UIU is designed to involve users in the work to improve upon the health- and social sector. The method is developed by Dagfinn Bjørgen and Heidi Westerlund in the project “Quality improvements through peer experience” from 1997 to 2000, and revolves around frequenters of health and social services undergoing training and developing competence in a focus group method. From there, they are tasked with interviewing the services’ users regarding their experiences. This is a qualitative approach to collecting and documenting experiences. The results from the focus groups become the topic in dialogue based meetings between the peer and the service, with the intention of reaching a common understanding and looking at opportunities to improve. Concrete responses to each owns’ service, the elevation of the user perspective and improved communication with the users are of the most important motivations for why services choose to utilize UIU.
By being interviewed by someone with similar experiences, the relation between researcher and informer will be different from that of a regular evaluation. Where a traditional interviewer might easily grow attached to the service being evaluated, or him/her being perceived as a part of the service by being in a position of service provider/personnel, an external interviewer with a peer background will have an easier time showcasing an independency towards the institution.
UIU consists of the following steps:
- Collaborating with the service/institution to find areas deemed problematic. The service begins to lay grounds for the research by finding participants and preparing the survey.
- The execution of group- and individual interviews with users regarding their experiences with the service.
- The analyzation of the emerging material is presented in a process report which will be used in a dialogue conference where service and users representatives alike will be invited to discuss and validate the temporary findings. This conference is also to function as a continuation of step 3, looked at through the lens of new angles and topics emerging and ending up in the final report.
- The final report, consisting of conclusive texts and illustrative citations in an overall description of how the service is perceived.
UIU maintains a low threshold for participation by the users. This is crucial in order to reach people whom for different reasons may not be able to attend similar projects, so that their voices might also be heard. For the users, the chief motivating factor has been the desire to influence the services they are involved with, and to have their experiences acknowledged.
These are some excerpts from the feedback we have received on our work with UIU.
«I believe UIU helps the user experience being heard, and plays a huge role in shaping services. »
«It’s a really good way to highlight the user’s needs; a good correction to established services. »
«The concept of UIU seems to me to be very constructive when it comes to raching solutions to problems that challenge all parties, such as coercion. The peer principle helps dissolve hierarchical mentalities, and encourages honest answers from the patients. This is what the health sector needs. »
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Andreassen, Tone Alm and Lisbet Grut (2001) “Brukermedvirkning som endringsmekanisme. Evaluering av en modell for kvalitetsforbedring i psykisk helsevern gjennom tilbakeføring av brukererfaringer”. Sintef Unimed/Arbeidsforskningsinstituttet.
Løken, Kårhild Husom, Dagfinn Bjørgen, Bjørg Kaspersen and Heidi Westerlund(2006) Undring og dialog – hvordan kan brukerundersøkelser være et verktøy for å involvere brukerne og deres organisasjoner i kvalitetsutvikling i en kommune? Rådet for psykisk helse.
Steinsbekk, Aslak, Heidi Westerlund, Dagfinn Bjørgen and Marit By Rise (2013) Hvordan beskriver brukere av psykiske helse- og sosialtjenester et godt tjenestetilbud? Tidsskrift for Norsk Psykologforening, Vol 50, nummer 1, 2013, side 2-5
Bjørgen, Dagfinn and Heidi Westerlund (2009) KAP 9 Erfaringer som evaluatør med brukererfaring. From: Medforskning: Å forske sammen for kunnskap om psykisk helse Marit Borg (red.), Kristjana Kristiansen (red.) Universitetsforlaget.