Party culture

Investing in peer support

Peer support is when people use their personal experience to provide knowledge, advice, emotional or practical support to each other, in a way that is mutually beneficial. There are lots of different forms of peer support you could consider setting up including:

  • Befriending and buddying schemes
  • Peer mentoring: for example, women in the party being able to shadow women MSPs or councillors
  • Online question or discussion forums
  • Training

People who have been involved in providing or receiving peer support frequently say that it has helped them develop skills, feel more confident, and pursue roles they are interested in. There is also evidence to show that peer support and mentoring programmes have a positive impact on increasing the number of women, minority ethnic, LGBTI and disabled people in influential roles.

The content of a peer support scheme should always be chosen by the people from that underrepresented group. Several parties already have a peer support scheme of some sort. However, to increase the effectiveness of these networks, they need to be supported and resourced by the party leadership and properly funded, so that they don’t become an additional burden on underrepresented groups within your party. You should prioritise these networks and make sure they are seen as a valued part of your organisation. For example, you should enable these networks to propose policy on issues affecting people from that group, give time at your conference for sessions run by peer support groups, and provide opportunities for them to feedback on their activities at local party meetings.

Finally, although peer support and mentoring networks provide great support to people from underrepresented groups, they won’t change the overall culture of the party. To do that you need to take actions to change the ways you organise and remove barriers to involvement. All of the sections of this tool will equip you to do that effectively.

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