Phil Parkes- A reflection on being an APLE member in 2020.

I thought I’d write a piece reflecting on my first year being part of the APLE collective.

I knew about the group already because Expert Citizens were already involved but I had previously been busy with other ventures. I started to get involved just after we went into lockdown in March, I had been joining in on a few things, such online meetings, but found it difficult given that I only had the use of a smart phone. APLE who had been working on Digital Inclusion provided me with a laptop so I could be involved as much as I wanted to.

I started off just dipping in and out of the weekly meetings, getting to grips with everything that is APLE and quickly started to contribute, and I wrote a blog for the website. I resonated with how they advocate for the voice of lived experience, something I have been doing personally and along with Expert Citizens for the past 5 years and I’m very passionate about.

Things quickly moved on and in no time at all I was booked to speak at a Big Local event where Me and Katy, who also works for APLE, presented a brief overview of APLE’s works at the conference and spoke about our Digital inclusion campaigns. When it came to my part I elaborated on the importance of lived experience, identifying that a lived experience community is a powerful thing and finding something you all believe in and are passionate about is something that brings people together. I had no expectations of the event but it was very well received and I even received a voucher for my part in it. We continued our work on Digital inclusion throughout lockdown with issues including people not being able to contact doctors, the DWP and their local council highlighting the need for fair access to the internet.

Our work on the issue was noticed by the people from Cambridge Online which resulted in me attending their ‘Engaging and supporting people to bridge the digital divide’ webinar to sit on the panel and take questions on how we have all been affected by this. Thanks to Katy and the rest of the team I was able to answer everything that was put to me. Whilst all this was happening we were still having our weekly meetings and we had our get together online in September.

Coming from that I joined the Communications and Media team with our focus being mainly on IDEP2020. We had a Joseph Rowntree Foundation Twitter takeover where we all had individual events that were shared throughout our networks and all in all it was a great success. We reached a very high number of people with our tweets. Since then we have been focussing on the run in to Christmas and our planning for next year.

I for one am hoping to get even more involved in things for the coming year and continuing to advocate for the voice of lived experience and striving for systems change. I think as a whole it has been a great year and I am looking forward to what’s to come.