Changing Our Lives has a co-worker model where disabled people and people with experience of mental health difficulties, whether volunteers or paid staff, work alongside team members with a range of experience including advocacy, social work, speech and language therapy, community development and healthcare. This co-working model enables disabled people and people with experience of mental health difficulties to be in leading roles across the development, delivery and evaluation of our work. Although we do not define ourselves as a user led organisation, co-working and coproduction are at the heart of our approach.

Coproduction is part of our brand and without developing local people this isn’t achievable at a grass roots or strategic level. We invest in leadership to ensure coproduction is embedded in what we do. Coproduction isn’t something that you have or something that you do, it’s a philosophy. An attitude that acts as a guiding principle for behaviour.

At Changing Our Lives it is this attitude and belief that puts disabled people and people with lived experience of mental health difficulties at the heart of the work that we do, enabling them to shape policy and practice and facilitate transformation that leads to substantially improved outcomes for people.

We offer leadership training as a first step towards voluntary or paid employment with us. Not everyone wants or is suited to leadership roles, but there needs to be opportunities for those who show sparks of leadership brilliance to take hold of this and see where it leads them. It's essential that people with lived experience have the skills and tools necessary to negotiate, challenge and create meaningful and sustained solutions with a range of professionals and statutory bodies.

Kashmire is a young disabled person who completed his leadership training with us and has gone on to great things. To find out about Kashmire’s journey, download his book here.