The Lives Behind the Numbers

Twelve stories. All from people who live on the hard edges of society. All from people who have faced hardship so extreme, you listen and can’t help to wonder how they are sitting in front of you today. All with aspirations. All with grievances. All with joy, pain, wisdom and sadness buried deep within their voice when they speak and tell you their life story. All with different relationships to public services, and all with real insight into how to inspire radical change. This is Hard Edges: The Lives Behind the Numbers.

When Lankelly Chase released Hard Edges in January this year, the report delivered the latest and most comprehensive statistics on people facing severe and multiple disadvantage. What it was unable to cover was the lives of the people behind those numbers. Within society their stories are not always heard, and even when they are they are often represented through the lens of a single issue. So, Lankelly Chase teamed up with us here at Innovation Unit, alongside the charity User Voice to embark on a year long project, conducting deep whole-person research into people facing combined domestic, alcohol and drug abuse, violence, mental health problems, offending…in short, people who have had really really tough lives.

Data is a first step to understanding what people’s lives are like, and where systems go wrong. But at Innovation Unit, we believe that the case for change is best made through people telling their story and issues in their own words. In April, we brought together for the first time a group of people with lived experience of those issues, as well as people who commission or provide relevant services at the Hard Edges: Lives Behind the Numbers launch workshop. Since then, the team has been visiting people in the North East and North West of England to hear their stories and insights, which we have begun to document in the project blog:

The next workshop will take place on 7th September and will be an immersive, listening experience. We hope that it will give commissioners, frontline workers, other service providers and policy makers the opportunity to reflect on their practice and listen to insights that they may never have come across before, The workshop will give service users the opportunity not only to share their own stories, but to communicate their thoughts about the systemic issues that affect them, perhaps for the first time in their lives.

The workshop will be followed by further research and opportunities – for service users and providers alike – to inspire, and to reflect on how to best put these lessons into practice.

From the insights we have gathered so far, take some time yourself to reflect on the following questions, and be sure to check in with the blog periodically for updates:

  • What is it that makes life worth living?
  • Do services enable people to embrace the things they are good at? Their skills and ‘superpowers’?
  • Which relationships matter to people?
  • What does ‘normal’ mean to you?

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