Sophie Wilson, Director of Research

On the 28thApril 2022, at the final celebration event marking the end of the eight-year National Lottery Community Fund (NLCF) funded Fulfilling Lives programme, staff, stakeholders and people with lived experience who had worked on the Birmingham Changing Futures Together (BCFT) programme urged delegates to #Pickupthebaton of ‘systems change’ for people facing multiple disadvantage.

My doctoral study began with this ending – in some ways it was my own personal way of ‘picking up the baton’ – offering an opportunity to explore how, and if, the impact of the BCFT programme in Birmingham has a lasting legacy in terms of the ways in which people with lived experience are engaged in, and impact upon, the systems change agenda in the fields of mental health, offending, substance misuse and homelessness.

I began my studies in earnest in the summer of 2022, with a ‘scoping exercise’ involving interviews with people who had been involved in the BCFT programme (either as delivery partners, stakeholders or as people with lived experience). These interviews were informed by a pretty comprehensive review of the learning and evaluation reports that had been produced by the national and local evaluation partners (Fulfilling Lives – Supporting people experiencing multiple disadvantage (

At this point, I was particularly interested in the ways in which people with Lived Experience of multiple disadvantage had been involved in the programme; what had supported that involvement and whether any barriers had been experience. There was some very interesting learning, and I highlight these in a recent article published in the Voluntary Sector Review Voluntary Sector Review | Bristol University Press ( I have also compiled a slide deck, which I am more than happy to share, which sets out the key findings from this work.

Since then, I have spent a lot of time reading (will it ever end!?) and developing my methodology for the full research project. One element of this is the involvement of people with Lived Experience, and to this end I have asked a number of individuals who had prior involvement in BCFT to form my ‘Research Experts Reference Group’ – who I hope will help to guide my research design over the coming months and years. I am hugely grateful for their involvement, which has already been invaluable.

In July, I will begin the fieldwork for my research. The research will focus on the day-to-day experiences of people employed as Peer Workers across a range of front-line services working in the field of ‘multiple disadvantage’ in Birmingham. I am going into the field with an ‘open-mind’ – I do, of course, have some areas that I am particularly interested in but I fully expect these to change and to be shaped by the ongoing interviews, observations and reading that I undertake. Without any pre-conceived research questions, my hope is that ‘themes’ will emerge from the data, and help to discover what matters to those who are involved, what impacts on their experiences as paid members of staff, and how this can help us to inform future practice.

If you would like to know more about my research, please feel free to contact me: [email protected]