People stand around a table in a meeting room

Children's mental health

The Parent Panel: testing a new way to share decision-making power with parents

We are working with Hello Brave to pilot a new way of learning from the experience and expertise of parents, and making decisions together.

Key information:

What we are doing together

We believe in a “nothing about us without us” approach to social change and understand that those most impacted by the issues we work on are best placed to find the solutions. This project will test new ways of working with parents and caregivers to support the decisions we make in our children’s mental health programme.

As with so much of our work, it builds on the belief that to address health inequities we must create the conditions for people to have control of their own lives. With Hello Brave, we have co-designed a Parent Panel made up of parents and caregivers from our local London boroughs of Lambeth and Southwark. The pilot aims to understand the potential of joint decision making between our team and parents, and whether we will be able to stick with those decisions beyond the pilot. This test will help us to identify the potential for the Parent Panel to be part of our longer-term approach to collaborative working as a funder.

Our core hypothesis for this pilot phase is that through a process that enables (and prioritises) strong relationship-building, parents and Impact on Urban Health will be able to make more informed and impactful decisions together.

Hello Brave initially supported us to work with a group of parents to create a suggested design for the Parent Panel pilot. This design focused on how to support engagement and equity in this work.

Hello Brave is joined by Emily Danby, a consultant who supports people and organisations to navigate power, conflict, and collaboration. This first pilot year will help test some core assumptions, including:

  • That relationship-building supports decision making
  • That the amount and way we pay parents for being on the panel works for them and Impact on Urban Health
  • That Impact on Urban Health and parents can make decisions together using this process
  • That Impact on Urban Health can commit to decisions made in this process
  • That parents and Impact on Urban Health feel that this was worth their time

This pilot phase will involve: 

Recruiting 10 local parents and three Impact on Urban Health “connectors” to join the parent panel. Parent recruitment was run in collaboration with two parents from the co-design group.  

Five onboarding sessions: These sessions range between 2 hours and half a day and give parents and children’s mental health team ‘connectors’ time to get to know one another, better understand the aims of the pilot, and start to explore power in this work 

Four crit sessions: Dotted across the year these will be opportunities for the Parent Panel to learn more about and give ongoing feedback to the children’s mental health team members on their work.  

Two decision-making sessions: These will align with the crit sessions and be the key moments when we test whether the Children’s Mental Health team can work with members of the Parent Panel to make joint decisions  

Two reflection sessions: After our two decision-making sessions, these will be official moments to reflect on what we have learned, and experienced. Helping to understand if the Parent Panel is working.  

Relationship-Building Moments: We’ll have a series of relationship building moments (e.g. lunch) to support more informal relationship-building between members of the Parent Panel and IMpact on Urban Health.  

Final recommendations and celebration: This is a chance for us to reflect together on what has worked, what hasn’t, and whether the pilot has been broadly successful 

“We’re excited in this pilot to be testing the model of the Parent Panel co-designed with local parents last year. The pilot gives the opportunity for Impact on Urban Health to get direct experience of what it takes to collaborate and share power with local parents, by jumping in, having a go and capturing learnings. We’re very interested to see the learnings that surface from bringing local parents and team members together throughout this process.”

– Emily Danby, Consultant

Aims of the partnership

Though the overarching aim of this pilot is to test whether the Parent Panel is a sustainable and equitable way of involving families in our strategic decision making, there are other questions that Impact on Urban Health will be holding throughout the year. These include:

  • Building strong, trusting relationships with a community of local parents: Before we try to make decisions together we need to create lots of time and space to build the kinds of relationships where people honestly feel heard and able to wield their power. This pilot is a way of testing how best to nurture those relationships.
  • Testing whether a Parent Panel model can help make our processes more participatory longer term: Though we know that our work needs to be equitable, liberatory and rooted in the wisdom of local communities we still do not know whether power and knowledge-sharing in this specific format will work, especially whether it will inadvertently cause more harm to the parents involved.
  • Supporting parents to become advocates and influencers: We hope that through participation in a Parent Panel, parents will be supported and trained to be more confident communicators who can directly lend their voices to social change campaigns (as well as being better equipped to advocate for their own children and the children in their communities).
  • Sharing what we learn to influence those outside Impact on Urban Health: Shifting power and building agency within communities is an aim for all programmes across Impact on Urban Health, and something that more and more organisations are working towards. We will share honest reflections throughout in order to inform others who are attempting similar projects.

“We have over the last few years sought to include diverse voices from those living and working in our two boroughs Lambeth and Southwark. But this is the first exploration of how we do this equitably and inclusively, leaning into the challenges that can emerge from this work and asking ourselves at all levels, what does it really take to share and build power with others?”

– Gabby Allen, Portfolio Manager, Children’s Mental Health team

Strategic fit

One of the core principles underpinning our strategy is that we share power with the communities we work with and for. This is because we believe those most impacted by the issues we work on have wisdom that only their experiences – or lived evidence – can bring. And because we believe that autonomy and liberation are mental health interventions in and of themselves.

Building on what we have heard from phase 1 of this project, as well as other learning gathered through participatory focused work at Impact on Urban Health, we know that existing support for parents is unsatisfactory and at its worst contributing to further suffering and injustices experienced by families living in Lambeth and Southwark. Therefore, we know that we can use our power to provide an equitable platform for parents to have a real influence in what this programme focuses on and funds in future.

Find out more

Learn alongside us by following the blog series authored by Tayo, Emily, and members of the Parent Panel throughout the next 12 months

Visit the blog