At Crisis, we make a conscious effort to place lived experience of homelessness at the heart of all our work. We know that it is vital to use the expertise of people who have experienced homelessness if we are going to sustainably end it. We are committed to remunerating these experts when they share their knowledge.
So, what does this look like in a practical sense? Firstly, we have an Experts by Experience Panel, consisting of people who have experienced homelessness. This panel is our first port of call when thinking about including lived experience in our work. Members of the panel with the appropriate expertise get involved in projects, sometimes co-producing the piece of work from the start, and sometimes providing feedback on existing pieces of work.
The panel advise on a range of topics: from how different teams within Crisis can communicate better, to how we can work more effectively with other homelessness organisations. Members of the panel can also advocate on behalf of groups. The Traveller community are represented by an Expert by Experience, who has outlined that audible forms of communication like voice-notes are a better way of contacting this community than traditional channels like email.
Nicholas is a member of the Experts by Experience Panel, and he fed into discussions about Crisis’ new strategy. He recalled, “what we have contributed has been noted and presented to the senior management team on an exactly equal footing with contributions by staff, volunteers, and external organisations. This is important because it indicates that co-production is authentic and being taken seriously. It could very easily have been inauthentic and tokenistic.”
But this isn’t the only way we bring lived experience into our work. We also work with current Crisis members and their lead worker, and we work with other charities in the sector to get a new geographical angle on projects. Although there is incredible power in the stories shared by our members and others with lived experience of homelessness, we want to go beyond this. We want to let people know that their distinctive expertise is valued, that they have a voice beyond their personal story of homelessness. We want to empower people with lived experience to shape the course that Crisis takes.
There have been some huge triumphs when we place lived experience at the centre of our projects.
-The recent Make History campaign was shaped by a workshop with members of the Experts by Experience panel. Feedback centred around the design of the campaign, as well as the policy areas it targets.
-A group of Ukrainian refugee women spoke powerfully at an All-Party Parliamentary Group about their experience of homelessness. Their impact continued with letters to ministers petitioning for change.
-A member of the Experts by Experience panel has acted as a Peer Researcher for the Race and Homelessness report. This involved designing research programmes, collecting data, analysing results, and designing recruitment materials.
-Members attended a workshop about colour schemes for the new Skylight building. The group discussed the importance of avoiding colours that were too bright and child-like. Instead, they opted for more sophisticated colours that would calm members who might be anxious or worried.