Steps for Organisations


Incorporating service users’ and carers’ views within all aspects of teaching, assessment and research requires commitment and action from “top down” to “bottom up.”  The organisation must demonstrate a commitment to welcome and include service users’ and carers’ voices in all aspects of its work. It is acknowledged that there can be different forms of engagement within an organisation which must be responsive to the needs of the service user and carer and to the different phases in the organisation’s development.   The focus of this leaflet is to outline the steps organisations must take to ensure that service users and carers remain at the centre of decision making processes within Higher Education Institutions (HEI’s).  Effective engagement requires the organisation to have in place processes which include service users and carers in the planning, implementation and evaluation of teaching, assessment and research activities.

Organisations: Steps for Effective Engagement

Figure 1. Model for reflective practice (Kolb, 1984)

Kolb Cycle - Reflection, Planning, Implementation, Evaluation

Step 1: Reflection

Reflection is an everyday process.  It is a way of exploring feelings, thoughts and emotions.  Service user and carer involvement requires organisational and individual reflection to be in harmony. 

Handy (1999) states that the  goals and values of the individual and  organisation need to be compatible.  Organisations have the responsibility for developing protocols and guidance for service users, carers and staff in order to provide structure for involvement in all aspects of teaching, assessment and research.

Each individual within the organisation needs to consider the following:

  • Do I understand the drivers behind involving service users and carers? (See Introduction) hyperlink 
  • Do I accept the rationale for service user and carer involvement?  (See Introduction and background;  and Principles of engagement leaflets)
  • Why do I want to involve service users and carers ( See Principles of engagement).
  • What is it I want to achieve? (See Principles of engagement).
  • How do I go about it? (See Principles of engagement; this leaflet)
  • Who do I involve? And where do they come from? (See Engagement in recruitment and selection)
  • Do I know what current arrangements exist for service users’ and carers’ involvement within the organisation? (See Engagement in Recruitment and Selection; Engagement in Evaluation).
  • Do I need any further training  or support to increase my awareness  and understanding of involving service users and carers? (See Engagement in Evaluation)

Step 2: Planning

Any strategy for engagement sets out what the organisation intends to do and the rationale for a certain course of action(s). In short, the strategy tells us why and what are the intentions of the organisation about service users’ and carers’ engagement.  A strategy should be supported by an action plan which tells us who, how, where and when the strategy will be implemented by the organisation. Consultation and feedback should be sought from service users and carers about the proposed strategy. Once school or faculty approval has been gained arrangements need to be in place to monitor and review the organisation’s progress against the strategy and action plan.  (An example of a strategy to be included online)

As part of the planning process, organisations need to develop clear reimbursement and payment policies for service users and carers in recognition of their expertise, time and commitment.  Costs should normally include travel expenses, car parking, child care, support workers, training and support. (Examples of claim forms- Wolvs to be included online)

Consideration needs to be given to the following (remember Principles):  
Is there a policy/procedure for reimbursement?
Is there a designated person responsible for administering payments? 

Regarding reimbursement, consideration needs to be given to the following:

  • Clarification on individual’s choice of payment
  • Employment status
  • Impact on benefits.

Step 3: Implementation

Implementation is about making a difference and  is not just about the act of “doing something”. Be clear about the purpose for involvement, and then make it happen. When involving service users and carers the approach must be user centred. The implementation stage requires confidence and a belief in the vision, purpose and value of service user and carer engagement. Commitment from senior managers, service users and carers and staff within the organisation will cultivate the best environment for successful implementation. Appropriate resources will be required to realise the vision which includes the following:  

  • Active service user and carer representation within the organisation (See Wolverhampton Hub and Spoke Model)
  • Clear roles and responsibilities of staff involved with managing the process of involvement
  • Support systems and training for service users/carers and staff
  • Service user and carer database identifying interests and potential for involvement
  • Effective payment policy with specific budget identified.

Step 4:Evaluation

How will you know if service user and carer engagement has been successful within your organisation? What will this success look like?
Essentially, evaluation is about increasing our understanding about the learning that has emerged following service user and carer engagement. Evaluation should be an ongoing process with a formal date set at least once a year.
You may wish to consider the following:

  • What is the quality of our activities? How will you measure this?
  • What is the relevance of our activities for our students?
  • What is our reputation with service users and carers?
  • Were service users and carers involved in the planning stage?
  • Was the involvement of each team member on the project monitored and evaluated on an ongoing basis?
"Plans are nothing; planning is everything." Eisenhower (1890-1969)

Case Study

The OU Social Work Programme has a strong history of involving service users and carers in the production of distance learning materials but needed to develop engagement in delivery and management. A group of four service users and carers in the West Midlands, facilitated by a full time member of OU staff developed a strategy for engagement in all aspects of the Programme across England. They mapped the current involvement and identified areas for development and future practice in the following areas: practice learning, interviewing and selection of students, teaching and learning, programme management, programme design and preparation for practice and assessment. The project and evaluation will help to shape future development across the ten OU regions in England.


Eisenhower (1890-1969) [on-line] [Accessed 20 May 2010]
Handy, C. (1999)  Understanding organisations. London: Penguin.
Kolb, D.A. (1984)  Experiental Learning experience as a source of learning and development New Jersey: Prentice Hall