Participation - finding out what difference it makes

Checklist of pointers

A quick checklist to help your evaluation of service user and carer participation

  1. Purpose: Are you clear about the purpose of the evaluation? Why is service user and carer participation being evaluated?
  2. Change: What kinds of change might you expect service user and carer participation to have made and at what levels is it expected to make a difference – individual experiences, staff attitudes, agency policies, local or national strategies?
  3. Timing: When will you measure these changes? Are you looking for short term results, longer term outcomes or both? Do you have indicators of progress?
  4. Process of participation: How might the experience of participation be evaluated?
  5. Support and supporters: What kinds of support might be needed to make the evaluation an effective and independent one? What part might supporters and facilitators play in evaluating the results of participation?
  6. Skills: What skills are needed to make an evaluation of participation?
  7. Training: What kinds of training are needed to help people to evaluate the effects of participation? Is this training available?
  8. Resources: What resources are needed to evaluate participation? Are resources such as budget available (e.g. for payments to service users and carers involved in evaluations) and, if not, how might they be found or creatively substituted?
  9. Organisational culture: How open to participation is the organisation or group? Does the climate or culture in the organisation support participation and how do you find out about this?
  10. Practice: How participative is practice in the organisation or group? How do you evaluate the way service users and carers are involved in practice?
  11. Structure: Is evaluation of participation a regular feature of the organisation or group? Is it part of the structure? How might evaluation help it become part of the structure?
  12. Power: What differences in power are there between the people involved (service users, carers, professionals, managers, etc.)? How might these affect the evaluation? What can you do to change these differences in power? How will you involve people who are seldom heard?
  13. Tokenism: How will you avoid tokenism? In other words, how will you evaluate whether the participation has been real and meaningful?
  14. Thorough and fair: How will you make sure that your evaluation listens to the negative messages as well as the positive ones, taking note of disadvantages of participation as well as advantages?
  15. Linking participation to changes: How might you find out whether any changes are indeed a result of participation and not something else?
  16. Ownership: How will service users and carers participate in deciding what will be evaluated and how? Who will undertake the evaluation and how independent should they be from the process? Who will own the information gathered? Are there any other ethical issues that you will need to consider (for example, about confidentiality)?
  17. Feedback: How do people find out about the results of the evaluation of service user and carer participation?
  18. Implementation: How are the findings from the evaluation to be used? Who will implement recommendations? What further changes should you expect as a result of the evaluation?
  19. Continuity: Is evaluation a one-off event or an on-going process and part of the way the organisation or group works all the time?
  20. Publicity: How do other organisations and groups learn from your experience of evaluating the difference that participation has made?