On January 31st, Surrey and Boarders Partnership with support from Surrey County Council, Mary Frances Trust, Changing Futures (Surrey), Surrey Coalition and Richmond Fellowship (Surrey) hosted the very first Co-Production Conference. Jemima Gibson, Service Manager, East Surrey Community Connections and I were part of the working group that organised and facilitated this event. The event highlighted the voices of individuals who have not just navigated through mental health services but have actively shaped them with their lived experience. This co-production event demonstrated the power of personal narratives and the profound impact they wield in shaping the services we offer.

Guest speakers, each with their own unique journey, took the stage to share their inspirational stories. These weren’t just tales of overcoming obstacles; they were testaments to resilience, advocacy, and the transformative power of individuals who have walked the path themselves.

The event served as a moment of reflection, allowing participants to pause and acknowledge the progress that has been made. It was a celebration of the strides taken towards inclusivity, where the voices of those who often go unheard were brought to the forefront. But beyond celebration, it was also a call to action.

Amidst the applause and heartfelt moments, there lingered a poignant reminder of the work that lies ahead. While progress has undoubtedly been made, there are still barriers to be dismantled, biases to be addressed, and perspectives to be embraced. The event wasn’t just about looking back; it was about looking forward with a renewed sense of purpose.

Central to this purpose was the recognition of the invaluable role that lived experience voices play in shaping services. It was about igniting conversations, not just within the confines of the event venue but within boardrooms, policy discussions, and team meetings. It was a rallying cry to organisations present to not only listen but to actively prioritise and integrate the voices of lived experience into the fabric of their operations.

It was clear that these voices are not just worthy of being heard; they are essential for meaningful change.

As we move forward, let us carry forth the spirit of the day, ensuring that every voice is not just heard but amplified, honoured, and respected.

From Richmond Fellowship we were joined by Amra Dautovic, Head of Operations (Community), Olive Aherne, Regional Operations Lead, Lucy Rowley, Community Service Lead, Jennifer Lewis, Rough Sleepers Outreach Worker, Philippa Matthews, Lived Experience Practitioner, Rob Murkin, Lived Experience Practitioner, Becky Freeman Co-Production and Engagement Officer, Jemima Gibson, Service Manager.

Many individuals who have been supported by RF and been a part of our co-production locally were also in attendance.

Here’s what they had to say:

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at the conference, it was so refreshing to see so many likeminded people in one room. I was incredibly proud of RF and our team for contributing to such an incredibly inspirational event and to hear the lived experience testimonies who spoke so highly of our services. I am already putting the learning from the day in to practice with the reshaping of our Communities of Practice and look forward to doing much more in the future!!  Amra Dautovic


It was such an inspirational day and great to see so many people from different walks of life in the same room sharing ideas and thoughts on co production. We need more of these and happy to be involved. Olive Aherne


The Lived Experience Conference was incredible – to hear from people who have not only come through some very dark times in their lives, but actually then gone on to dedicate their time, skills and lived experience to improving those of others? So inspiring! Mel Ball’s keynote speech highlighted the change in direction over the last few decades around attitudes towards lived experience and Ian McPherson, Chair of Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, shared his own experiences of mental ill health and how they have helped him in his roles as a psychologist and in NHS leadership. My main takeaway from the day is the encouraging news that Lived Experience Practice is becoming increasingly recognised as a discipline in itself, equal to but distinct from nursing, psychology, occupational therapy etc. There is still much work to do before Lived Experience is seen as a standard tool to be used across the board, but it’s heading in the right direction! Jacob Adams, A person we support


We have been inspired by being part of such an amazing day and are planning to host our own Richmond Fellowship Co-Production Conference in the not-too-distant future and will continue to progress this important work locally and within the organisation.

Exciting times lie ahead!

Becky Freeman

Co-Production and Engagement Officer

East Surrey Community Based Services

Left to right; Amra, Olive, Becky, Jemima

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