User engagement in social innovation

This report was conceived to present some common practices and suggestions for allowing the genuine participation of seniors in the social innovation process.

The document highlights the complexity of dealing with users and of engaging with them, while suggesting useful methodologies for user involvement, taking into account the inter-disciplinary approach needed when discussing and implementing social innovation.

Compiled by Age Platform Europe it draws on literature findings and also on AGE Platform Europe’s extensive experience of working with older people in the framework of Innovage and other European research projects.

Since its foundation in 2001, AGE Platform Europe has participated in many European funded research projects aiming to promote a society of all ages, to foster active and healthy ageing and to protect the wellbeing and dignity of older persons.

The starting point is the principle that engagement with older users in the planning and development of innovative approaches is essential when developing new goods and/or services. Transforming users into partners ensures relevance and adequacy of new approaches and will help them to be implemented and adapted to different contexts.

Therefore, these guidelines aim to present a strong recommendation for involvement of older people in the planning, development and implementation of social innovations, new ideas meeting social needs and creating new relationships or collaboration. They also provide social innovators with practical tips to incorporate users’ perspectives in the social innovation processes.

Guidelines on user involvement in social innovation report (PDF, 923KB)

More examples of good practice

Below is an expanding list of guidelines and good practice examples from across Europe on engaging users in ageing related research.


AAL Programme resources on engaging end users (AAL, 2013)

The link above provides relevant items including:

  • The art and joy of user integration in AAL projects

  • AAL stakeholders and their requirements

  • Toolbox: Methods of end users integration

Futurage: A road map for ageing research in Europe (Futurage, 2011)

The Futurage project offers a model for a fully integrated research strand on the needs of users which runs alongside scientific consultation. Visit the website (link above) to review the reports from the user engagement activities and see the project structure to understand how these activities were embedded in the project.


Getting involved in ageing research: A guide for the community and voluntary sector (CARDI, 2015)

Building stronger user engagement in age research (CARDI, 2014)


In recent years, user participation has been paid increasing attention as an important part of research. The scientific literature describes a range of benefits:

  • Enhanced understanding of the research field in question.

  • Identification of urgent issues.

  • Richer, deeper data.

  • Innovative dimensions in data analysis.

  • Increased confidence in and improved dissemination of research results.

The research brief "User participation" describes in short the level of knowledge within this field. It is available in two languages on the website:

Swedish: Forskning i korthet: Brukarmedverkan (FORTE, 2015)

English: Research brief "User participation" (FORTE, 2015)


Age Friendly Manchester (an initiative of Manchester City Council) worked with Manchester University and Age UK to produce a guide to working with older people as co-researchers.