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Dreaming Together: (Re)Imagining Pathways for Peer Advancement

August 4, 2023

By: Colene Allen & Calvin Prowse

On May 9, 2023, during the PeerWorks Annual Conference, we facilitated a “dreaming together” networking session / workshop on the topic of possible pathways for career advancement within the peer sector. During this workshop, we posed a series of questions to participants to explore and brainstorm through small group discussion. These questions explored current and possible pathways for advancement both within and beyond the peer sector, as well as how our lived experience and peer support can be an asset in other fields.  

We each came to develop this workshop based on our own unique backgrounds, perspectives, and wonderings, as well as through a shared concern about the limited opportunities for advancement within the peer field. Colene has drifted in and out of both paid and volunteer peer support roles, as well as roles in other sectors where lived experience and peer support values and skills have been an  asset. Calvin’s interest in this topic came from their MA research on peer support futures, as well as their own uncertainty about the next steps of their career within the peer sector. Colene wanted to explore how other roles can function as entry points into peer work, and Calvin wanted to explore possible new roles within the peer field.  

This “dreaming together” workshop provided an opportunity for us to explore the current state of the peer sector as well as its possible futures alongside conference attendees. This blog post is a compilation of the ideas brainstormed by participants during this session, which we hope will be a valuable resource for peer workers (or would-be peer workers) considering the next steps in their career. However, it is important to note that this brainstorming session did not seek to identify which roles were most aligned with peer values. As such, we encourage readers to use this list as a starting point for their own reflection, to explore what opportunities might be most aligned with their own values, skills, and interests.  

We would like to thank the participants of the PeerWorks 2023 conference for sharing their thoughts, insights, and experiences so freely and honestly with us. We have included them below verbatim. These contributions have provided new insights into how different peers view their own futures in the field, as well as the challenges of finding meaningful employment within the peer sector. Unfortunately, we did not have enough time during our workshop to fully develop our ideas, and we recognize the need for ongoing discussions so that more opportunities, challenges, and possibilities are brought forward for consideration.  


  1. What areas of advancement currently exist within the peer sector?
What other possibilities could exist?  



    4. What has your career path looked like, moving to or from peer roles?

What career paths have you seen  other  peer workers take?  


  • Youth outreach worker --> peer outreach worker 

  • Student--> teaching --> maternity leave --> social media manager -->  youth peer mentor 

  • Peer support volunteer --> street outreach worker -->  housing stability worker 

  • Volunteer --> employment pathway 

  • Independent digital photography diploma --> call centre work --> medical admin diploma-->  injury -->  peer receiving supports --> volunteer peer mentor -->  peer support program coordinator 

  • PS worker -->  director of org 

  • Board -->  paid staff 

  • Coordinator --> surveyor for program improvements -->  peer researcher -->  peer mentor of systems -->  leadership -->  union representative -->  professor  

  • Had a peer program on psych ward 

  • New paths out of PS due to wages being low, housing, case managers 

  • Joining multi-disciplinary teams 

  • Becoming a peer worker after certification 

  • Previous roles/jobs before becoming a paid peer support were very similar to, or were peer support unofficially. The positions’ duties were very similar while under different titles 

  • Where else do we need peer support: in early education (elementary + high school) instead of fear of ‘reporting’ i.e. children’s aid, social worker taking away control of family healing; family peer support for young people afraid of talking about … + becoming … foster system etc.  



  5. What other opportunities exist that can be entry or exit points to or from peer roles? 


  • Entry: passion, recent experiences, a desire to help, social work, getting a peer 

  • Entry: service navigator, speakers bureau, social media / online presence, relief work 

  • Working in social work etc. and gradually embracing peer status 

  • Entry / exit: warm lines 

  • Exit: social work, therapy, advancement in positions 

  • Re-traumatized in system --> passionate -->step employment --> outreach -->LE surveyor (OCAN) -->trainer --> presenter -->coordinator --> leadership --> peer mentor for systems change -->peer role innovator 


 6. What other actions, activities, & responsibilities are related to peer support,

 that might not be specific roles


  • Helping people with everyday tasks; self-care 

  • Peer support volunteer; street outreach peer; peer support worker 

  • Post partum care (cooking meals, cleaning); being a part of their crisis plan; linking to resources