I feel passionately that if an organisation wants to call itself person-centred it should take the same approach to its staff as it does to the people it supports. Embedding this strategy within an organisation is fundamental to its future.

Personalisation puts organisational decision-making as close as possible to the people who are being supported and this in turn impacts on the very processes and structures of the entire organisation.

In Creating Person-Centred Organisations, a book I have written with United Response Human Resources Director Stephen Stirk, we set out very clearly how understanding staff motivations, concerns and aspirations can change an organisation for the better.

Throughout the book we describe United Response as an example of an organisation which has embraced person-centred thinking and extended it to include everyone involved with the charity. Here the benefits can be seen in the outcomes for people supported, the culture, the conversations and practices as well as in hard organisational results.

In the case of United Response the process has had a dramatic impact on staff turnover which was reduced by an impressive 41% in the three years after first implementing person-centred practices.

To be truly person-centred an organisation needs to assess itself against eight clear criteria. How does your organisation measure up? You can rate it on a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 is ‘not present at all’ and 5 is ‘evident throughout the organisation’.


1) Visionary leadership; senior team motivate and inspire with a clear vision and mission.

2) Shared values and beliefs; everyone shares and can demonstrate the person-centred values of the organisation.

3) Outcomes for individuals; everything is orientated to achieving the right outcomes for people who are supported.

4) Community focus; both people supported and the organisation contribute to, and feel part of, their local community.

5) Empowered and valued staff; managers work with staff ensuring teams have clear purpose and know how to support each other, matching roles to strengths and talents. Staff are listened to and everyone is respected, trusted and accountable.

6) Individual and organisational learning; a person-centred organisation is also a learning organisation. Learning from the people supported directly influences team development. Innovation and enterprise can be found in a person-centred organisation.

7) Working together; building through partnerships with stakeholders, starting with the people who are supported, co-designing what they want their service to look like.

8) Embedded person-centred practices; the whole organisation shares a common language and practices to deliver the other seven key elements. This is part of the DNA of the organisation.


1-15 points: If you scored 15 points or lower you are at the beginning of this journey. Start by looking at introducing person-centred practices (8), leadership (1) and shared values (2).

16-30 points: Your organisation has some of the basics in place and is making progress. Look at how you can ensure that person-centred practices are embedded throughout the organisation (8), how to pay attention to outcomes for individuals (3), and how you are learning from people you support to drive further changes in your organisation (6).

31-40 points: Your organisation already has person-centred practices as a hallmark of what you do. To move forward, focus on pushing boundaries around community (4), and how people using your services are central to decision making (7). Share what you are learning through your website, blogs and more so people can learn from you.

Helen Sanderson, Vice Chair of the International Learning Community for Person Centred Practices.

Helen Sanderson is an internationally recognised innovator in person-centred thinking and has worked with United Response since 2004.

This blog is part of a series on the topic of person-centred organisations and approaches. It is also tied in to the release of Creating Person-Centred Organisations, by Stephen Stirk and Helen Sanderson – which heavily features United Response.