Miranda joined the Fulfilling Lives evaluation team in January 2022 to support the final months of the learning programme, including organisation of the final conference.
My mission, should I choose to accept it: sum up an eight-year programme of work spanning 12 regions across the country, that has supported nearly 4,000 people facing multiple disadvantage, in a six-hour event to share learning, inspire and challenge attendees to think differently about current support systems, and celebrate the programme’s achievements.
Sure, I said. I love a conference and I’ve worked with a huge number of fantastic people across my time working in the Fulfilling Lives programme. What a great chance to get everyone together!
But also… what a difficult task! It quickly became clear that we were never going to be able to feature all of the amazing work and people involved in such a big programme – there was simply too much.
As is the way with any tricky project, teamwork saved the day. Fulfilling Lives projects that were still running threw their all into developing engaging workshops to deliver. Members of the National Expert Citizens Group, as always, gave brilliant feedback about the running of the day, and the national communications team worked their magic in putting together promotional materials. Colleagues at The National Lottery Community Fund and Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities supported us in engaging some senior keynote speakers, including the Minister for Equalities, Local Government, Faith and Communities, Kemi Badenoch. The Fulfilling Lives programme has worked collaboratively with many others in the multiple disadvantage space, including those with both lived and learnt experience, and from them we found a range of exciting speakers.
Phew! We ended up with a packed agenda, but a good one.
Fast forward through booking systems, promotional tweets and a whole lot of tech run-throughs to make sure that as a hybrid conference, both online and in-person attendees could have a great experience, and the day was upon us.
And then, in the blink of an eye, the day was over – how could so much planning go into something that passed so quickly?! They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and I hope that everyone else was enjoying it as much as I did. This short film gives a flavour of the day.
Having a moment to reflect afterwards, here are a few key takeaways:
- Passionate people make great speakers – and we had no shortage of passionate people who shared their insights and learning.
- Supporting people with lived experience to be able to share their experiences and perspectives safely is vital for helping us to better understand how the system of services works (or doesn’t).
- Watching people connect and share contact details over lunch and coffee is part of the magic of a conference; get a room full of fantastic people together and they’ll do the rest.
- Hybrid events can work well and reach a wider audience than just face-to-face conferences. We were delighted to work with a great company that made sure that all the online streaming worked smoothly.
Overall, it was a real pleasure to take a step back and see how far we’ve come from when the Fulfilling Lives programme first started. More than that though, seeing the relationships that have been forged and the energy and enthusiasm for continuing systems change work gave me a lot of hope for the future. I can’t thank everyone who participated in the conference enough for making it such a great day.
Don’t worry if you were unable to join us on the day: you can access all the presentations, films and workshops from conference here. I hope it continues to inspire many others as much as it inspired me.