The challenge from lived experience

There’s a lot of talk at the moment in the UK charity sector about the importance of valuing the challenge from lived experience in both service delivery and campaigning. While people may be talking about it, there is one new report which is both compelling and challenging by Baljeet Sandhu – the value of lived experience in social changeIt is a superb report and well worth making the time to read it.

I am really excited to see this new focus on welcoming the challenge from lived experience. Recently I have been inspired by the work of Migrant Voice giving a voice to migrants on issues of concern to them – the recent TOEIC campaign is such a superb example of the power of such campaigning. I also continue to be inspired by the work of Freed Voices, which exists as an independent project within Detention Action to ensure that the voices of people who have been in immigration detention are heard both in campaign planning and by decision makers.

And at City of Sanctuary, we are working hard with people with lived experience. We are ready to be challenged on our ways of working and on our strategy. In addition our recent Sanctuary in Parliament event was so inspiring by giving a platform for experts by experience and then asking MPs to respond to their points. We want to do much more of this in future.

The value of lived experience is one of the most exciting things happening in campaigning – but it needs to be real, genuine and not just tokenistic. And for this to happen NGOs need to be ready to give up some power and lose some control. The command and control approach to campaigning by some NGOs is no longer fit for purpose.

For NGOs really to gain the value of lived experience in campaigning then they must be ready to lose control. We do need to see a shift in the power dynamic in campaigning. Whilst professional campaigning skills are important, so is lived experience. If we can get to a place where both are valued, then surely we will see real change both internally as well as externally.  

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