Voices of lived experience

14 June 2024

Principal consultant Peter Allanson highlights the way GGI supported one charity to create a platform for the invaluable insights of those with lived experience of gambling harms

We’ve had the privilege of working with a number of charities operating in the challenging world of drug and substance misuse and gambling harms.

A couple of years ago, we were lucky enough to work with GambleAware, which was setting up a lived experience council. The council was established in December 2022 by GambleAware’s board of trustees and reports to them. Its scope is to provide expert advice to GambleAware based on the lived experience of its members, with a view to shaping the strategic activities of the charity. This gives GambleAware a real opportunity to hear a diverse range of community voices that bring a unique perspective to its work, in particular around the areas of prevention, early intervention, and reducing stigma.

The council meets four times a year and has up to 12 members with lived experience of gambling harms, including people who have been affected by other people’s gambling. Council members are eligible to serve for two terms of two years, and one of them is elected to chair the council.

Talking about the establishment of the council, GambleAware’s programme manager Chiara Marin said, “GambleAware has been on a journey to better embed and bring on board the voices of people with lived experience across all that we do.”

Lived experience council chair Ben Howard added: “The council offers an opportunity for those in the gambling harm lived experience community who have overcome the shame, stigma and guilt associated with a gambling dependency to use their experience to overcome the challenges of connecting with those still having difficulties with gambling.”

GGI’s role

To establish a level playing field for the council, GGI was commissioned to contribute a seminar as part of the induction programme introducing the council to the principles of good governance. This covered the underlying principles of good governance, translating these into practice and applying them to the third sector.

As usual, our starting point was the work of Professor Judge Mervyn King and his meaningful outcomes and dimensions of governance, which we then aligned with the charity code of governance looking at purpose, leadership, integrity, risk and control, accountability and effectiveness and diversity. In the practical application section, we looked at behaviour and making sure that the council was involved in the right work with the right people, using the right information and receiving the right development.

It became clear that a supplementary session for the whole council would help them to get the best out of their meetings, thinking about reassurance and assurance, including a session on triangulation, constructing good agendas, considering what makes a good paper and how to ask challenging questions and make sure that you really get answers.

We also provided a session for potential chairs of the group about what good chairmanship skills look like—sticking to terms of reference, understanding the obligations of being a charity, the practical skills of facilitation, listening, planning and managing behaviour—including tactics for getting everyone to take part in the meeting.

Finally, we supported the first appraisals round using 180º surveys and discussions based on that feedback. We also helped to produce a governance manual.

Council benefits

Being part of the council seems to be an important ingredient in the development of new skills of those who have experienced gambling harms.

Chiara says GambleAware’s lived experience council has been key in embedding community voices in all its activities and making valuable contributions to strategic decision-making.

Ben adds, “This is not a tick-box exercise; our voice really is heard. And the benefits of this go both ways, helping council members to understand better how the charity works as well as informing the charity’s strategic decision-making. I think it has also given GambleAware more external credibility as a charity, which has in turn opened more doors for individuals to apply for involvement opportunities.”

Speaking for myself, I can safely say that it was one of the most uplifting and inspiring jobs I have been involved in for GGI and one where we really felt we’d helped to make a difference.

Meet the author: Peter Allanson

Principal Consultant

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Prepared by GGI Development and Research LLP for the Good Governance Institute.

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