Fulfilling Lives in Islington and Camden

Fulfilling Lives in Islington & Camden (FLIC) is an eight-year Lottery funded learning programme closing in May 2022, designed to support people experiencing multiple disadvantage and affect system change to improve the experience and outcomes for people accessing services.

Too often the voices of people experiencing multiple disadvantage aren't heard. Putting clients at the centre of everything we do is key to our work. Our support service is intensive, trauma-informed and led by the experiences and insights of our clients.

We work in partnership with statutory and voluntary agencies across both boroughs to improve services for people with multiple needs and drive systemic change, influencing how services are designed and delivered.

Too often the voices of people experiencing multiple disadvantage aren't heard. Assumptions are made as to their needs, wants and wishes. Systems that aren't informed by lived experience can be rigid and people facing multiple disadvantage can fall through the gaps. It's our aim through communications and co-production to make sure these voices are heard, listened to and their stories and experiences valued and reflected on.

This year’s Co-Production Week coincided with Multiple Disadvantage Day, and as the latter was our first co-produced communications campaign we wanted to share our learnings with you. 

What did we want to achieve? 

Our aim was to create a campaign co-produced by FLIC clients for our last Multiple Disadvantage Day (7 July), our project closes in May 2022. The aim of Multiple Disadvantage awareness day is to improve understanding of the experiences of multiple disadvantage and highlight where the system can be improved. 

How did we do it? 

In January we introduced the campaign to the pre-existing Co-Production Advisory Group and gauged who was interested. We then had an introductory meeting where we discussed the objectives of the awareness day, explored the meaning of multiple disadvantage and reviewed the timeline for delivering the campaign. From there we met fortnightly to have open discussions with loose objectives set for each session e.g. explore key messages, define our purpose, choose mediums/key channels. 

So what were our challenges and learnings? (there were a lot...) 

  1. Accessibility  

Technology: Zoom meetings are handy but exclude people without the right technology, or those that don’t enjoy it or feel overwhelmed. They can feel intimidating, and the energy of online meetings doesn’t match that of in-person meetings. We had to think creatively about how to structure a Zoom meeting e.g. visualising our work via Google Jamboards and Miro mind maps, using polls, and making space to check in before the meeting and reflecting on the meeting at the end. 

Language: To ensure nobody is excluded, language needs to be stripped to its simplest terms. Check the language you use to describe comms and campaigns processes are understood by everyone (professional staff included). Never assume people will ask what a word or idea means. 

Process: Are people with lived experience able to influence each step of the process? After we decided we were making a film it was important to ensure clients could be involved as much as possible to ensure the direction taken was correct. A Zoom meeting was set up half way through the editing process to allow for this.

Screenshot of the film being edited in Premiere Pro.

2. Have clarity and structure, and be creative!  

Timeline: It’s important to have a rough timeline to follow, making a note of key deadlines that cannot move – but leaving enough time and flexibility for things to change and adapt. It’s important for people to know what they are getting involved in and what is expected of them so provide an example timeline with set deadlines.  

Supporting clients to turn experiences into messages: It was important that we started with a blank slate, however, the topic of multiple disadvantage is so huge and all encompassing that it was hard to narrow down ideasTo help with this we had to set clear objectives for each workshop and follow a structure/agenda. Pinning all our ideas onto collective boards allowed us to eventually draw connections between points that at first felt disparate, but with time we could see parallels. 

Outcomes: Build in time to acknowledge the expectations and hopes of everyone involved, then you can work backwards and see what’s possible with the time and resources you have. From here you can create a set of shared values and vision.  

Encouraging creativity: We also held two creative workshops led by SHP’s Recovery Co-Ordinator Charlotte Hailey-Watts. One was online via Zoom and the second in-person at the Islington Ecology Centre. Working with Charlotte allowed clients to consider how sound, art, collage etc. can be used to express stories and emotions. It was in the first session that we recognised how important music would be in our campaign.  

Charlotte produced a series of creative activities for exploring the experiences of multiple disadvantage, download the worksheet here.

Visualisation of our rough timeline made using Miro.

3. Support participant’s personal development, wellbeing and safety 

Individual needs: Consider the learning needs, capabilities and styles of everyone in the group, and where necessary have separate meetings with individuals. Ask people what they need to be involved both individually and as a group. 

Client experience: Recognise that everyone has their own reasons for being involved, for some they may just enjoy the social aspect of coming together and sharing stories, for others they may want to see real change. Identifying these early on will help to understand what role people would like in the process. 

Ensure all environments and process are trauma and gender informed: This is a priority in all we do, so is no different when it comes to communications. However, it’s key to evaluate all parts of the comms process and consider who is involved at which. Are you clients comfortable with strangers? Do your clients respond better to a particular gender? 

Risks: Alike all our work, it’s crucial we evaluate the risks involved to ourselves and clients. If third party individuals are being brought into the process they need to be clued up on any potential risks. 

Consent: It is so important to get the process of consent right, never will we share anything our clients aren't happy with or that puts them at risk. This campaign has led to us taking another look at our process of consent, and at what point in comms do we take consent. For this project it was essential that all clients were able to influence the editing, suggest what could be used, and give their final consent once the film was fully edited and in its final format. In the future we will seek to get consent once a client sees how and where their voices, image and experiences are shared.

Do’s and don'ts for third party contributors: If you are bringing in external support for the project, such as a filmmaker, make sure they understand how they should approach situation and outline boundaries where necessary. It’s important they know which topics are off limits. 

For Sophie her art is integral to who she is and it was important we wove that into the film.

4. Know your limitations 

Engagement/feedback: Deadlines are inevitable, and although we’d like everyone involved to feedback at each stage this is unrealistic as our clients have many appointments and are juggling many things at once. Therefore, it’s important to keep everyone up to date with progress, and allow for them to feedback one-to-one. 

Being truly co-produced isn’t always possible: Deadlines, commitments and resources make it difficult, or perhaps impossible, to make a comms campaign with a fixed date truly co-produced. Clients joining later in the process aren’t able to have the influence they could have done if they’d have joined earlier.  

While the campaign’s key messages were wholly shaped by lived experience perspectives, often we were working in partnership rather than truly giving control to people with lived experience as we needed to keep it moving. 

Limitations of working within a charity/service provider: In an ideal world we’d have no limits when it comes to sharing the thoughts and stories of clients. However, we do need to be diplomatic and evaluate whether criticisms will have a constructive outcome. Many services working with people experiencing multiple disadvantage have limited resources – tight budgets, understaffed, strict ways of working. However, hearing clients’ feedback in real time is always helpful and will impact the system change work we do, even if we don’t outwardly communicate the details. 

Reflections from the team... 

“The whole process has been eye opening. I’ve learnt to be more flexible in terms of letting a campaign and its key messages develop naturally, as opposed to rigidly sticking to a workplan and tight objectives. Working closely with the clients and seeing them enjoy the process has easily been one of the highlights of my year and a half at FLIC.” - Katie, Communications Manager. 

‘’The most important thing I learned was finding a balance between putting enough structure in place to build people’s skills and confidence, but also letting go of control of the process enough so that the messages and ideas were led by the expertise of people with lived experience...Doing this has made me see the value of co-producing campaigns a lot more, because it’s so important to enable people to have control over how their experiences are portrayed and talked about.’’ - Bex, Co-Production Lead  

Our hopes and plans for Co-Production...  

With less than a year left in our project, there’s lots still to do and lots of ways to be involved! We’ll be continuing to work with our Lived Experience Advisory Group to influence and shape the design and delivery of services across the two boroughs. 

Here’s what we’re working on; 

  • Mental Health: Via the Camden & Islington Trauma-Informed Network. 
  • Commissioning: Planning, designing and funding services across housing, substance misuse, mental health and women’s services. 
  • Learning and Training: Designing and delivering training on multiple disadvantage and FLIC’s learning. 

We would love to welcome new members to the group so please get in touch if you want to find out more about how you can support someone to be involved!  

Questions or keen to hear more? Contact Bex (FLIC Co-Production Lead) via [email protected] or 07799 700594.  

Or come along to our intro session at Union Chapel (N1 2UN) Wednesday 28th July 2-4pm.