Benefits of influence and participation work
Influence and participation work brings benefits for everyone involved. We must always remember it's a 2-way process.
How does lived experience work benefit an organisation?
Organisations and services benefit from lived experience work because:
- They better understand the needs and challenges faced by people using their services
- They're able to plan more effectively
- They're able to deliver services that people want, in partnership with those that use them
- They can meaningfully engage people, to make sure work is informed by a broad range of experiences and effectively meets diverse needs
- They become more representative of the diverse audiences that influence their work – this comes through in the way they look, speak, and the methods they use
- Their information and advice becomes more insightful, relevant and easier to understand
- Their campaigning feels relevant for more people
- Their fundraising better demonstrates how donations transform lives
- They gain more credibility with the general public, the government and with funders
- Their staff and volunteers become more connected to the everyday issues of living with a mental health problem
- Their staff and volunteers become more familiar with multiple disadvantage and get more confident at addressing intersectional discrimination
Paola talks about how working with people with lived experience of mental health problems has contributed to the work of Norfolk and Waveney Mind.
"This is not about consulting people who use our services with a questionnaire or with some other kind of consultation exercise. It's about doing something together, and that will create a sense of belonging and that's when you really feel engaged and you actually change things."
How does lived experience work benefit the people involved?
For people with lived experience of mental health problems, influencing and participating in projects can:
- Help them practice existing skills and develop new ones, like public speaking, leading and contributing to meetings, and reviewing documents
- Lead to increased confidence
- Boost their self-esteem
- Validate their experiences
- Let them use their experiences in a positive way, to make improvements to services
- Help them feel connected to their local communities
- Allow them to meet others, to make more sense of their experiences, and develop their views
- Help them to feel valued and respected, and challenge self-discrimination
- Receive payment for their contributions
- Make sure that projects, services, information, advice and campaigning more effectively meets their needs
Opportunities can often develop into leadership roles, jobs, teaching and training, or peer mentoring. And for people from racialised communities, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex (LGBTQI+) people, people with physical, sensory, cognitive impairments or learning disabilities, and other minorities, they can feel better represented and more confident in engaging with us and seeking support when they need it.
Case study - Sheffield User Survivor Trainers
Sheffield User Survivor Trainers (SUST) is a network of mental health trainers with lived experience of mental health problems and using mental health services.
By sharing their experiences, they're helping to develop services that meet people's needs.
Case study - Washington Mind
Service users at Washington Mind told us that influence and participation had benefitted them in a number of important ways, including:
- Making them feel valued
- Giving them access to peer support
- Helping them to feel part of a community
- Empowering them to 'see people, not problems'
- Feeling they were not being judged
- Feeling safe
Anthony talks about the benefits he has gained from being part of the Mancroft Advice Project (MAP) project.
"I wouldn't have been able to obtain that job without gaining the confidence through talking to other people at MAP."