TEDx Wolverhampton, a Year on by Sunny Dhadley FRSA
It has now been over a year since I was blessed to speak at the inaugural TEDx Wolverhampton event. From that time onwards, I can definitely say that my life has never been the same. Immediately after leaving the stage on that wonderful day I began to notice the adulation, respect and love that people started to share with me, something that has continued to this day!
My talk has introduced me to people whom I have never met, and perhaps wouldn’t ordinarily have been introduced to. I regularly receive messages from people across the globe that have been inspired or touched by my message on the importance of lived experience. What TEDx Wolverhampton did was to provide a universally respected branding to my message.
Since giving the talk, I have been an ambassador for a national campaign on drug policy reform for a major political party, an activist co-ordinator for a global advocacy organisation, delivered talks and seminars across the UK and beyond (recently using digital platforms due to the restrictions that we have encountered), produced sector guidance for the entire homelessness workforce, helped to develop specific funding streams to support the development of lived experience leadership, recorded numerous podcasts and webinars, supported the launch of NHS England engagement platforms, worked as an associate consultant with quite a few different organisations and am currently an expert reference group member for a ministerial directed independent review on drugs in the UK. In the background, I have also been developing an enterprise that I hope will transform the way that social impact is recognised globally.
The pandemic that we are all living through is something that has highlighted the frailties of modern civilisation. The huge level of uncertainty that surrounds each of us is something that really resonates with the concept of lived (or living) experiences. Those living comfortably prior to Covid are now facing poverty and destitution, people in secure employment have suddenly been threatened with job insecurity, health inequalities have been exposed, and rates of mental health problems and addictions have skyrocketed. Whilst we have rightly come together to support the work of vital keyworkers and front line staff, let us not forget the battles that are taking place behind closed doors, or in minds, all over the world each day. Life experiences should be examined and used fundamentally to rebuild the economy, infrastructure and systems that govern our planet.
The experiences of different communities from all over the world are an indication of the challenge at hand. Each government, local authority and decision making body needs to be engaging with the experiences of every section of society, not only that, but including those who have experienced the greatest impact to help shape, create and embed long-term solutions and create sustainable change.
I am confident that lived experience will play an integral role in our future. What this hinges on is our ability to see it for what it is – one of our greatest assets!