Lived experience

We work with a lot of organisations, where the founder(s) have set up their CIC (or charity) based on their own personal experience and gaps they found in the support available.   

We’ve recently completed an external evaluation for one such organisation, who were completely blown away by the feedback from their clients and partner organisations.  The feedback was really clear that one of the main reasons why the support works so well is that the founder and the staff all have lived experience themselves, so they ‘get it’.  Their service and the way they do things therefore works for their clients – the staff really understand what the challenges are, and how to make sure that the activities and services they deliver will work for their clients. 

This is a repeated theme.  And it’s something that can’t really be learnt.  Consultation is great, and staff or volunteers with years of experience are beyond valuable.  But when it comes down to it, the only way of really understanding something is to have lived through it (either directly, or in close proximity).   

We’d suggest that all organisations really think about this – how can you make sure that at all levels within your organisation (Board, staff, volunteers) you have people who really understand what it’s like to be in your client’s place.  How can you make sure their voices have influence in decision making and designing projects, activities and services and in the day-to-day decisions?  How can you make sure that you have more people with lived experience involved in your organisation?