Background and goals
Erfaringssentrum (The national Association of Peer support workers) is a national interest organization for peer support workers in Norway. The organazination was established in 2017. The basis for establishment was a lack of a single destination and cohesion for peer support workers. Finding reliable information on what being a peer support worker entailed was a difficult task. As such we consider one of our most important tasks to be a source of information, both for peer support workers, potential peer support workers and prospective workplaces. As an organization our focus is to present a united front for peer workers and a place where peer workers can seek help and guidance with questions regarding this profession in its infancy. One of our functions is to be a meeting place for peer support workers.
Our main goals is to establish peer support workers as a recognized group of workers in Norway. Create arenas where peer support workers can meet. We have an annual national conference for peer support workers called “Stronger together”, and we work to create digital, regional and national arenas where peer support workers can learn from each other. Our goal is also to create a foundation for new peer support workers to get into the workplace. We believe that the resources of people on disabilities should be recognized and that getting back to work after a long term substance abuse or mental ill health can be an important part in both creating better lives for people, and empowering people to do great work both in service development and in relation with patients and service users.
Our members consist of peer workers, prospective peer workers and support members. As of April 2021 we have 150 members from all around Norway. Our target audience is peer workers and prospective peer workers as well as miscellaneous employment services.
Erfaringssentrums leadership consists of an elected council with 6 board members. The board members are elected at an annual meeting where all members of the organization are entitled to a vote. Everyone working in leadership capacity at Erfaringssentrum does so on a voluntary basis. On top of this we have one employee working at 50% capacity as a special advisor. All the members of the board are currently employed as peer support workers, with a diverse work background and field specialty.
Through our yearly questionnaire it was established that there was a lack of guidance when it came to peer workers in Norway. Many of our members are employed as the sole peer worker in their place of work. Establishing meeting places for these workers is a top priority. As of now we have monthly meetings and a yearly conference. The yearly conference is called “sterkere sammen” (Stronger together) and is a yearly meeting point for peer workers of Norway. We are also available for our members and any interested party via phone and email during the work week.
We are currently working on several different projects. Among these are establishing relations with like-minded organization across national borders and we are in dialogue with organizations in the US, Denmark, South Africa and the Netherlands. Another ongoing project is creating a set of professional ethics guidelines for peer workers. Nationally we are collaborating with a multitude of non-profit organizations on questions regarding peer support as a profession. We are arranging webinars, meeting places and work on an individual level as well as system and political level.