Leaders with lived experience

Tom Sheppard

Digital Manager

4th October 2017



Leading with Lived Experience ?

People across the UK are using their first-hand experience of social issues, such as homelessness and addiction, to drive social change. We call these people leaders with lived experience. 

At UnLtd we know that lived experience is vital to solve social issues. We also know that there is a leadership gap in the social sector between those who ‘live’ issues and those who ‘solve’ them. We have been working with leaders with lived experience (LLE) and sector partners to address this gap.

The Leaders with Lived Experience pilot

In 2017/18 we partnered with The Social Innovation Partnership (TSIP) on a new initiative, supported by the National Lottery Community Fund.

We worked with 30 leaders with lived experience in Birmingham and Bristol to define the systemic barriers they face (such as the lack of access to equal and meaningful opportunities, conscious and unconscious bias around lived experience, lack of trust or a common language to discuss this challenge, etc.) and co-design meaningful solutions to tackling these barriers.

We also wanted to trial a new way of working with LLE to lead social change within the sector, and understand what it takes to genuinely work in an inclusive manner.

Download Visual Report

What we learnt

The pilot has been a learning journey for us and has had far reaching implications for us as an organisation–  for our culture, structures and people – as summarised in this report.  We’ve started to do things differently as a result, such as changing our recruitment practices and application process to encourage more LLE to apply for UnLtd roles and awards.

It has also been an opportunity for reflecting, sharing knowledge and learning together with LLE. Read our blog to hear about LLE’s experience of participating in the pilot and working with us to share learning with the sector.

Most importantly, this initiative has brought together lived and learnt expertise, and demonstrates the value of working in this way to break down systemic barriers in the sector. The visual learning report  we co-produced with LLE highlights what we learnt and what we think needs to change.

Using this learning to drive change

At UnLtd we are committed to using this learning to create more and better pathways for LLE to realise their potential through social entrepreneurship. We want to do this by:

  • Building on and continuing our support to social entrepreneurs from the LLE cohorts in Bristol and Birmingham.
  • Transforming our engagement and support offer to enable more social entrepreneurs with lived experience to lead the change they want to see
  • Creating recruitment processes and progression routes for LLE within UnLtd. We want LLE to be involved in the design, governance and delivery of our work.
  • Opening up spaces and opportunities for more LLE to influence the sector 

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