European Charter

>> Sign Charter here <<

>> Download Charter in English(pdf) <<

>>Download Charter auf Deutsch<<

>> Download Nederlandstalig Charter (pdf) <<

>> Изтеглетe Хартата на български език (pdf) <<

>>Download Charter em Português (pdf) <<

Increasing social inclusion
engaging experts by experience

October 2009 – September 2011

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission
under the Lifelong Learning Programme

Four European Partners in Psychiatry and Mental Health:

FOKUS, Bremen – Germany
IGPB, Amsterdam – The Netherlands
Fontys Hogeschool, Eindhoven – The Netherlands
GIP, Sofia – Bulgaria

Two European Partners in Poverty and Migrants:

De Link, Flanders – Belgium
Moinho, Lisbon – Portugal

General co-ordination:

De Link: Lutgarde Goossens

1 Need for Experts by experience

Social exclusion has been found to be a persistent problem in practice. But it is society that produces social exclusion. Structural mechanisms of exclusion are responsible for the fact that people who are socially excluded are deprived of their basic rights and lose grip on their own lives and on social decision processes.

The idea of an expert by experience in social exclusion is a response to the need of a missing link. A missing link between the policy makers and aid providers of all the services with which the socially excluded come into contact, on the one hand, and the excluded persons themselves, on the other hand. The lack of this link is, to a certain extent, the reason why this exclusion persists. Our on the other hand point of view is that the function of experts by training is complementary to that of the experts by experience with whom they co-operate.

The key element consists of the fundamental difference between the position of an excluded person, who is forced to live in long-term exclusion and that of the organisations and participants in policy making, who are not familiar with this social experience nor with the harsh reality of life in exclusion in all its aspects, particularly the sense of shame and humiliation due to the fact that the excluded have no control over their own lives. Another element is that it is necessary to change society’s view of a different way of life or deviant behaviour, which sometimes results in the right answer to the wrong question.

The third element is the knowledge that experts by experience have gained by the lived experience with social and healthcare systems and the experience of coping with exclusion, mental distress, poverty, etc. This must be seen as an alternative, though equally important, knowledge to the academic body of knowledge.

This kind of knowledge indicates a need, in all areas of society, to involve people who can rely on their own exclusion experiences, who understand the logic behind the survival strategies they have developed, and who are able to communicate this logic to others.

Experts by experience prove essential links in all sectors that the excluded have to deal with and which, in fact, cover all areas of life: education, legal system, health care, employment, welfare, child care, culture, housing and social services. The contribution of experts by experience towards policy-making is also essential in all these areas of life and at all government levels. The contribution of experts by experience must be regarded as equally important as the contribution of experts by training. But we have questions about how this can be carried out in practice.

2 Need for training

People who are socially excluded have experience in exclusion. But in order to have the capacity to apply their experiences, they need training.

Trained experts by experience in social exclusion are people who have personally experienced exclusion, who have coped with this experience and extended it to a broader experience in exclusion. They have acquired attitudes, skills and knowledge through their training in order to apply the extended exclusion experience professionally in all areas of the struggle against social exclusion.

Training gives them the support and skills to carry out their tasks and functions: people in exclusion must acquire the necessary insights, attitudes and skills to be able to work as an expert by experience in their required field. Training must also include sufficient time for the trainees to undergo and deal with the necessary process of their own exclusion experiences through the analysis of their own life stories. They thus get the opportunity to reflect on and examine their own histories and own solutions. Furthermore, they are given the opportunity to share their experiences, to learn from others and develop a broader understanding. This enables them to turn individual experiences into general analyses and ways to help others to find their own solutions.

3 Values linked with this approach

Values that sustain the expert by experience approach also constitute the most essential values for the fundamental struggle against exclusion:

  • Belief in the strength of those involved;
  • Acknowledgment of the need of a question-oriented, inward and integral approach to the situation.
  • Belief that everybody can learn and grow.

Furthermore, the approach is underpinned by a number of values that can also be very meaningful to a society that is geared towards truly living together without exclusion, such as:

  • acknowledgement of the fundamental need for respectful and equal interpersonal relationships, enabling each individual to be regarded as a complete person  with their own recognised responsibilities;
  • the importance of a direct style of communication without the use of concealing strategies and, if necessary, a confrontational approach that respects the equality of all partners;
  • respect for the autonomy of the people involved as well as their shared responsibilities, even in problematic situations;
  • the strength of solidarity;
  • the importance of experience as a source of knowledge and learning;
  • the value of a committed, intuitive and reflective approach;
  • respect for diversity.

4 Experts by experience: nowadays

Experts by experience nowadays play an important role in facilitating participation in society for all kind of groups who are excluded. Social exclusion is a problem for people living in poverty, for people with psychiatric backgrounds or drug-abuse and addiction problems, and also for groups of immigrants. It is also a problem for a society that wants to be one that provides general well-being for all.

In this project we assume that members of these groups are open to the inclusion of their peers in a variety of ways and in professional jobs. Creating jobs for experts by experiences as inclusion workers raises the chances of inclusion and improves the ways that people from these different groups participate in society. An expert by experience who is working as an ‘inclusion worker’ needs specialised training for that as well as a special job description. The organization where they find work needs organizational and cultural changes. Employing experts by experience raises the employment rate among groups who usually have great difficulties to find jobs.

Courses and training programmes for these experts already exist in various countries. For example, there’s the programme of De Link in Belgium, de TOED in the Netherlands, the EX-IN programme in Germany, and programmes in Portugal, Hungary and Bulgaria.

In these countries, experts by experience are working in a variety of paid and unpaid jobs in a professional way. Jobs and job descriptions are being formulated and developed. Many social, educational and health services are interested in employing experts by experience. Further development of these professions is a priority and it is urgent that a number of these professional experts by experience get the opportunity to transfer their knowledge in training programmes and schools. This programme has been developed to strengthen, broaden and increase these developments in order to achieve this end.

5 Program The Missing Link

The project consists of four parts: preparation, training, employment and evaluation. The objectives arise from the needs and knowledge of all partners.

Preparation part

A description of the definition of experts by experience and social inclusion, training programmes, job profile and places where they are employed, their level and position in workplaces. It describes the highest common factor of all partners’ projects.

The training

  • Develop ‘train the trainer’ programmes for experts by experience (EE), experts by training and those working in tandem.
  • Develop a tool with ‘examples of tandem working’ in real work situations. This tool has two aims. It is an instrument to stimulate reflection about working in tandem and the effects of their interventions on the improved situation of the excluded persons. This tool is also an instrument to stimulate reflection about the complementary roles of the experts by experience and the experts by training who work in tandem. It also provides more knowledge about the complementarity of both functions.
  • Work on the ‘life stories’ of the EE’s is a crucial element in their learning process. We develop a tool for improving the learning process in the field of the ‘life stories’. This tool creates a personal evaluation instrument for the trainees so that they have the possibility to follow their own growth and empowerment.
  • Share experiences between trainees and working in tandem. We therefore develop exchange programmes between partners.

The employment

  • Create a methodology to address employers. This methodology consists of different steps and activities: a description of the method, a formulation of guidelines, trail periods with a new employer and evaluation.
  • Seek and describe the organizational preconditions and the necessary organizational changes for the employment of the EE’s.
  • Create on-the-job training programmes for EE’s within the scope of HRM.


  • Develop special research instruments for describing results for the evaluation of the training programme, training and effects on social inclusion.
  • Describe the foundation of this approach and underlying knowledge.

6 Further perspectives in Europe

This pilot project could result in new co-operation with a wider range of partnerships on the level of European institutions with regard to the approach of engaging experts by experience and experts by training as social inclusion workers.

Back to top of Charter


Sign here

We the undersigned ask you to encourage and support this project. Do as we did during the European Congress 2009 in Ghent, Belgium, and put your name and that of you organisation under this statement of consent:


E-mail address:


Please enter an optional comment:

Do not display name on website:

Signed by

Lieve De Grande,

Frank Van den Branden,

David Van Vooren,


Luk Vermeulen,

Nathalie De Bleeckere,


bart criel,
I believe the work of the organisation "De Link" is extremely important, also to address problems of social exclusion in the South.

Caroline Cocquyt,

Lut Goossens,

greet roels,

christel de ceuster,

Annemarie Heuver,
good luck for all the project partners and experts by experience in Europe


veerle trippas,

Caro Bridts,
All togheter YES WE CAN

Chris Verlackt,

tanghe els,

Chantal Nonneman,

H.P.M. van Haaster,

Anelia Zaharieva,
I am looking forward to the positive results!

nemegeer jasmien,

Monteiro Manuela,

Nathalie Derycke,

Ann De Vlamynck,

Sara Hendrick - De Link,

Schols Rosa,

Susana P. Silva,
Associação Cultural Moinho da Juventude

Jonas, Ruimteloos

martin hensel,

tine van regenmortel, HIVA -K.U. Leuven

Charlotte Reilhof, Vlaamse overheid - departement Welzijn

Barbara Demeyer, Flemisch Welfare Administration
Poverty in Europe is becomming one of the most urgent problems to solve. To truly understand the impact of poverty in human lives, we need a structural dialoque with experts by experience at all levels and structures in society.

Marjo Boer, Zadkine
The BGE of Zadkine Rotterdam supports and encourages the project and recognizes the need for experts by experience.

Klaus Jansen-Kayser,

Gudrun Tönnee, EX-IN Initiative NRW

lasselin fabienne,
proficiat aan dit project en al degenen die hieraan deelnemen

Aerts Hedwig,

Danny Trimbos,

nebahat deveci, De link

Sandra Carlier, vzw De Link

De Brauw Lieve, praktijk voor psychotherapie en traumabehandeling

Bouttens Miranda, vzw.De Link

kurt, unknow

Marie-Anne Fernagut, CVO VSPW Kortrijk-Belgium

Luc Couvreur, De Link

Spillebeen Lieselot, CVO TNA

Riet Lacombe, CVO VSPW-Kortrijk

Descamps Luc, CVO VSPW- Kortrijk

Carlos Relha, Associação Cultural Moinho da Juventude

Patricia Fassaert, STA-team Roosendaal
Let's go for it!

lieve bohy,

Pieter Beerens, stichting Vrouwen in de Bijstand te Venlo
Bij nood kan niemand het alleen.

Gerda Massenhove, lid van de raad van bestuur de link
Alone we are poor and together we are rich and strong

Loes van Zuijlen, Bureau Het Kan ook Anders

hilde van tongelen, vdab
do sign, this is very impotant for all who need our help

Steven De Geynst, Samenlevingsopbouw Antwerpen
Nooit loslaten!

Kristel Driessens, Bind-Kracht

William Massavon, Nsambya Home-Based Care Department
This project is empowering and promotes integration of the socially marginalized; should be applicable in poor-resource settings, such as Sub-Saharan Africa.

Lucas Verhaegen,

Machteld, De Link
Als ED vind ik dit een belangrijk werk en het is nodig om mensen er mee te helpen te groeien .

Mieke Werbrouck, Unie Vrijzinnige Verenigingen

Nele Deblauwe, Unie Vrijzinnige Verenigingen

Dolores Van Hulle,

Elke Vandermeerschen, Vlaams Netwerk van verenigingen waar armen het woord nemen

Bruyninx herwig, CVO VSPW - Kortrijk

Katleen Vanlerberghe, Samenlevingsopbouw Brussel

elly de wilde, de link

gerd rieger, lebenshilfe krefeld

Magdalena Bracker, ASH Berlin

Jörg Utschakowski, Fokus Bremen

zita olah, social welfare resource center of budapest

Patrick Vander Weyden, University of Ghent


Carola Eijsenring, INDIGO-WERELD
It's a good thing, I think, to make good use of valuable knowledge-by-living, built up in real-life circumstances. To me it seems useful for the owner of this knowledge as well for the 'consumers' around these persons.

Nathalie Hexspoor,

Pieter Beerens, stichting de Pijler
Wij zoeken niet meer de tekorten op van mensen maar hun kwaliteiten!

Rene Grummt, DGSP Sachsen-Anhalt

Koen De Koster, Caritas Vlaanderen

Katja Stukenbrock,

Elitsa Micheva, Global initiative on psychiatry - Sofia

Juergen J. Koester, ciné-ci eufilm

Dimitar Germanov, Foundation \\"Global Initiative on Psychiatry - Sofia\\"
there is a Bulgarian proverb, according to which it is better to ask someone who have experience than someone who was taught about something

Zhasmina Petrova, GIP

Rumen Kolev, Global initiative on psychiatry - Sofia

Ofelia Atanasova, GIP - Sofia

Théo Wagner, a.s.b.l.

carry, VZW de link

els Van den Berghe, VZW De Link
Verry strong project.

Brigitte Van der Herten, vzw de link

Sammy van Laere,

Stefanie Dhondt, Vzw De Link

brys luc,

Marieke Verhoeven, Foodbank and other social organisations in Tilburg netherlands
In my work as a volounteer at Foodbank and other organisations to help the less-fortunate in our society, i feel that the use of EE is a very big PLUS in trying to solve this problem!!!

an van cauwenberghe, Vlaamse gemeenschap

Sabine Van de gaer,


De opleiding heeft mijn leven en mezelf enorm veranderd. Ik hoop en wens dat er nog veel mensen er een beroep op kunnen doen.

Nadine Vervaet,

Zornitsa Moskova, BASE

Koen Buysse, Selor

Wilma King, Profor

KLARA, just me

cottan cossin, ständige-freie-unabhängige >vertretung TRIALOG<
it needs more implementation of EEs all over the countries &amp; concerning the un resolution it's necessary to inforce the TRIALOGUE

Daniël Trimbos, De Link vzw
For a future with a dignified existance and a concerned, caring society.

steyaert stien, CVO TNA Antwerpen

De bruyn Jac, STEBO vzw
Hoog tijd dat er aandacht komt voor en inzicht in de binnenkant van armoede; vooral voor talent en bezieling dat ook in deze mensen als potentieel aanwezig is.

Aisling van Vliet, Eurodiaconia

Van Cronenburg, sp.a Wachtebeke

Martine Adriaenssens, VZW De Touter
Looking forward to hear more. The Missing Link is of vital importance!

Myriam Deroo, Hogeschool West-Vlaanderen
we ensure that our social work students know the missing link

Ulf Kindler, Initiative SnowVhite

Christoph Pauli,

cheap jordan shoes,
Put the price of a observe up to and people will change absent. While you are it valid the easy gladness of a

cheap lv,
lv outlet in paris
cheap lv

Nicole Vanhoucke, HoGent - Hogeschool Gent - University College of Ghent - Social work

hoste cynthia, Tao Armoede OWVL

>> Download Charter (pdf) <<

| Project funded with support of the European Commission under the Lifelong Learning Programme |

2009 | built by Ruimteloos | powered by Wordpress | Login