PeerFest 2016 is nearly upon us. What is PeerFest? It is the Hogg Foundation’s first attempt at a Texas-themed event that is by and for “consumers” – persons with lived mental health experience. Similar in design to the national Alternatives conference, PeerFest reflects the Hogg Foundation’s deepening commitment to recovery-oriented principles, and is also a harvest from the foundation’s years of work with the blossoming peer support community in Texas.
The event’s uniqueness is reflected in its planning process. Major decisions regarding content, logistics, and marketing are made by an External Consumer Design Planning Committee, a decision-making body consisting entirely of mental health consumers, each of whom has a deep personal stake in not only the event’s success but its potential to kick-off a larger “recovery movement” in Texas.
We are stepping outside our customary role as convener of professional expert opinion on mental health for an eager audience of attendees. Instead, we hope that PeerFest derives its own sense of purpose from the churn of creativity, playfulness, and homegrown wisdom that the attendees will bring to the event.
In that spirit, we thought it would be a fun experiment to give this blog space over to four members of the External Consumer Design Planning Committee. The question:
A prevalent theme that has emerged during the planning process is for PeerFest to be centrally focused on PLAY, and fun. We know that play can be emotionally rejuvenative and pro-mental health. On the other hand, there is also some felt pressure on the part of the planning committee to demonstrate that it’s possible for peers to put together a highly structured event that a professional organization like the Hogg Foundation can gladly put its name on. How much of a tension is there between these two goals?
With this “Online Symposium,” our aim is to be unusually candid about our complexity and heterogeneity as a team that’s setting out to do something new. It also serves up a slice of the hard-to-tame energy that has made the PeerFest planning process both thrilling and challenging.
The dialogue starts here. Over the next several days we’ll be updating this space with more blog posts as the conversation evolves.