Why communication matters in lived experience work

Lydia Trowse and Bec Edser, Emerging Minds, Australia, January 2024

Resource Summary

This resource is part of a case study on the Lived Experience Network: a co-designed group of lived experience system advisors established within the South Australian Government’s Department of Human Services (DHS) Early Intervention Research Directorate (EIRD). The Network aims to ensure the voices of children and families are included in the planning, monitoring and review of the Child and Family Support System.

We recommend exploring how and why the Lived Experience Network was formed before reading this resource.

Good communication shows respect, equalises power imbalances and facilitates effective and authentic engagement. To be successful in their roles, people with lived experience need to be provided with enough information about the organisation and systems they’re working within, as well as what is expected of them. This includes the intent, purpose and limitations they’re working within. The challenge is to provide this in a way that’s easy to digest, and to offer regular opportunities to check-in with people’s understanding along the way.

A robust feedback loop between the Department of Human Services and the Lived Experience Network ensures systems advisors know how their experience and advice is helping to create change. In the following audio clip (31 seconds), people with lived experience talk about the communication strategies that support their work.

In the next video (3 minutes, 59 seconds), LEN Coordinator Yasmin Sinclair and Network members explain the importance of reliable communication and knowledge sharing in lived experience work.

How to turn on video subtitles

To turn on subtitles/closed captions for this video, select the ‘CC’ icon in the lower right of the video screen and under ‘CC/Subtitles’, select ‘English’.

Reflection activity

Take a moment to consider the following questions:

  • How might effective communication help to equalise power imbalances between staff and families?
  • Can you think of other ways you could facilitate good communication with lived experience partners?

For more information on planning for successful lived experience engagement and group facilitation, visit the ‘Making contact’ and ‘Group processes’ sections of our Child and Family Partnerships Toolkit.

Emerging Minds would like to acknowledge the following Lived Experience Network Alumni, consultants and coordinator who have so generously shared their insights and wisdom for this project:

Shelly, Mirja, Jasmine, Wei, Jamie, Lemy, Chloe, Dana, Mel and Yasmin.

We thank them for investing their time and energy into creating this case study for others to learn from. You can learn more about what the alumni are up to now.

For more examples of ways to incorporate lived experience wisdom into your practice, please check out our other child and family partnership case studies.

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