The aim of consumer participation is to include consumers in decision-making processes. It is through consumer participation strategies that consumers can contribute to the planning, delivery and evaluation of services that will result in ongoing improvements to individual organisations and to the service system as a whole. Ultimately, this results in improved outcomes for consumers and the community.

The Consumer Participation Resource Kit for Housing and Homelessness Assistance Services provides a source of ideas and strategies that services can use - in partnership with the people and communities they serve - to strengthen consumer participation processes.

The Consumer Participation Resource Kit was developed by Sally Jope and Mark Planigale at HomeGround Services in 2008. The project was undertaken in partnership with Rural Housing Network, and was funded by the Victorian Department of Human Services. The Resource Kit was originally hosted on the website of the Council to Homeless Persons Victoria. It has now been made available through Lirata's website for reference purposes.

The Consumer Participation Resource Kit is focused on improving consumer participation in housing and homelessness assistance services. However, the theoretical framework and many of the strategies and approaches suggested have wide applicability for many parts of the health and human services sectors. The service system context has advanced considerably since 2008, however the underlying principles and the importance of consumer participation have not altered.

 

Consumer participation as a journey

Consumer participation is an ongoing journey that requires commitment, trust, and a willingness to make mistakes and to learn from them. To do consumer participation well, organisations also need a range of practical strategies, approaches and processes. These need to be founded on a strong value base that places consumer empowerment at the centre of service delivery, and that strongly values the voices and perspectives of consumers, carers and family members.

Every organisation is different and every person engaging with services is unique. A one-size-fits-all approach to consumer participation will generally be insufficient; to be meaningful, consumer participation needs to be adapted to the environment of each organisation and to the needs and preferences of the people who use its services.

Authenticity is also crucial to genuine participation. Tokenism is a waste of time for consumers as well as for organisations. To be meaningful, those participating need to be able to see a direct connection between what they contribute, and what is subsequently achieved. Achieving real participation often requires capacity building on the part of organisations as well as consumers.

The Consumer Participation Resource Kit describes 47 types of strategies that could be adopted by organisations to progress consumer participation. These range from provision of information, to processes for gathering consumer input, through to support for consumer advisory groups, co-design partnerships and consumer-run organisations.

 

Assistance with consumer participation

Lirata Consulting assists organisations to develop and implement meaningful strategies for involving consumers in service design, delivery and evaluation. We advise on consumer participation policy and practice.

For further information or assistance, please contact Mark Planigale at Lirata Consulting.

Mobile: +61 (0)429 136 596
Landline: +61 (0)3 9457 2547
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Consumer Participation Resource Kit for Housing and Homelessness Assistance Services (PDF 1,180 KB)