Working with our members to champion independent living and fairer society I think it’s really important for charities such as Independent Lives to invite people within their communities to contribute to their strategy. In 2018 we launched our membership programme so people with support needs and carers can influence the direction of our charity and how we develop our services. Martin Osment shares why he is a member of Independent Lives. Martin is also a member of the Access Steering Group chaired by Independent Lives where access groups from across the county share resources and work jointly. He is also the elected public governor for Adur with Sussex Community NHS Trust. Charities serve their communities. Communities are dynamic, constantly changing over time, so charities need to plan ahead to ensure they meet any future needs. Inviting people to take a more active role in achieving objectives is definitely something which should be encouraged more broadly across the third sector. It’s important to note that in some cases independence can lead to isolation. Participation needs to be directed towards achieving results, and not just talking about things. Unfortunately, it is all too easy to create talking shops, rather than support networks. Only with the combined feedback from every avenue of society are you able to effectively cater to the needs of everyone you serve. Across all I do I get a unique perspective. I get feedback from the Adur Access and Mobility Group and the Access Steering Group, which led to a monthly street surgery at Adur Saturday Farmers Market. I wouldn’t have been able to realise a need for this without active involvement. These kinds of outcomes can only be achieved with something like the membership programme. Everyone has unique experiences and views - confidence grows with engagement, but if people don’t engage, their views are unlikely to be known, let alone heard and responded to. Everyone has something that they can contribute, and should not only be encouraged to share, but should also recognise their duty to do so as a member of society. If you are interested in working as part of our group to overcome local access issues, or helping shape the direction of our charity, then get in touch with engagement officer, David Streeter.