The use of the peer co-production mechanism can be found across human service fields (e.g., domestic violence shelters, substance use disorder treatment clinics, immigrant community-based organizations, etc.). Most research on staff with lived experience is focused on their clinical effectiveness as service providers with little attention on other roles they play. Organizations may have various motives for hiring staff with lived experience. Normatively, some organizations may believe it is the right thing to do (e.g., providing employment opportunities for individuals who have completed an organization's job training programs). Practically, some may expect staff with lived experience to practice (and educate other staff members on) culturally sensitive and trauma-informed practices to improve service responsiveness and effectiveness. Although less discussed, organizations may also prefer to hire staff with lived experience with limited employment options to save labor expenses. With different motives, how organizations use, the outcomes of, and how service users experience the peer co-production mechanism may vary. Besides, it is important to understand how and why the peer co-production mechanism produces adverse outcomes, so managers and practitioners can anticipate and identify ways to reduce shortcomings while leveraging strengths.
This symposium is an attempt to demonstrate the importance of the peer co-production mechanism in social work practice and showcase current studies exploring diverse peer co-production efforts and their implications in multiple service fields. Four papers included in this symposium explore how peer co-production is used in the fields of substance use services, higher education, and HIV prevention with various methodical approaches--from quantitative analysis of a representative dataset to case study, from multi-level mixed-methods to in-depth interviews. This symposium invites social work scholars to examine the unique capacities and expertise of staff with lived experience in diverse human service settings and encourage practitioners and managers to reconsider their perspectives on staff with lived experience.