Common problems with beneficiary involvement

Lack of beneficiary involvement “We set up meetings. We circulate questionnaires. We’ve installed a free phone-line to encourage our service users to get involved – and still they’re not interested! What more can we do?” A lack of response does not equate to a lack of interest.  Disheartening though it may be, consider the five questions about beneficiary involvement and check that you are clear about the why, who, how, when and what of your involvement. Ensure that you are tailoring involvement to suit the needs and routines of your beneficiaries. Differences of opinion about beneficiaries “The parents want their children with disabilities to be wrapped in cotton wool – but we know they’d love a day at an adventure playground, it would so boost their confidence!” It can be very difficult to involve different groups of beneficiaries, especially if they have markedly different opinions on the way forward. However, if you can organise an activity or forum where they can share their views this will develop wider understanding of different perspectives. An important aspect of beneficiary involvement is being honest and upfront about the complexities of involving a range of stakeholders in running an organisation. Encourage and facilitate beneficiaries to give their ideas on how this can be managed. Expectations of beneficiaries “Waste of time involving young people  – they don’t have a clue! We run a youth club for 14-18 year olds at risk of social exclusion. When we asked them what they wanted from us, they said an all-night bar serving alcohol! They know that’s illegal! Waste of time asking them.” Consider the parameters of the involvement and set expectations. Don’t ask questions which might infer a level of change that you are not in a position to be able to deliver. Ensure questions are specific and are tailored to find out what exactly your beneficiaries can tell you which somebody else cannot.  Beneficiaries being polite “They don’t tell us how it is. We run services for older people, and they always say things are just fine – they come from that generation where you don’t complain. All they say is ‘Oh I don’t want to make a fuss…’” This can be an issue, especially with older people. Try spending time with them, getting to know them and if they feel safe with you, are confident with you, they will over time tell you more.

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