Participation - finding out what difference it makes

Big question 8: What about differences?

How will differences be handled? What if there are conflicts?


Service users and carers are not one group. Although they have some things in common, there are also many differences. When you are finding what difference participating has made, how will you take account of these different groups and the different kinds of evaluation that might be needed? And how might differences within groups be evaluated? What conflicts might there be during the evaluation?

There are power differences within groups and between them (for example, between service users and professionals). Has participating made a difference to the power relationships and how will you know if that is the case?

Findings box 8

  • In one study, self-advocates reported that they felt strongly that the process of change needed to slow down; so evaluative approaches with self-advocates might need to proceed at a different pace (R02).
  • Finding out about children’s involvement needs particular skills and approaches, both with the children and any workers who are supporting them (R03) (R21) (Site 6) (Site 7).
  • Evaluating young people’s participation requires particular consideration (T11)
  • Approaches to evaluation should take different cultures into account and make sure that black and minority ethnic groups are fully involved (R17).
  • Differences between generations need to be considered (R03).
  • Issues for lesbian, gay and transgender people need to be considered.
  • Measures to find out what difference participation is making must be careful to include people who are seldom heard (R11). How can information be made accessible to different sections of the community?
  • How might different views and outlooks be included? For example, one study found that service users identify higher levels of unmet need than service providers (R12).
  • There are many different kinds of organisation in social care: those led by service users and carers; substitute and complementary services; statutory, voluntary or independent, etc. How will these differences affect the evaluation? And are there differences between new and established services? We were reminded by our advisory groups that it is the day-to-day experience of services that counts (R17, pii).
  • The outcome of participation should not be fixed ahead of time. It is unpredictable, so that there will be some results that were not expected, but which may be welcome even so. How will surprises be handled? (Toolkit 4)
  • Do the funders have the same idea about what should be evaluated as the people who use and provide the service?

Ideas box 8

  • Which groups of people or individuals might you have to make extra efforts to reach (Shaping Our Lives, 2007)?
  • Why might there be barriers to this group of service users (for example, the barriers might be carers or people who believe that service users are incapable of speaking for themselves)?
  • What other barriers might there be?
  • How might it be possible to work with these barriers in order to reach the service user?
  • How could you help to dismantle barriers to participation for people who have not been involved before?