Creating lasting systems change – at local and national levels – is a key objective of the Fulfilling Lives programme and experts by experience have become increasingly involved in systems change work in their local areas. Our latest publication draws together the experiences and perspectives of partnership staff, partner and stakeholder organisations and insights and reflections from experts by experience (people with lived experience of multiple disadvantage) involved in systems change activities.

By providing a powerful, authentic voice and unique insights, experts are able to challenge assumptions, motivate organisations to do things differently and pinpoint areas for change. The opportunity to be involved in system change activity can be empowering and satisfying as it enables experts to reframe negative past experiences as learning to drive positive change. As a result, experts gain valuable experience, develop confidence and feelings of self-worth and feel pride in being able to contribute.

However, experts must be kept informed and received timely feedback to help ensure that their involvement is meaningful and not tokenistic. Organisations should also seek ways to create lasting opportunities for involvement, such as a regular seat on a strategic board or continued engagement as policies are reviewed.

Organisations need to be aware of the power imbalances between staff and experts and consider ways to reduce these. Experts should be provided with detailed information in advance of any activity so they can prepare. Co-producing systems change activities with experts ensures that the activity meets their needs and they can play an equal role.

The report details the different ways experts by experience contribute to creating system change, the impact of their involvement on systems and themselves and how approaches might be replicated in different contexts. The full report can be read here and will be of interest to Fulfilling Lives partnerships as well as local and national service providers and policy-makers whose work affects people experiencing multiple disadvantage. Our recent webinar which can be watched here also shares insight from this publication.