How is lived experience engaged in your organisation?

For my research for this article, I spoke to two organisations that are either designed around people who’ve experienced a particular social issue so that I could uncover models of engagement that might be useful for other organisations.

Expert Citizens was founded from the notion that to create systems change and improve services, people with relevant experience need to be at the centre. The organisation advocates for people with experience of issues to be at the centre of service design.

I also spoke to the campaigning organisation, The Voice of Domestic Workers, which was founded by Marissa Begonia, a former domestic worker herself. She told me that she realised that by working together and sitting down together and understanding each other, her campaign could have a bigger voice and this was what led her to organise with the purpose of helping out her fellow domestic workers. This led to the formation of the organisation which is now a registered charity providing advocacy and support.

Lived experience was there at its inception and remains at the heart of the organisation’s purpose. This is visible throughout its communications:

The Sheila McKechnie Foundation work on the Social Change Grid looking at different forms of power within change-making is useful too.

I also talked to Paula Harriott who’s working on centring personal experience of the criminal justice system in expertise for policy development. She created the Prisoner Policy Network in 2018 which now has 1000 active members. The Network is focused on building prisoner leadership and has published numerous reports, a ARIAS nominated podcast The Secret Life of Prisons and created opportunities for prisoners and serving prisoners to be published in books as well as co-authoring research pieces and contributing to policy development.

Within the Prison Reform Trust, 40% of the staff are people with convictions including the senior management team and board of trustees. This shapes the culture as this first-hand experience of the criminal justice system is completely integrated within the organisation at all levels.