The Activating Lived Experience Leadership (ALEL) Project

in partnership with UniSA’s Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Research Group 

The Activating Lived Experience Leadership (ALEL) Project [2019-2021]:

[In Partnership with UniSA, funded by the Fay Fuller Foundation and supported by the South Australian Mental Health Commission] 


The broad purpose of the ALEL Project is to examine and describe how lived experience advocacy and leadership embedded within the mental health ecosystem can be defined, recognised and utilised in SA. Our aim is to influence and effect ongoing system change through action and research.

The questions that underpin the project challenge the status quo in SA, and around Australia more broadly. Change is urgently needed to enable consumers and carers to participate in a leadership future developed by, for and with the peer community. The crucial need to develop effective strategies and pathways for lived experience leadership in SA is essential for people experiencing distress and mental health issues being valued differently. 

The ALEL Project is the most significant investment to date in this area of inquiry and action in South Australia (SA). 


If you have questions about this work please contact: Ellie Hodges, Executive Director of LELAN via or Mark Loughhead, Senior Research Fellow at UniSA via .


Key Project Activities & Outputs:

Coming in 2021

* Roadmap for Lived Experience Leadership & Systems Change *

* Resources / Training Recommendations *

Lived Experience Leadership National Survey | Nov 2020

The national survey is seeking to understand more about how to define lived experience leadership, the different roles that leaders take on, the conditions and supports that help with influence and change and the learning resources that help leaders.

The survey can be accessed here.

Interviews with System & Sector Leaders| Mid-2020

Individual interviews with fourteen system and sector leaders were held via Zoom. The main areas of inquiry related to: what lived experience leadership is; the values, qualities and skills of lived experience leaders; systemic challenges and barriers for lived experience; places for lived experience leadership to occur; and what lived experience needs to thrive and have impact.

Early Research Findings can be accessed here.

Lived Experience & Systems Change Workshop | April 2020

The Systems Change: Lived Experience Considerations and Opportunities workshop created a lot of interest with registrations being closed early with forty-eight people on the list. The session provided a platform to explore the necessity for and role of lived experience in systems change. It was based on the premise that a collaborative, cross-sector and multi-level approach is the best way to tackle these challenges and our commitment to increasing knowledge, skill and action in this space.

System & Sector Leader Summit #1 | Oct 2019

Summit participants used the Six Conditions of Systems Change model to unpack the key factors that reinforce current conditions and hinder progress for lived experience. A Summary Report articulates these themes and the Summit’s three key recommendations: the need to better articulate the value and evidence base surrounding lived experience; the creation of a Community of Practice for Lived Experience Leadership & Change; and the need for a Lived Experience Strategic Framework in SA.

A Summary Report for the Summit can be accessed here.

Welcoming the Project Advisory Group | Sept 2019

The Project Advisory group (PAG) guides the design of the research project, analysis of themes and findings and advises on the community development components of the project focused on activating lived experience networks and engaging service leaders in conversations about lived experience advocacy and systems change in SA. The PAG has seven lived experience members and five service members, including a Peer Worker.

Feb 2021 | System and Sector Leader Summit #2

Summit #2 has been postponed from November 2020 and will now be held in February 2021. The Project Team are encouraged by the level of interest and commitment to advancing this work, having secured RSVP’s from people in numerous senior government roles, LHN Executives, NGO and peak body CEO’s, phn and multiple Commission representation as well as people with lived experience.

The focus of Summit#2 will be to share what we have heard from South Australian lived experience and sector leaders so far, draw out key themes from an extensive literature scoping review, determine potential opportunities for change and what action we can take together.

Sept 2020 | Scoping Literature Review

This literature review is about the concept and achievement of lived experience leadership, and the roles that leaders undertake in seeking change, sharing a vision of recovery and enhanced citizenship. It is also about the organisational and system conditions that support leaders across different settings of activity, including traditional mental health services, academia and consumer run organisations (CRO), and the informal places where leaders seek and organise for change.

The Review can be accessed here. 

Mid-2020 | Focus Groups with Lived Experience Leaders

Two rounds of focus groups with thirty-one self-identified lived experience leaders were held via Zoom and an online forum platform between sessions. The main areas of inquiry related to: what lived experience leadership is; the values, qualities and skills of lived experience leaders; challenges and barriers for lived experience leaders; the impacts of lived experience leadership for recovery; creating learning and networking pathways for strengthening lived experience leadership; and what lived experience needs to thrive and have impact.

Early Research Findings can be accessed here.

Feb 2020 | Community of Practice

The Community of Practice offers a ‘safe space’ that encourages discussion, information exchange and capacity building related to lived experience leadership, advocacy and change in mental health and related sectors. It meets every six weeks on Zoom. 

Email to register interest and join the CoP.

Oct 2019 | Lived Experience & Research Workshop

This workshop focused on identifying the skills involved in searching for information and research that can be used in advocacy or learning about a particular topic, practice or issue. Seventeen people with lived experience attended. 

July 2019 | Meet the Team

LELAN & Project Lead: Ellie Hodges | 

Senior Research Fellow: Mark Loughhead | 

Research Assistant: Heather McIntyre | 

UniSA Lead: Professor Nicholas Procter