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By Kahra Wayland-Larty, Associate at Just Fair and in conversation with Dylan McLeish, lived experience advisory group (LEAG) member.

Since October last year, I’ve been working with the most inspiring group of people from across the UK to develop a proposal for how Just Fair can better integrate the perspectives and expertise of people with lived experience of the injustices the organisation seeks to fight – into all its work.

In January, we were able to take our proposals to Just Fair’s Trustee Board, with two group members, Fatiha and Dylan, presenting on behalf of the group to staff and trustees. After an inspiring and impassioned presentation, the Trustee Board agreed to move forward with the group’s proposals, agreeing that staff should meet with them to agree a plan of action for implementing their ideas.

So, with that agreed, we’ll be working over the coming months to run an extended pilot of the lived experience advisory group (LEAG) – moving from this ‘development phase’ into an action phase. The group will now be focusing on:

  • Feeding into Just Fair’s overall strategy development, with a focus on developing strategic objectives relating to the engagement of lived experience, which will include considering remuneration, community outreach and political influence.
  • Advising on project work.
  • Testing approaches to two-way accountability to the Trustee Board.

To share a deeper insight into how the group has been doing, I asked Dylan, one of the lived experience board members a few questions:

What has been your favourite part of the work so far?

I have really enjoyed being involved with Just Fair. I am really passionate about making a difference, especially around human rights issues in the mental health system. I feel just getting together as a group online for the first time was really refreshing, it was good to find such a diverse group of people with similar aspirations and goals.

The presentation to the Trustee Board was also a highlight for me. Although I was quite anxious, my speech was pressured, and I nearly got caught up in technical difficulties which would have been really embarrassing, it was great to have accomplished the first phase of my lived experience journey with Just Fair. I am really looking forward to the next stage of the journey.

What has it been like working with the team?

The team has been absolutely refreshing. It was great to find a group so passionate about change, and you Kahra have been an inspirational leader, with great guidance for the group to flourish. I feel that the group is relatively cohesive, with similar ideas and goals. We all seem to be singing off the same sheet when it comes to moving forward and sharing or ideas.

Has anything been unexpectedly challenging?

I have faced challenges whilst working with the LEAG as I am detained under the Mental Health Act struggling to assert my self-determination. However, the group have been so supportive, and it’s great to think I can be part of the change.

What are your dreams for the LEAG over the next phase?

I hope that the LEAG can really be a game-changer when it comes to Just Fair fulfilling its aspirations. I would love to see the LEAG become a voice representing the people who face difficulties and injustices. I think we can tackle these issues and start to rectify them by being involved in consultancy groups and doing some work in Parliament with APPGs (All Party Parliamentary Groups) and select committees for example. I do feel lived experience is a great mode of expression and empowers people who could be otherwise left marginalised, standing as an inspiration for other projects.

Thanks, Dylan, for sharing your insight and expertise on this.

We are now looking forward to the project entering its next phase and building on the excellent work we have already achieved together. Lived experience leadership has to part of the bedrock of social change, and it’s great to be working together to build that foundation at Just Fair.

Below are some thoughts that members of the LEAG shared on their experience of the group so far.

On the process of developing their proposal and presenting to Just Fair staff and Trustees:
  • “The proposal is a good first step for creating a new concept of work, involving lived experience in organisations and charities can help identify problems and raise awareness, [while finding] the best solutions. Of course, the lived experience work needs to be promoted and shared with other organisations, because it is really important to spread the importance of it as an effective model of shaping the best positive change in our communities.”
  • “The Trustees and staff were genuinely enthusiastic and very respectful regarding the proposal. And I think that the proposal accurately reflects the journey we went on as a group and where we ended up.”
  • “Only thing I would have included is a face to face as a group, I think even if this was a one-off session with childcare or the option of members attending online.”
On their personal reflections on the work of the group so far:
  • “Definitely loved being part of this group this is what co production is about involving individuals from the start and going through the process together.”
  • “Felt so inspired by knowing my experiences and knowledge will help improve and make sure everyone has a right to services or help if they or others require help and support. Also listening to all the different organisations willing to take a stand to help with the work Just Fair have been doing was so inspiring.”
On next steps:
  • “I feel we have set a good grounding for future work. It’s going forward and what happens next that counts. I am really passionate about change, hopefully with Just Fair I can play a role in creating it.”
  • “I think I’m feeling fine about Just Fair’s commitment because it is the first experience about lived experience group and of course there will be positive improvements in the future when Just Fair start working along with the advisory group.”
  • “We need to start to work toward our vision as a group before anything new could be introduced and see how we get on, as don’t really think this is for me to decide. We have put together as a group a plan, so it’s important we start to work together on the goals we set out as a group with everyone contributing, as and when they feel able to.”

With these reflections, it’s clear it’s now time to move from development to action. Watch this space for updates on how the LEAG and Just Fair staff team plan to undertake work together over the next phase of the project.

Read previous blogs about the LEAG:

Background image by Yvonne Keesman for Fine Acts