Marie-Claire and I have been friends since we met as newly appointed trustees of a charity board. She recently launched her New Leaf network, so it was great timing to have her on an Aperture episode to talk about lived experience. Marie-Claire is the Founder and CEO of New Leaf, specialising in prison to employment via a pathway of education, training and holistic support.
Whilst Marie-Claire and I work in different areas of the social sector, we both champion recognising the value of lived experience and developing LEX leadership. I specialise in supporting people with experience of disability and feed into systems change at a strategic level, while Marie-Claire does the same in the criminal justice system. What was apparent from our conversation is that you will have shared experiences of the same barriers – whether your lived experience is of disability or the criminal justice system. You may have faced stigma and exclusion at times. You will likely have encountered tokenistic engagement from charities and institutions that extract your views to tick a box; or encourage you to tell your story in order to hang their work upon. You may have been perceived as a risk, or somewhat ‘less than’ in pursuit of employment or promotion – ironically often by the charities or institutions that exist to support and serve those like you.
These examples represent the experiences of many, but it does feel like a change is on its way. Marie-Claire believes we are on the crest of an exciting tidal wave of change. She puts the change down to a shift in the language being used; the change in the funding landscape; and the work of the LEX trailblazer Baljeet Sandhu. Marie-Claire talks passionately about the insights and innovation that come from meaningful engagement with those with lived experience, and the cost saving benefits from employing, and engaging with, those who know the system. Memorably, regarding employment she says, “You get a lot more bang for your buck. If somebody pays me £20,000 a year to do a job using my lived experience, I am going to give you £40,000 worth of employee’
Episode five is out now. Jason N Smith combines his lived experience with his creative talents to provide his poetic response. All in all… it’s worth a listen.