We have long celebrated inspiring
change-makers who have used their
lived experiences
to pioneer, drive and lead
positive social change in society.

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Consider the women’s rights movement; the civil rights movement; Alcoholics Anonymous; the world’s first safe house for women and children (Refuge), set up by a child survivor of domestic violence – and the list goes on. But today, in modern society, why is the lived experience taking a backseat in social change thinking and social purpose work?

Lived Experience:

‘The experience(s) of people on whom a social issue, or combination of issues, has had a direct impact’.

Lived Expertise:

‘Knowledge, insights, understanding and wisdom gathered through lived experience.’ 

*Experts by Experience:

‘Social change-makers who seek to use their lived experience to inform the work of social purpose organisations, to drive and lead social change, and/or to drive their social impact work’. 

*A term coined by social change-makers in the UK using their lived experience to pioneer and lead social change

This report explores if, and how, social purpose organisations in the United Kingdom value lived expertise in social change work. It also looks at what meaningful opportunities, if any, there are for experts by experience to drive and lead social impact work in modern society.

The overarching conclusion is that lived experience continues to have little traction as a core concept in social change work and leadership, despite its proven impact in human history.

There is a glaring shortage of meaningful and equitable opportunities for experts by experience to be involved in the work of the social sector, and there is a pressing need for leadership and organisational development across the wider sector to ensure that social purpose work benefits from all forms of human wisdom, knowledge and expertise. Only then can we begin to remove the pervasive imbalance that currently exists in our social change equilibrium.

It is time to do better and to appreciate the truth at the heart of the social sector – that fundamentally it is people who create social change. It is time to collectively explore, value and celebrate the change-making and leadership capacity that flourishes throughout civic society, including people and communities with lived experience of the social issues we all seek to tackle.

As a starting point, there is an urgent need for universal cross-sector commitment to this broad agenda. I hope that this report will help achieve this and strengthen the case for sustained implementation of changes throughout the social change ecosystem, including the wider social sector.

Here you will be able to:

© Baljeet Sandhu l The Lived Experience l 2017