University of Cambridge > > Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science > Expertise or perspectives in dialogue? The role of lived experience in the mental health context

Expertise or perspectives in dialogue? The role of lived experience in the mental health context

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Jacob Stegenga.


(Co-authored with Michael Larkin and Michele Lim)

Expertise is afforded – by people, questions, culture, expectations, power relations and systemic structures. These affordances can be changed – by skilful facilitation, preparation and expectation-setting and by thoughtful configuration of systems and structures – people’s capacity for providing expert insight can be scaffolded or obstructed. If expertise is situated in this way, then we should choose to create environments and relationships in which different perspectives can be heard and understood and the people providing those perspectives can be seen as experts.

What makes someone an expert? Some form of relevant knowledge or experience is necessary for expertise but not sufficient for it. Expertise is built upon knowledge or experience, but it arises from extensive efforts in seeking to understand something; it is borne out of a ‘hard-earned’ familiarity with the contours of a particular set of problems.

So, are experts-by-experience real experts? The objections raised to expertise-by-experience identify general worries about expertise in general, in terms of how to ensure objectivity, how to deal with disagreement, and whether the information or perspective provided is evidence for the claims the expert supports. Ultimately, one way to overcome some of these challenges to the authority of experts is to see expertise as something that emerges from a collective and dialogical pursuit that involves a group reflection on evidence.

One way to bypass this constant requirement to justify the seat at the table for experiential insights is to talk about perspectives in dialogue rather than expertise. A perspective is a way of referring to how something appears from a particular standpoint, which acknowledges the relevance of that standpoint to what is foregrounded. A dialogue is a means of sharing insights, carried out to support reciprocal understanding. How do perspectives in dialogue work? Codesign and coproduction approaches encourage perspective taking and use group processes and facilitation to support community consensus building. Here we will offer an example of successful perspectives in dialogue from our own research.

This talk is part of the Departmental Seminars in History and Philosophy of Science series.

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