‘Lived experience’ leadership initiative launches with National Lottery funding

Posted on January 30, 2018

Sarah McMillan

A new leadership initiative in the UK is underway after receiving a grant from Big Lottery Fund, the largest funder of community activity in the UK.

The £283,500 funding boost will see people with first-hand experience of social issues – such as poverty, discrimination, homelessness and other forms of social disadvantage - encouraged to be at the forefront of shaping solutions to those issues and driving change.

The Leaders with Lived Experience programme – run by UnLtd and The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP) – follows research which highlights the need to close the gap between those who experience social issues and those working to solve them.

The year-long scheme seeks to understand and test how to address this gap and ensure that people with experience of social issues have an equal opportunity to solve some of the biggest challenges facing their communities and society more broadly.

UnLtd and TSIP are using the National Lottery grant to build a better understanding of the barriers and opportunities facing current and aspiring leaders with lived expertise around the UK. Two research and coproduction sites will then be established in Birmingham and Bristol. These sites will provide a base for leaders with lived experience, charities, voluntary sector organisations and statutory bodies to work together.

The aim is to create meaningful leadership opportunities and progression routes for people with lived experience. The lessons learned from these sites will be shared throughout the sector with the potential to replicate approaches in other parts of the country.  

The project has been inspired and informed by research into the value of lived experience by Baljeet Sandhu, 2017 Yale World Fellow. Her recent report, The Value of Lived Experience in Social Change, identified the need for structural change within the social sector to ensure that people with real-life expertise have opportunities to lead and shape change.

Baljeet Sandhu is acting as an expert advisor on the Leaders with Lived Experience initiative, and the delivery team is co-led by Sade Brown, an expert by experience and founder of Sour Lemons.

Dawn Austwick, Chief Executive of Big Lottery Fund, said: “People with first-hand experience of living with an issue are best-placed to identify and shape potential solutions, and this scheme is about unlocking their potential. Drawing on the wide pool of life experience and hands-on expertise currently going untapped in the UK, UnLtd and TSIP are taking an important step towards capturing this knowledge to ensure people’s deep understanding of the challenges they face is at the heart of making change happen.”

Sade Brown, Founder, Sour Lemons said: “Thanks to National Lottery players, we will be able to place more people with lived experience of social issues into positions of power and influence, so they can use their knowledge and understanding of sensitive issues to benefit others in similar circumstances.

“I feel passionately that a lived experience can be your biggest asset, as it gives you a deep insight to the problem and potential solutions. It’s with this belief that I founded Sour Lemons last year, to encourage young people from similar backgrounds to mine to use their diversity of life experiences to make creative and social change. I’m very excited for the impact this project will have and to see more leaders with lived experience driving through positive change based on their own circumstances.”

The Big Lottery Fund is the largest distributor of National Lottery money, giving out 40% of the money raised by players for good causes. Last year it awarded almost £713 million and supported almost 14,000 projects across the UK for health, education, environment and charitable purposes.