Who we are
There's room for change in society.
And to make that change, we're going to need innovative solutions and great talent to make those solutions happen.
People with lived experience can deliver both.
Yet, many social impact organisations still don't engage people with lived experience in every area and level of their work.
We're here to change that, and we’re driven by our belief in the unique value of lived experience for social transformation.
What is lived experience?
We define lived experience as direct, first-hand experience, past or present, of a social issue(s) and/or injustice(s) (Sandhu, Lived Experience Leadership, 2019).
Lived experience leaders apply their experiences to benefit the communities they share the experiences with.
Why does lived experience matter in social impact organisations?
In her work Sandu found that lived experiences leaders who work in social impact can bring unique skills and knowledge, including:
insider understanding of the social problems the sector is trying to tackle
connections to communities that the charity needs to reach to achieve change
greater accountability to the communities that the charity serves
more authentic individuals and teams within the charity
stronger focus towards the charity’s mission (Sandu, 2019).
These findings are also backed up by all the research on diversity which shows that diverse teams are more creative, smarter and less biased. In the social sector, leaders believe that a Board which reflects the populations served can better understand communities and help organisations to be more flexible and adaptable. These benefits cascade through every single level of social impact organisations, with diversity increasing employee satisfaction and retention because in diverse organisations people feel more engaged and more able to innovate.
But even though we know all this, as a sector we've been slow to change. For example, still just 3% of sector leaders are Black, Asian or minority ethnic (BME), while at the same time BME people are over represented within many social groups experiencing injustices, like poverty and homelessness. This isn't good enough. If we really want to drive social change as a sector, we need to be led by the people best placed to know what change is needed: those who've experienced the problem.
What's the problem?
Like many other sectors, social inequalities can act as a barrier to young people with lived experience coming into the social impact workforce. The graduate job market is a good example of this.
Most internships and entry level jobs are in London and many internships and entry level jobs pay less than you need to live on in London. So, of graduates that move to London, less than 10% come from the most deprived areas of the UK. And only a third of working class graduates taking up internships - compared to 43% of their middle class peers. Some young people who secure an internship have to then turn it down for financial reasons.
There are far more charities and social impact organisations in London than any other part of the country so young people with fewer resources, many of whom are likely to have other experiences of other social issues, like poverty or being in care, are going to be left behind: they simply won't be able to apply for many jobs in our sector.
The culture and practices of the social impact sector can also be a problem.
From recruitment processes and internship practices that don’t work fairly for everyone, to the way in which other colleagues respond to people's lived experience, there are many ways in which our sector itself can be a barrier. Challenges that individuals with lived experience can face in the sector include lived experience being treated as less valuable as other forms of experience, stigma, bias and discrimination and organisational cultutures which limit how lived experience is allowed to be used and by who (Sanhdu, 2019).
What are we doing?
We're coming at the problem from both sides.
We're supporting and empowering young people with lived experience who want to work in social impact and we're helping social impact organisations get ready to harness the power of lived experience in every level of their organisation and every area of their work.