Expert Citizens is a Community Interest Company led by people with lived experience of homelessness, mental ill- health, addiction, domestic abuse, poverty or histories of offending behaviour.

Expert Citizens have been hosting the National Insight Awards since 2015 as part of the VOICES partnership. Stoke-on-Trent is one of twelve area across the country that received investment from The National Lottery Community Fund through the Fulfilling Lives programme to work with people experiencing homelessness, mental-ill health, addiction, and offending in combination.

Here – Volunteer Co-ordinator at Expert Citizens CIC Phil Parkes – shares the experiences he’s had so far since getting involved with the awards…

“I first came to be involved with Expert Citizens and the INSIGHT awards in its early years – I actually think going to the 2015 awards was my first encounter with the organisation, leading me on a journey I had no idea was possible at the time.

“I can remember sitting there as somebody who was very green to the sector, it never occurred to me that you could use your lived experience to make such a positive change. It was like a lightbulb moment which started me on my current path. I have seen the awards grow in stature and the amount of recognition it gets throughout the years. A few moments have stood out for me, mainly ones that made me cry, clap and then laugh all in the space of a few seconds. People like Sammy Woodhouse (Author, CSE Media Commentator & Keynote Speaker) and Lemn Sissay MBE (Playwright, artist, performer and broadcaster) come to mind when I think about these moments.

“The INSIGHT Awards has always been about the people out there who go that extra mile and deserve to be recognised for that, celebrating and showcasing positive examples for the rest of the sector and the wider community. I for one have seen positive change come as a result of the prestige these awards bring and I hope to see them continue to grow and grow.

“Expert Citizens identified four key characteristics that we believe to be fundamental when delivering, managing, planning and commissioning services – welcoming, listening, learning and leading.

“Whilst these are relevant to everyone accessing services, it’s our view that a conscious effort is needed by people and services to apply these principles in the context of people experiencing social disadvantage in all its forms. These characteristics are intended to apply from the frontline to the board room and form the basis of the INSIGHT standards as well as the categories for nominations at the INSIGHT awards.

“In addition to the four main categories the Outstanding Recognition Award winner is carefully selected by the Expert Citizens Executive Team from the wider community to highlight examples of people or organisations who positively promote lived experience and the values of Expert Citizens CIC. The most recent addition to the awards, now in its second year, is the INSIGHT through journalism award which aims to recognise and showcase examples of constructive journalism in the context of social disadvantage. Journalism that takes a solution-focused approach to complex social issues, raising awareness and empowering audiences, including decision-makers and the public, to
respond constructively.”

Examples of previous National Insight Award winners can be found in Expert Citizen’s Portfolio of Positive Practice.

The Awards usually take place at the Kings Hall in Stoke, but due to current covid-19 restrictions in place, this year’s Awards on  March 31 st 2021 will be taking place online.

Keynote speakers who will be attending the awards – all of whom are leaders in the lived experience sector – are:
Baljeet Sandhu – The Centre of Knowledge and Equity
Tim Sampey – Chief Executive, Build on Belief
Ric Flo – London based rap artist
Teresa Birtle – Community centre co-ordinator, Leeds gate
Brenda Birungi AKA Lady Unchained – Poet, Broadcaster, Mentor, Ted X London speaker, Host for National Prison Radio, and Advocate for Life After prison

If you would like to make a nomination for someone you know, or even for yourself and help Expert citizens to shine a light on the amazing work that’s being happening through these particularly difficult times visit https://www.expertcitizens.org.uk/insight-awards/ 

Everyone is welcome to join Expert Citizens for the awards.  To book a FREE ticket for the event visit the Expert Citizens eventbrite page.

Follow Expert Citizens CIC twitter: @expertcitizens

(Main image taken at a previous National Insight Awards event.)

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