The development of 'self help' activities

Mai Wann
1st Aug 1995

Self help and mutual aid activities have expanded rapidly over the last two decades.

The Institute for Public Policy Research commissioned Mai Wann to explore the characteristics and scope of self help activities, their strengths and weaknesses, and ways in which they can be supported. (The term ‘self help’ is used throughout this publication to denote self help and mutual aid.) The main findings were:

  • Core activities include providing emotional support and exchanging information, advice and assistance. Self help groups cover a wide range of activities but, in spite of their enormous diversity, tend to follow similar patterns of development and face common organisational problems
  • individuals, self help groups can end social isolation, build confidence and competence, and provide practical ways of meeting needs.
  • The study identified the following as forming a challenge to the development of self help groups: rural environments; relationships with professionals; organising in ethnic minority communities; questions of leadership, evaluation and consultation; availability of resources