About Shaping Our Lives


Shaping Our Lives is a national organisation and network of user-led groups, service users and disabled people. We are a non-profit company, co-chaired by Ann Nutt a trustee of Essex Coalition of Disabled People, a Patient Champion and PowerUs, and Peter Beresford, Professor of Citizen Participation at the University of Essex and Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at Brunel University. We are a user-led organisation committed to inclusive involvement and specialise in the research and practice of involving diverse communities in policy, planning and delivery of services.

Our vision is of a society where all people have the same rights, responsibilities, choices and opportunities; a society where people have choice and control over the services they use and how they live their lives.

Shaping Our Lives has 20 years’ experience of undertaking research with and consulting with service and users and representing their views. Our inclusive approach enables people from all communities to have an equal say, including people with physical, sensory and cognitive impairments, older people, people in care, homeless people, mental health service users, people with alcohol or drug use issues, people from black and minority ethnic communities and lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender people and their carers. We understand that people have complex identities and recognise that people often face multiple disadvantages and that there is inter-connection between economic, social, cultural and environmental influences.

How we work

Through our network of 430+ user-led organisations Shaping Our Lives aims to improve the quality of care and support services people receive by:

  • Enabling the inclusive involvement of service users and carers in policy, planning and service delivery nationally and locally so better outcomes are achieved for service users and carers.
  • Educating through user-led research service user perspectives on the cycle of services from planning to evaluation.
  • Training professionals to be service user focused and to work inclusively with a diverse range of people and their carers.
  • Giving a shared voice to user controlled organisations and the people who take part in them.
  • Enabling groups to link to other user controlled groups by providing an equal and accessible network.

Shaping Our Lives can offer you a host of services to support the inclusive involvement of service users as follows:

  • Co-produced and user-controlled research into the full cycle of health and social care services, from policy and planning to delivery in partnership with service users.
  • Facilitate inclusive user involvement through focus groups, discussions, surveys and interviews.
  • Develop strategies for an organisation to become user-focused.
  • Provide workshops and training in the inclusive involvement of service users.
  • Provide user-controlled evaluation of services and activities.
  • Mentor people embarking on a user involvement programme and provide how to and standards guidelines.

We work with a wide and diverse range of service users. We do not discriminate on the basis of race and ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, age or religious belief. Here are some of the people we work with:

  • people with physical and/or sensory/cognitive impairments
  • people with learning difficulties
  • users and survivors of mental health services
  • young people with experience of being ‘looked after’
  • people living with HIV/AIDS
  • people with life limiting illnesses
  • older people
  • people with experience of alcohol and drug services
  • homeless people