It’s crucial we listen and learn from people’s life experiences

This parliamentary ‘recess’ is certainly one I shall never forget. I have found myself reflecting on the 60+ meetings so far over the summer, taking in, listening and learning from the great and the good, leaders and people with valuable contributions, across all the sectors in the North East, and I was minded to share my ultimate conclusion with you. So here it is…

Wednesday, 18th August 2021, 12:00 am
Updated Friday, 20th August 2021, 10:18 am
Karen Adam has learned a lot from participating in a wide range of meetings over the summer, and believes politicians need to pay more attention to the voices of those who struggle to be heard.

Politicians and decision makers need to make better decisions based on the lived experience of witnesses and not their preconceived perceptions or outcomes they think are best for local communities.

Now I know that ‘lived experience’ is a phrase which has been on the rise since the 1980s, but it is going through somewhat of a resurgence of late, and rightly so.

Experts and professionals have their place. They have essential skills and knowledge but what has been missing is the voice of those who have lived through the problems caused, those that have slipped through the cracks created, and suffered the ensuing stigma at being powerless over the decisions that affect their lives. Politicians need to pay more attention to those who have struggled to find a voice.

There is something quite primitive about learning from one another’s stories. We need to be doing more of that. The real power of course lies in the hands of systems and structures, which unfortunately isn’t a system made up of too many people with ‘lived experience’ as we understand it.

Reinforced by listening and moreover learning from those 60 meetings is that my role is not simply to listen to and rearticulate the experiences of those on the sharp end – it is to work in partnership with experts and constituents to change the unequal structures that have led to the consequences of a negative lived experience.

It’s clear to me that constituents with valuable testimonies and first-hand accounts – with lived experience – must be empowered to make that leap from the subject of policy discussion to becoming the creators of it and I will do all I can to assist in exactly that.

Enjoy the rest of the summer and stay safe.

• Karen Adam is MSP for Banffshire & Buchan Coast. She can be contacted by emailing [email protected]