TORONTO, May 3, 2017 - More and more, organizations appear to embrace a culture shift to
integrate people with lived experience into program planning. Yet,
moving from “doing for” to “doing with” is hardly an off-the-shelf
Peer Positive is a resource helping community groups
partner with people with lived experience – a partnership
that “strengthens the relationships, culture, and quality of living of
children, youth, families and those supporting them,” says Swelen Andari, GTA Regional Implementation Coordinator.
the heart of Peer Positive is an approach that increases peer
involvement, creates spaces for service providers to reflect on power
and equity, and improves feedback and response loops. Developed by
Northwest Toronto Service Collaborative (NWT SC), a 40-member cross
sector group in North York that included people with lived experience,
Peer Positive was one of 18 original system interventions in the Systems
Improvement through Service Collaboratives initiative supported by
CAMH’s Provincial System Support Program (PSSP).
The NWT SC
reimagined access to mental health and addictions supports, working with
PSSP to hold stakeholder consultations, review potential existing
models and create a Youth Advisory Council.
“It was important for
the Service Collaborative members to work in partnership with youth and
families," said Andari. "The Youth Advisory Council helped to lead and
Putting Peer Positive to the test
So far, three agencies
– Hong Fook Mental Health Association, Leave Out Violence Ontario
(LOVE), and York University’s Disability and Mental Health Services –
have implemented Peer Positive within their organizations. Over 40 peers
and service providers have been trained.
Hong Fook used Peer Positive to support peer feedback on their self-help program.
was well-received,” reflected Andari. “Employees were actually shifting
the way they were thinking about things. And because there were
multiple feedback sessions, where the roles were reversed, they saw the
value of creating more open spaces – it’s not just a satisfaction
That learning was echoed by a service provider in one focus group.
think that for us, it’s more about substantive engagement with
community, and knowing expertise is often held in communities, not
institutions. Peer Positive allows a dynamic shift where those community
and individuals within the communities are thought of as experts.”
With a new-found appreciation for the value of creating open spaces, Hong Fook created a peer-led drop in.
University and LOVE experienced similar positive outcomes. Noted
benefits include increased trust between Board members and youth,
improved access to current peer programs and creation of new peer-led
Now PSSP is supporting the
expansion of Peer Positive in Toronto’s francophone community with the
help of seven partner organizations, two planning entities and one pilot
agency. The plan is to implement Peer Positive at the pilot agency and
deliver Wellness Recovery Action Plan training to francophone peers in
Andari, who is multi-lingual (she speaks English, French,
Spanish and Arabic), will continue to support this work and bring
lessons from the first round of the intervention.
shared how important it was to address power inequities throughout the
entire process, as well as ensuring that leadership have bought-in and
are supportive of putting Peer Positive in place,” she said.
terms of lasting impact, organizations will need to integrate Peer
Positives values into their policies and work towards equitably
remunerating peers for their contributions.
For more information, visit the Peer Positive website.
Organizations interested in taking steps to engage people with lived
experience are invited to explore the Peer Positive Tool Book and other