of how everyone interacts and think about what you would do if group members feel excluded.
  • What training and support will you provide to help people to participate equally?
  • Remember – you will need to use additional methods of influence to provide information to your working or steering group. The information gathered will help the group make the decisions required.
  • Can the group guide this work by talking to people themselves or working with the organisation to define how they do it?


Creating a group agreement

If you’re asking people to join a one-off focus group or discussion event, a group agreement lets everyone know where they stand and helps 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 set expectations.

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