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A community of Lived Experience Workers

How can we best support each other to thrive in our workplaces?

Campfire was invited to partner with Red Thread Stories Australia Inc to support the development of a community of practice pilot for lived experience workers, through Brisbane South PHN. 

It was such a rich and satisfying project. We had a core team of three hosts, who found and gathered a group of 25 people with lived experience of mental health issues who were working (paid or volunteer) in the Brisbane South region. 

They came along without really knowing each other or what was happening. We designed the first two-day workshop to discover what they needed and wanted for the next five events, and respond to that. 

From this first event and throughout the project we used, modelled and encouraged highly participatory methods, with self organising and shared leadership principles, and taking a living systems approach to building a community. We catered for diverse learning styles in the workshops - including conversation, play and games, visual harvesting, storytelling, playback theatre and more, choosing approaches that best suited the purpose. We co-designed, hosted, harvested and reflected at each stage of the project. 

What inspired us was how people trusted the process, us and each other. One man, a boat builder in another life, often said “I don’t know exactly what we are doing”. Yet throughout the project he stepped up into leadership roles. He, like many of us, have been accustomed to being told what to do. Slowly it became clear to him and others that it was their community of practice and all had a role. People began to learn how to self manage and use robust decision making and participatory processes. 

Ongoing support and mentorship was needed after the pilot finished. Unfortunately that didn't happen as it was planned. Yet this project showed how a diverse group of people can step into the unknown and learn how to create a community of practice together.

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