I attended a really inspiring meeting of my local voluntary sector forum this morning. We were talking about coproduction, the term for involving service users and their experiences in the design and commissioning of the services they need and want. This isn’t in itself a particularly new concept, but in these difficult financial times, when every penny has to be spent as efficiently as possible, it makes even more sense to ask people what is going to work for them. Commissioning bodies need to know that they are spending their money in the right place!
What I find particularly exciting about this is that for this approach to work, users will have to have a voice. Since many of them will be vulnerable in some way, they will need to be supported and enabled to find their voice and use it. As discussed at the meeting this morning, new digital forms of communication mean there are now more ways that vulnerable people can have their say – for example, someone who is bed-bound can still give their views on how they wish to be cared for by sharing their opinion on Twitter; they no longer need to come to a face to face meeting.
This is exciting and opens up many more opportunities for communication. But as always for me, this goes beyond the mechanisms of channels and ‘how’ people can communicate. I have a fundamental belief that we all have the innate ability to communicate well, but not everyone is able to access that ability (and, of course, some choose not to access it – they are a whole different kettle of fish!). Some people need support and to be engaged with the idea of communicating effectively – they need to see what’s in it for them and to be shown how to get their message across well.
I wrote a month or two ago about the fun I had when facilitating focus groups for one of my clients. That role was about supporting the focus group attendees to find their voice and share their views. This morning’s meeting inspired me all over again about the different ways that people finding and using their voice can shape the communities that we live in.
How are you using your voice? And do you need support to do so? Use the comments section or get in touch and share your experiences.
Until next time