Category: Miscellaneous

Notes from the #Locality17 session on: Community Health and Wellbeing – what works

These are just notes from a session at the Locality Convention 2017.

Meena Bharadwa introduced the session and explained that locality has a place to link real community groups into the academic research on this subject and translate between the two. She briefly reminded us that Community Wellbeing is Complex.

Andy Pennington – University of Liverpool

The point of the programme is to provide state of the art evidence to help allocate resources.  The focus is on people, place and power.  research is being shared here:  https://www.whatworkswellbeing.org/

Andy outlined some of the key ways in which issues around the quality of places and power within places can either lead to better or worse community health.

There is so much evidence that decision makers are becoming overwhelmed.

Key things it show…

1: In the workplace environment (Marmot’s work on civil service) showing that those with more control have better health.  Cardio-vascular heath and life expectancy.  In health institutions those who can share in decision making fare better health wise.

2: In the living environment (in our communities) –  Is there joint decision makaing (by which they mean “the meaningful involvement of people in decisions that affect their environment…”.  Positive outcomes of being involved are..

Depression, self-esteem, sense of mastery

Sense of community, creation of social capital,

New skills,  learning, better employment, personal empowerment

Also wider impact for those not directly involved in decision making.  So they also receive the benefits of improving community resources.

Adverse

Psychological strain from being involbed

Some groups are over consulted leading to stress and frustration (although not convinced about methods used for these studies)

David Wilford , Royds Community Association in Bradford

The community Association focuses on getting people into work.   They say they found a lack of investment from CCG’s – they called the residents:  Buttershaw men and Buttershaw women and thought of them as drinking to much and needing fixing.   We studied what people were doing in their communites.  Foudnt hat to get thing going

People needed a little help at the beginning

Proper co-design (not the council working up most of it)

Community anchor orgs featured well (hospitals and GP’;s can be intimidating) – so community centres/setting important

Invited GP’s to decamp from their surgeries and come to local orgs.

So we’re building up social capital around health.  There’s a lot of talk of pooling budgets – but people not willing to put theirs into the pool.

Voluntary sector assets need to be resourced

The money needs to follow the patient into the third sector (as it would to a physiotherapist)

System says VCS are not evidenced, clinical interventions also not evidenced (often)

The voluntary sector needs to steadily and deliberately re-train the public sector rather than hope for a radical change.

We need to convince that the VCS is value for money.

“We drop 10 million pound balls regularly in the NHS – what could the VCS do with £10 million!”.

 

Hurricane Sandy and the Trump Tornado  #locality17

 

The Donald Disaster from melissa AAse
The Donald Disaster from Melissa Aase (who is speaking on the right of the picture)

She calls it “The Donald Disaster”.    Melissa Asse of University Settlement in New York  (a community organisation/housing for 350000 New Yorkers) has just finished speaking to the Locality Convention in Manchester. 

During Hurricane (Superstorm) Sandy Melissa recognised that, although they were poorly prepared, some of the best first responders  were recent migrants. Especially those  who had been learning or teaching english.

They had two key things: trust and languages.  [ trust grown through learning together – which is also what happened at the Stagehuis Schilderswijk in The  Hague and what is happening at Co-Lab Dudley, indeed happens all over the place. ]

She says she can see that they are now facing another disaster. Trump is a storm heading for their communities…  “disorienting and fever pitched and reminds us of other disasters” 

These are the lessons from Hurricane Sandy that Melissa belives community organisations can apply to political hurricanes.

  • Get people together. In a disaster people want to come together and they naturally do,  anchor organisations can be that, can bring them together. get spaces and staff ready to open up.  Be explicit about your intention to be a safe space.
  • Tackle racism: Inequity and racism makes things worse in a disaster – poor and communities of colour are hit hardest but rarely part of the planning.  Tackle white supremacy head on. 
  • Make the most of immediate relationships: Social ties might save your life – in the current storm or right wing hatred and xenophobia, the skills of community, story telling, improvisation, social capital can help us respond to attacks on immigrants, LGBQT people, mysogny
  • Keep your organising skills sharp: Local activism has morphed a little into providing transactional services. It’s time to brush up on skills of community organsiation and civic engagement.
  • Be careful with yourself:  self care matters –  find inspiration from each other. Avoid disaster porn, read the history of movement  read “Hope ion the dark”
  • Wire the network in many ways:  In disaster there can never be enough forms of communication., Things change quickly and we have to change responses quickly, even if the decisions are imperfect.  Find community, find partners.
  • Exploit the disruption.  In No Is Not Enough,  Naomi Klein, expands on how she sees capitalist engineering shocks to create disruption they can exploit.   Melissa says disasters can be opportunities for local organisations, creating new ways of working and unexpected alliances.  Be ready to take advantage.
  • Use it to strengthen:  Intentionally build human relationships build resilience.  We already do that and need to keep doing that. 

Thank you Steph

Steph Clarke just about to pick up an award in May 2013
Steph just about to pick up an award in May 2013

——

It was a common joke that Steph came to work for a rest.  She heard it often and it always made her smile.

Besides a full time job with us, Steph Clarke was busy.

She and her husband James started and ran the hugely significant hyperlocal blog WV11. Both volunteered to run their local community centre and she was a driving force on the board of the local charity Hands on Wednesfield.  Steph had just raised more than £5000 for new Christmas lights for her local high street – even though James thought she was pushing her luck on that one.

She seemed to almost effortlessly run a photography business on the side, helped with her local (and large ) photography club, made the Wolverhampton Social Media Surgery happen and supported a range of home school groups. Steph organised voluntary events for Big Lunch Extras, got stuck into making new things happen through Make Shift in Wolverhampton and sorted regular social nights for her and her friends.

In between she never flinched from standing up for injustice (as anyone on the very sharp end of her unflinchingness will tell you) or caring for someone who might not even know that they needed a kindness.

Above all though she was a wholeheartedly committed wife, mother, daughter, grand-daughter and sister.   Loyalty was at her core.

So did Steph come to work for a rest?

The truth is that she was too restless to be all that good at resting.  Her commitment to what we do at Podnosh was total.  Throughout the 5 years she worked here Steph was happiest when we were stupidly busy.  She loved learning new things, solving problems, seeing work through – sometimes with very gritted teeth.  She could not fail to connect her different worlds of work and volunteering and home to make them all work better. She helped and connected people almost casually and her stock pot of social capital was rich and full of flavour.

Our company values are: Think, Make Things Better and Give a ****.  She relished telling people that, especially the sweary bit. She blogged to her friends:

“What do I do? I think, I make a difference, I give a f**k! – and I’m really proud of that!”

She embodied these values and at times scolded me (respectfully, he’s “the boss’) if I wasn’t doing the same.  (She could smell hypocrisy at a 1000 yards and might need talking down from shouting it out every time she sniffed it).

Most days that we worked together ended the same.  She’d head off to do another days work in her life and I’d say ‘thank you’.  I wasn’t really thanking her for the work she’d done.  It was for her being generous enough to bring all of the intensity and decency of herself to work.

Last Thursday our working day ended differently.  So here I’d just like to say one final ‘thank you, Steph’ x.

 

 

 

(Steph Clarke died on Friday November 25th after falling ill the previous day)

 

Be Bold. Measuring Impact #NCPIgnites

Podnosh_Impact_Assessment

Yesterday I attended the New Philanthropy Capital Conference “Burning Issues and Being Bold” It was a day focusing on measuring and evaluating projects, demonstrating impact – it was right up our street. Unfortunately I was only able to attend for the morning.

However even though I was only there for half the day and I still woke this morning with my brain whirring from the conversations that took place, so much so I’m not sure I have yet processed it all, but as I sit here mulling it all over, sound bites from the speakers keep turning over in my head.

This is mush in my brain and so I’m starting to dump some of it here to try and make sense of what I am thinking.

Boldness in times of change

The first session was a panel discussion, called Boldness in times of change with Mike Adamson, Chief Exec of the British Red Cross, Anni Rowland Campbell Director of Inerscitcia and David Robinson OBE, Leading thinker in community , early action and social investment, and it was chaired by Iona Berry head of Charities at the NPC

  • Mike talked of being bold, and how being bold wasn’t just one large step, but a series of small steps – and that includes moving away from superficial evidence and towards more impactful reporting – that would give a collective voice to report “truth to power”.
  • Anni about the “unprecedented period of change” we find ourselves, and that we need to embrace technology, but remain human.
  • David Robinson said the Voluntary Sector has to plan for change and it has to think urgently, inventively and boldly and that they need to work to protect 2 key things:
    1. The needs of the Service Users.
    2. Embracing Experience – this means protecting the people with knowledge on the face of cuts.

“We are data heavy and insight light”

David also said something that stuck with me and followed me through the rest of the day;

We are data heavy and insight light” – We measure what the government and funding bodies want us to measure, but we should be reporting on where our value is and what we want to achieve.

This really struck a note as it is something we’ve been encouraging with the user of our Impact Assessment App. It’s not just numbers, it’s also the stories – the insight. Use your relationships with your clients to measure the impact of the work you do, trust the voice of your clients to tell your story – what are you achieving and use those voices and experiences to action change.

Learning from others

The next session was a keynote speech from Tom Loosemore, Director of Digital Service, Co-operative Group – ” Learning from others”

Tom had a lot to say it was really inspiring listening to him, but the take away points for me were:

  • Slow down, take a step back and have a think it’s a slow revolution. Don’t be passive, Get excited and make things happen – We have it within our power to restart the world again.
  • We have an obligation to build a better future, using the tools and capabilities of the (digital) revolution.
  • Don’t just strategise, Do, Build, Work, Observe & Iterate, Listen and Iterate, Observe and iterate again.
  • What are we learning? Understand the need of your service users. Work with them, don’t write a strategy for them.
  • Report on what matters.
  • Use digital to: Get better at what you do & deliver your purpose in different ways.

“Keep your Hippo on a leash, beware the snails and don’t be a boiling frog.”

Tom also used a couple of amusing, but simple descriptions to describe some of  the pit falls that the voluntary sector can come up against and what to be aware of. You can sum it up with “Keep your Hippo on a leash, beware the snails and don’t be a boiling frog.”

  • Hippo – Highest paid person’s opinion – avoid this! You can beat the hippo, if you have a strong voice. Often “paid workers” will try and impose their will on volunteers ad community orgs. This doesn’t have to be the case, speak up, be heard, keep the hippo on a leash.
  • Snails – are the people that hold you back, that fail to innovate, that are negative and don’t try to see the bigger picture. Beware the snails, know when they are likely to raise their heads.
  • Boiling Frog – the org/group that is stuck in a boiling pot getting left behind and slowly dying while not even realizing, the group stuck in their ways, failing to move with the times. Move forwards and embrace change. Take the people around you along for the ride. Don’t be the boiling frog.

A view from Whitehall

Following on from Tom was Lord Bob Kerslake – former head of the Civil Service, He gave a talk that touched on the government’s view of the Voluntary sector.

He said elected members often had a default embedded view of the community / voluntary sector, which differs dependent on their party, he said broadly speaking they are:

Tory: Left leaning & Inefficient
Lab: “Why are they doing our job”

However he also said the gov need us more than we need them – we need to stand up and be strong, government respect that, even if they don’t like it. We can use out collective voice to effect change/

Local government relationships are important to CVS, co production and radical change are needed And he recongnised that there needed to be “Show don’t tell” system to demonstrate innovation and impact.

Looking ahead in measurement and evaluation

After the break we went to the first (and my only) break out session – this was all about looking ahead in measurement. They opened the session be saying that this was for cutting edge practices.  That digital has changed both the pace and quantity of data being collected the we need think about how we are using this data.

But from there I will be honest, I lost the pace of the session very quickly. All the talk and slides looked more at quantitative data than qualitative outcomes, it was all KPI and number driven, The scale the speakers were talk about was beyond where we are currently working. Global enterprises with millions of pounds of funding that needed to collect vast amounts of data – and there was lots of talk of data.

Data collection and data analysis, data tools and extrapolation – mainly for outputs and I was lost, It appears that even on the “cutting edge” we were still looking at number crunching –  all I kept thinking was what about the stories and using people’s voice to evidence outcomes – that’s the impact.

Learning from the morning

Overall the morning got me thinking about how we understand impact measurement and broadly speaking how right I think our approaches are.

You can’t report Impact with numbers alone, you can’t really evidence the real difference you are making in people’s lives with graphs and charts, data means nothing without the background story, You need to make people feel, Or as Chip and Dan Heath would put it – you need to motivate the Elephant:

 

The over arching themes that I took from the day, and what I feel to be true from our own  work are:

Ongoing monitoring

Don’t just wait to the end of a project to demonstrate impact. Real time monitoring and feedback will allow you follow the progress of your work and the journey your clients are on.

Responsive working

By engaging in ongoing measurement and impact reporting it allows you to know if something is working and if it’s not, and allows to to make changes and respond to clients needs

Define and redefine outputs and outcomes

Know your mission and what your are aiming for, but don’t be afraid to redefine it as your work, and your clients experience shape what you do.

Don’t duplicate measurement

Be brave with this one, If a funder asks for something to be measured, find out if they really need it. What measurement are you already doing, get them to fit into your framework, don’t include another set of reporting unnecessarily.

I’m not a service user!

The final thing I didn’t learn yesterday, but I had reconfirmed. I hate the term “service user” over and over this term was used and I really detest it.  I’m not a service user, I’m more than just a number, and so is my community, we’re, people, clients, human beings, and if were really going to be talking impact we should be talking real people, not just statistics.