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Removing Barriers to the Power of Lived Experience

By April 17, 2024April 18th, 2024Blog post

Refugee Action’s Mohamed Omar invites participation in a conference to explore how to truly harness the power of lived experience to move from involvement to influence and impact in organisations. 

The transformative journey and challenges in prioritising lived experience within the refugee and migrant charity sector requires us to unite diverse groups, foster collaboration and address key questions for meaningful impact and change.  

Refugee and migrant charities are increasingly recognising the power and authenticity that lived experiences bring to their initiatives. A recent survey of 175 NGOs in the sector, commissioned by Migration Exchange, shows that there was more consensus on the importance and necessity of meaningful involvement of lived experience than on any other priority issue.  

IT IS TIME WE ESTABLISH A TRUE UNDERSTANDING AND ACT ON CENTERING AND AMPLIFYING AUTHENTIC VOICES AND INSIGHTS OF LIVED EXPERIENCE EXPERTS 

For far too long, however, lived expertise-led social change has been just a limited fraction of the change that is happening in the sector. As we navigate an extremely challenging political landscape that undermines the right to seek asylum, it is time we establish a true understanding and act on centering and amplifying authentic voices and insights of lived experience experts from the asylum and immigration system. 

While the refugee and migrant charity sector has made some progress in their approaches to embracing lived experience, challenges persist in defining its true meaning and ensuring inclusivity. We know that “involvement” does not always mean “influence”, and there is need for a wider cultural shift in many organisations to truly harness lived experience.  

HOW DO WE REMOVE BARRIERS THAT PREVENT THE FULL STRENGTH OF LIVED EXPERIENCE TO MANIFEST ITSELF IN THE WIDER SCHEME OF POWER STRUCTURES? 

How do we shift power, or remove barriers that prevent the full strength of lived experience to manifest itself in the wider scheme of power structures? How does this relate to other power-related paradigms, such as anti-racism and equality, diversity, inclusion and belonging initiatives? 

There are more to add to this mix of questions we should be addressing. The term “lived experience” itself raises crucial questions that demand ongoing dialogue and exploration, and tailored models of support for staff and volunteers with lived experience in their growth and development are yet to be prevalent, despite ongoing work. 

We will delve into these challenges and questions at our upcoming conference co-designed by Kolbassia Haoussou from Freedom from Torture, Marchu Belete from Migration Exchange, Mohamed Omar from Refugee Action, and Yusuf Ciftci from Refugee Council.