Peer-based work has some unique characteristics that explain why it so widely used and successful.

Peer work:

  • facilitates social norms, not only individual behaviour
  • is flexible.
  • means that implementers are part of the community
  • provides the opportunity for early intervention community
  • provides access to services
  • effective and cost effective.

I see a difference in the field, talking informally with the drug users. They listen and collaborate because they know that I have the experience of drug use. On the other hand, professionals are starting to recognize peer work and call for us to represent drug users in seminars and workshops. I can give the example of this network that called for us, CASO, to assume the role of mediators for homeless drug users: they ask for our presence on the meetings!

Sergio Rodriquez







Facilitates social norms

Peer work provides important contributions to changing norms by providing forums for dialogue and discussion and by empowering people to take control over their lives.  It supports people to collectively examine conditions and consequences of risk behaviour, to negotiate and reformulate norms for other (e.g. healthier) options, and provides mutual support for this behaviour
People are more likely to change their behaviour if they see their ideas reflected among their peers and community.





Peer work is flexible and can be adapted to specific situations.  It can be implemented in various ways, places and events, depending on the need of the audience. It can target any group and adapt the language, issues etc according to the needs of the group.  For further details see, for instance  See WHERE can you work?



Part of the community

Peer workers are part of the community and can communicate effectively with the intended audience.  Peer workers speak same language, literally and figuratively. They understand the realities and know how and where to reach their audience.  Information from a person ‘just like me’ is perceived to be more credible than that from an ‘outsider’.




Opportunity for early intervention

Peer workers are likely to meet people who are ambivalent about talking with clinicians, social workers or non-peer outreach workers.  Peer work can penetrate and operate inside communities that are otherwise hardly reached. Peers are more likely to meet people who have not found their way to traditional services or who are more reluctant to enrol in services (such as younger, female drug users or people in the early stages of their using careers).  Thus peer work opens up an ideal opportunity for early intervention.

See: Correlation Outreach manual




Provides access

Peer work opens access to services for people who have not yet been supported by them.  By operating in the community itself and making contact with individuals who are out of the reach of regular services, peer workers have the opportunity to start supporting people by guiding them towards services that might be of help.  Peer workers can be a good and neutral means of promoting quality services.