Shifting Practice, Policy and Power 

Foundation News

Shifting Practice, Policy and Power 

4 Feb 2022

Individuals with lived experience share five tips for impactful change.

Individuals with lived experience partnered with the Foundation and Comic Relief last year to address social injustices and inequalities uncovered and made worse by the pandemic.

The impact of the programme was positive with £594,000 of funding awarded to 36 communities, supporting over 7,000 vulnerable individuals. But the learning was wider-reaching with an even greater potential.  We asked people with lived experience to share with us what is needed for impactful change to happen at a community level. This is what they said ….

The voice of lived experience is critical 

“The person who wears the shoes knows where they pinch”. In essence, this means involving those with lived experience even more in the design, delivery and evaluation of our work.  This requires us as funders to be much more intentional about how we do things.  Rather than hoping that this just ‘happens’, we trust those with lived experience to know what works best, encouraging and actively supporting new approaches and processes, recognising that together we will have successes.


New ways of decision making 

As we move towards elections we’ll hear many promises of change for the future yet many fail to include those who have lived experience from critical conversations;   Conversations regarding what might be the necessary actions to make Northern Ireland a better place for everyone to live in.

Supporting new methods of decision making, including how budgets are allocated; participatory decision making,  creating new opportunities for regional and local community democracy and accountability.

“Those in power need to do much more than listen to minorities and marginalised communities;  they need to hear, to understand and act upon what is being said to them”


Commitment to shift the power 

A greater commitment to #ShiftThePower is needed,  not only from our political parties but also from society in general. The current power imbalance leads to poor programme development and decision making at regional and local government levels and does very little to create a society based on trust, relationships and mutual aid.

We should all expect society to address the issues of inequity, discrimination, exclusion, stigma and social injustice, irrespective of where this is found and who is impacted; and that diversity is respected and supported as a force for good.



Trust and human relationships are critical to success.  These flourished even within the operating context of Covid-19, zoom calls and lack of in-person meetings. Being intentional, taking time to listen, co-designing programmes and solutions to problems that emerged, demonstrated the huge importance of investing in people, an intentional act that takes time, energy, commitment and resources. It is the strength of the relationships that allow positive and sustainable changes to take place.

Diverse and Flexible Funding 

A commitment from all funders for more diverse and flexible funding,  recognising that it will take time for people and communities to understand what they need to move forward.  As our society emerges from the trauma of the pandemic, community needs will continue to change and funding must be flexible to allow these needs to be supported.

The programme highlighted many important issues facing our communities.  The building back of a stronger voluntary and community sector, the building back of a better funding environment and the building back of people and communities.

These ‘building back’ themes don’t sit in isolation; they are interdependent and are all supported by scaffolding of the hopes, dreams and aspirations of many people who quite simply want their place, community and wider society to be an even better place to live in.

Read the full report here.

Any questions get in touch with Michael Hughes –




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