Shared Principles and Values

Good relationships are key to effective engagement. These depend on clarity of expectation and acknowledging the power imbalances between people who use services and academic staff. A good place to start is creating a statement of values on which further engagement can be based. This can also help to tackle some of the practical barriers to involvement that are presented by custom and practice in academic institutions.

What the Experts Say

“It is important that professionals learn to ‘let go’ of some of their power for
real service user involvement to happen.”

—Member of Service User Panel for Open University School of Health and Social Welfare

Messages from Wider Research

Effective engagement requires a strong value base and is supported by developing a statement of values and principles at the outset (Ager et. al, 2005). This should be done in partnership with people who use services and carers and offers:

  • A guide for working relationships
  • The basis for developing more detailed ground-rules
  • A framework against which progress can be reviewed
  • The opportunity to reflect periodically on the process with the benefit of increased experience

Ensuring a fair and effective working relationship relies upon the following components:

  • Recognise the importance of power relations
  • Establish open communication
  • Respect and take each other seriously
  • Communication, openness, ability to enter the ‘other’s world’ and trust
  • Recognition and understanding of power, role divisions, individual strengths, competence and input along with valuing commonality and difference
  • Sharing information, power and decision making
  • Negotiation between stakeholders

(Waterson and Morris, 2005 p. 661)

Good Practice Example

The University of Dundee Service User and Carer (CU) Group developed a statement of intent. Its principles include:

  • Plain English
  • Fair funding
  • Bottom-up networks
  • No tokenism
  • Seeing change from consultation
  • Encouraging all groups to have a voice


Develop an agreed set of values and principle for engagement with staff, people who use services and carers.

Further Information

Ager, W., Dow, J., Ferguson, I., Gee, M., McPhail, M. and McSloy, N. (2005) Service User Involvement in Social Work Education: Good Practice Guidelines. IRISS (formerly SIESWE).

Top of Page

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial