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Lived Experience Leadership

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    Increasing Lived Experience Leadership throughout the anti-slavery movement is core to everything GFEMS does. We understand that there is enormous potential for change when all efforts–from grassroots implementation to international lawmaking–are guided by those with lived experience.

    What is Lived Experience Leadership?

    “Lived Experience” is the personal, subjective, and firsthand encounters, events, and situations that individuals go through in their lives. It encompasses a person’s experiences, including thoughts, feelings, perceptions, and memories. Lived experiences can be unique to each person and are central to shaping an individual’s beliefs, perspectives, and understanding of the world. “Leadership” here means those people who have lived experience hold decision-making power. Generally we’re talking about people with lived experience of modern slavery, but we extend the concept to communities and other aspects of identity. Essentially, if a program is based on you and your needs, you ought to have say in it.

    This is a hot topic of discussion in the anti-slavery movement, as it is in other movements. A lot of our peer organizations use the word “Survivor” to talk about the same concepts, and while GFEMS supports these efforts, we choose to use “Lived Experience” to stress that this is about more than an identity–it’s a valid perspective and form of expertise that should be held equally with other forms.

    Why Lived Experience Leadership?

    We recognize that Lived Experience is a form of expertise and a perspective equal to other kinds of expertise and perspectives. Like other kinds of expertise and perspective, such as scientific, statistical, or economic expertise, lived experience has its own unique uses. How do we know whether a program meets the actual needs of people with lived experience, or whether a new law would actually have made a positive impact for them? We listen to them.

    Its also about Dignity. We see the ability to make one’s own decisions, to tell one’s own story, and to be seen in one’s full identity as essential elements to a dignified life. Following lived experience leadership ensures that the people most affected by modern slavery are the ones shaping the response.

    What is the Fund Doing to Support Lived Experience Leadership?

    GFEMS is both a funder of lived experience leadership and a technical partner for organizations looking to increase their level of lived experience leadership. We directly support lived experience-led organizations, and we coach our other partners to get them there. We also develop tools and resources for organizations looking to make a change, and we will partner with you to guide you through it in your own programming.

    Explore Our Work

    Meet Our Senior Program Specialist

    Wade Arvizu leads our efforts on lived experience engagement. He is a published author, public speaker and human trafficking subject matter expert. He has been providing recommendations and input to inform research, policies, and programs to combat trafficking since 2014.

    Wade Arvizu

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