Participation - finding out what difference it makes

Big question 5: Who says?

Who does the evaluating? Will everyone get a say?


Who is involved in the evaluation and who will do the evaluating? How independent will they be from the services they are evaluating? Who decides how to find out whether participation has made a difference? Service users and carers should participate in making decisions about who will be doing the evaluation and how it will be conducted, but differences in power can affect this if they are not faced openly. Care must be taken that evaluations are not felt to be destructive or hurtful and that they are conducted in a safe way. Most of all, people who are ‘seldom heard’ must be included.

Findings box 5

  • Power is central to the question of who evaluates (R19) and power issues underlie the majority of identified difficulties with effective user-led change (R02).
  • Whoever commissions the evaluation has a powerful voice both in what will be evaluated and how, so participation by service users and carers in the decision to evaluate is central to the participative process (R10) (R16) (R22) (Site 2).
  • If service users and carers are involved in developing indicators to measure progress, this could lead to definitions of quality that are more meaningful to service users (R17).
  • There is evidence that service users and carers are more likely to engage in research that arises from their own questions and requests (R13) and response rates may be improved.
  • Who does the evaluating is important. It should be decided what competencies are necessary and, therefore, what training in evaluation should be available (R06).
  • You need to think about whether evaluation should be independent and who it should be independent from (Site 2) (Site 3). Is it appropriate for service providers to evaluate their own services?
  • It is important to consider who owns and who acts on the evaluation findings. When written feedback was provided, it was invariably provided to parents rather than to children (R04, p3).
  • Consider who is responsible for the way the evaluation will be managed. Coordinate the consultation with any others taking place at the same time or covering similar topics or sections of the community (Toolkit 3, p16).
  • The participation initiative and the evaluation of it must have support from ‘the top’ (Toolkit 4).

Ideas box 5

Make it easier for people to join in and to find out what difference this is making by:

  • holding events during the day, during the evening and/or at weekends
  • providing a crèche
  • providing transport
  • making sure the location is accessible
  • assisting people with hearing difficulties (induction loop system and/or signers)
  • assisting people who do not speak English (such as using interpreters)
  • writing information in different forms, such as large print, Braille, tape, Easyread and other languages
  • finding out what food people can eat and want to eat
  • making payments for people’s participation.

(Adapted from Toolkit 1, p47)