Learning from 'experts-by-experience' as a form of participation in food policy

Academics and practitioners are increasingly engaging with the concept of ‘experts-by-experience’ as an approach to public participation in policy-relevant issues, including food policy. This is a positive and necessary step towards making food policy more effective and inclusive, but, as with other types of public participation, it presents a number of political and ethical challenges. Familiar issues include representation (who do the participants represent?); the legitimacy of different types of knowledge (formal vs lay expertise) and how knowledge is used; and burdens placed on participants.

With respect to food policy, ‘experts-by-experience’ have been used as a component in participatory research as well as an input into the development of policies, with boundaries often blurred between these roles. They have been used with respect to a variety of issues, especially at the local level, such as local food environments, obesity, and urban food policy, focusing on different social groups such as the young, the old, or those experiencing food poverty. They have also increasingly been used to explore food poverty, and their use in this context raises additional concerns around what it means to be labelled as an ‘expert-by-experience in food poverty’.

This project aims to identify the benefits and pitfalls of engaging with experts-by-experience for local authorities and food partnerships.




Image by Graham Lavender shared under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.