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Top tips for planning a lived experience opportunity

Top tips for planning

  • Supporting lived experience-led activities needs a wholehearted commitment to the principles of influence and participation
  • It's essential to recognise that people with lived experience have skills, knowledge, and experience to contribute equally with the staff at all levels
  • It's critical to take an asset-based approach – focus on what people can do instead of what they can't do
  • Be clear about the nature of the work that people can get involved in, and be specific about what people can and can't influence
  • Focus on the outcomes you want to achieve and minimise all activities unrelated to these outcomes
  • Adhere to the principle of reciprocity – people should get something back for putting something in

Top tips for developing your opportunity

  • Use plain English, avoid jargon and avoid acronyms.
  • Include all relevant information on 1 page of A4. Any more than this, and people lose interest. If you need to give more information, direct them to a webpage or contact details of a person.
  • Be clear about the skills and experiences you are looking for. Having these listed as 4-5 bullet points makes it easier for people to see if they meet your criteria. Go to the recruitment and selection page for more information.
  • Write a role description for all opportunities that will need several meetings or interactions. A role description clarifies what both parties can expect in advance. It also specifies the skills and knowledge you need and will help people to make an informed decision about taking part.
  • Include a contact email or phone number for people who have any questions or if participants need any reasonable adjustments.

Top tips for recruitment and selection

  • Be clear about what skills and experiences people need to take part. Make sure they know how to explain these to you and that you will use this information to make your selection.
  • Try to select as diverse a group of people as possible. You want to have a wide range of people and experiences influencing your work. If you make clear you're seeking a diverse range of people and you're willing to provide reasonable adjustments, you're more likely to attract a more diverse set of applicants.
  • Not everyone will have internet access or will be able to use a computer. Make sure there are different ways to apply, including by post and over the phone.

Top tips for supporting participants

You could offer the following kinds of support:

  • Training (for longer-term roles)
  • Holding a pre-meet to discuss agenda items and answer any questions
  • Reminder texts, e-mails or phone calls
  • Helping participants to create a plan of what to do or who to contact if they're distressed
  • Going with people to interviews or events
  • Booking and paying for travel in case cost is a barrier to taking part

Top tips for ensuring diversity and difference

  • If there's anything you're not sure about, ask other people who've worked with marginalised groups for advice
  • Think carefully about who you need or want to take part
  • Think about what methods you'll use, and make sure they're appropriate and engaging for your participants
  • Build relationships with influencers and key people in the communities you want to engage
  • Everybody has individual experiences and perceptions of what having a mental health problem means. This is sometimes called a model of reality. Work from within the community's model of reality, don't try to impose yours
  • Being inclusive doesn't mean treating everyone in the same way. It's crucial to consider how you should adapt your activities or materials to be relevant for different groups you're engaging with
  • Don't make assumptions. It's better to ask questions than think you know what's suitable for somebody
  • It's okay to ask people what they need and want
  • It's okay to say you don't know
  • It's okay to get things wrong, no one will expect you to know everything
  • Make sure you plan thoroughly - never underestimate the scope of what you might need to factor in

Useful tools for planning your opportunity

Annual influence and participation planning

This tool can help you identify how people will participate in each stage of your work and ensure people can meaningfully influence your outcome at the earliest opportunity and beyond.

Download the planning tool with instructions  

Download the planning tool without instructions

Application form

This tool helps those interested to tell you about themselves. It will help you make informed decisions about who should take part.

Download the application form with instructions

Download the application form without instructions

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 define expectations. 

Download a group agreement with instructions  

Download a group agreement without instructions

Developing your opportunity

To make sure you're taking everything into account when planning your activity, you might find this 'Developing your opportunity' template of use. It takes you through all the things you need to consider to promote your opportunity and attract the people you want to reach. 

Download the developing your opportunity tool with instructions  

Download the developing your opportunity tool without instructions

Identifying participants

You can use this tool to help you think about which audiences and particular groups you would like to take part in your work, the methods you need to use, and who can help you do this.

Download the identifying participants tool with instructions

Download the identifying participants tool without instructions

Invoice for involvement

You could use this invoice template as a guide when paying people to be part of your participation activity or develop your own.

Download the invoice template with instructions 

Download the invoice template without instructions

Thinking about your timeline

Use this tool to situate your influence and participation activities into the bigger picture of your work, which will help you run meaningful initiatives that have the maximum level of impact.

Download the timeline tool with instructions

Download the timeline tool without instructions

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

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