LUNCH SESSION: 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM

The Value of Lived Experience in Social Change: Shifting the Dial from Participation to Leadership

We have long celebrated inspiring change-makers who have used their lived experiences to pioneer, drive and lead positive social change in society. But today, despite its proven impact in human history, why is ‘lived experience leadership’ taking a backseat in social change thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship?

With reflections from ground-breaking pilot projects in the UK and Yale, join this lunchtime discussion to explore:

  • Why it’s important to put lived experience at the heart of your organization?

  • How can we break-down barriers across disciplines and industries and expand our definitions of “expertise” — including both lived and learned experience?

  • How can funders equitably and meaningfully open up the decision-making process to include those they seek to serve?

  • How can we better support ‘Lived Experience Leadership’?


Virginia Spell: Yale Neighbor in Residence Fellow

Baljeet Sandhu: Innovator in Residence at Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (CITY)

Panelist Bios:

Virginia Spell is a 2019 Yale Neighbor In Residence Fellow. Mrs. Spell resides in the West River section of the City of New Haven and is deeply passionate about creating stronger communities through training, education and developing community leaders. Since attending Southern Connecticut State University, Mrs. Spell has focused on economic empowerment activities for individuals and families living in Fairfield and New Haven Counties. She is the Vice President Director of New Haven Program Services for the Urban League of Southern Connecticut and the President of the West River Neighborhood Services Corporation. She also Chairs the West River Neighborhood Revitalization Zone and is the Vice Chair of the Board of Directors for Continuum of Care. She also serves as the Chairperson for the United Nations International Day of Peace at the West River and is a key stakeholder in the Route 34 Corridor Redevelopment Project.

Baljeet Sandhu is a UK human rights attorney, a Visiting Fellow of the Information Society Project at the Yale Law School, and Innovator in Residence at the Tsai Center for Innovative Thinking at Yale (CITY). Baljeet’s core interests span human rights, social innovation, and social and economic justice. She believes that the work of organizations tackling social and environmental issues needs radical transformation, and has spoken widely on the need for inclusive and equitable opportunities for changemakers with direct lived experience of the social issues and injustices we collectively seek to tackle. Baljeet is an adviser to philanthropists, investors, and government departments, and is a founding partner of the 2027 Project, an exciting collaboration with leading UK organizations seeking to diversify the UK philanthropic sector and bring community power into grant giving. Before joining Yale University, Baljeet was the founding director of the Migrant & Refugee Children’s Legal Unit (MiCLU) and founding partner of Kids In Need of Defense UK, successfully leading a wide range of national and global legal, policy and access to justice strategies to protect the rights of vulnerable migrant and refugee children. She has served as a Special Adviser on the Asylum and Migration Advisory Committee for the UK Children’s Commissioner; the UK Home Office Children’s Asylum and Immigration sub-committee and has also served as an Expert Advisor to the Strategic Legal Fund for Vulnerable Young Migrants, where she helped shape and inform the design of an innovative funding program for strategic litigation and policy work in the UK. Baljeet was the recipient of the UK Young Legal Aid Lawyer of the Year award in 2011; UK Clore Social Leadership Fellowship; 2017 Yale World Fellowship and is a fellow of the Vital Voices Female Global Leaders Partnership. In recognition of her work, she was honored with the DVF International Award during the Women in the World Conference at the United Nations in April 2017. This year at Tsai CITY, she has launched the Knowledge Equity Initiative (KEI), which will focus on how we can meaningfully and equitably value both lived and learnt experience to lead positive social change, innovation and entrepreneurship.