Category: Neighbourhoods

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. 

Growing the civic conversation online – a platform for healthier local democracy and healthier communities.

Austin Rodriguez and Lewis O-Rourke

Bit by bit we’ve been doing something strategic in Birmingham.   Every social media surgery that happens in the city helps in a number of ways:

  • Provides new skills to individual active citizens
  • Creates a place where people can meet each other
  • Helps community groups and the public sector use the web to talk to each other
  • Grows the civic conversation online.

This last one has been the strategic part.

I think that growing the civic conversation online is an important part of building new platforms in neighbourhoods. It helps traditional civic activity work better and new civic models emerge.

This is based on a simple assumption that if more civically minded people are using the web to talk to each other in a community it will be easier for politicians, public servants and other citizens to share ideas, information  and collaborate or campaign.  Of course people can and will use the web to talk about brangelina – but with the surgeries we target those already involved in or wishing to do something consciously civic.

We’ve taken this a step further in the last two or three years. A normal social media surgery is run by volunteers for volunteers – the free help is available to active citizens, local charities and community groups.

With funding from three of  the different quadrants of the Birmingham Community Safety Partnership  and some other initiatives  (thank you) we have run surgeries which involve public servants too. This means that they come to a surgery to get help on why and how to use social media. More than that though they learn alongside local community groups and active citizens. At times they are teaching each other – strengthening understanding and relationships.

We also used the effort to help spread live streaming of meetingscreate alternatives to traditional ward cttes and give public services tools to think about the stages of engaging online.

We sent out a survey to people who’ve used the social media surgeries in Birmingham. 35 people replied, about 10 per cent of those involved. They were a mixture of volunteers, third sector workers, public servants and at least one councillor.

The Survey

social media and public sector
does learning about social media influence how you think about your work

A third of people said what they had learned had influence how they think about their work ‘a lot’ – three quarters replied either 4 or 5 to that question.

One comment from a worker in a charity supporting charities said

“If I hadn’t started using social media  to build relationships I doubt I’d still be employed in my organisation, and I doubt my organisation would be doing some of the brilliant work it is doing. It’s enabled both me and my organisation to be pro-active in a rapidly changing and challenging context”

Do you use social media to build relationships in your work?
Do you use social media to build relationships in your work?
can you make (civic) things happen because you use social media ?
can you make (civic) things happen because you use social media ?

65% of people felt better able to make things happen because they are using social media. This is a core point. Growing the civic conversation is not just about more blither – it’s about more action.

Would it help your work if more community groups and active citizens were using the internet
Would it help your work if more community groups and active citizens were using the internet

Developing these skills in community groups and active citizens was also seen as a fresh opportunity by at least 77% of those who replied.  They know that the online civic conversation can help them get things done – so helping more people get involved ought to help that more.

have you seen the online conversation grow?
have you seen the online conversation grow?

More than 85 % felt they has seen the online civic conversation grow since getting involved with the social media surgery.  You would expect that to be the case for most people, simply being exposed to new people and new places where civic things get discussed would have that effect. But it is still encouraging to see that they have a wider civic conversation to take part in.

So Birmingham – you’ve already started a strategic investment in building a critical platform for civic change.   Persistence is paying off. Some more?  And what next? Which other new platforms are worth building?

If you’re not Birmingham, other places understand this and we can help you.  We introduced Dudley CVS to the why and wherefores and they have been running surgeries for years – indeed it was Lorna Prescott who told me that what were doing was platform building (sometimes it takes others to spot the obvious).

Pokémon Go, Goes into the the Community

PokemonGO

Technology, gaming and social media often gets a bad wrap. Zombie teens alone in their bedrooms staring at screens, people isolating themselves staring at a hand held 4 inch screen, shunning real life interactions, Kids no longer willing or able to play outdoors. All this and more has been said of digital technology.

I’ve never bought into any of it.

I am a mom to a gaming teen, I am a fan of mobile phones, social media, the internet and more. I play games myself, I use the the tools available to enhance my work life, my social life and to work with and improve my community, But I do also understand why some people who maybe don’t make the connection between the real world and virtual and how they can work hand in hand, worry about the disconnect and the social ramifications of digital technologies.

This week however Nanantic Labs released Pokémon Go, an augmented reality game based on the 20 year old Pokémon franchise. The release, which in its first week out in America has surpassed Twitters entire 65 million user for the same area, is massive. It has outstripped search results for other cultural phenomenon and it has bought the “real world” and the virtual crashing together in the  most brilliant way.

ComparePokemon

The game is based on the 90s phenomenon that spawned card games, a TV show and multiple gameboy games.

Essentially you use your phone’s GPS, and a map to track and hunt Pokémon in the real world and there are set locations in your area that you can collect items from, and others that you can battle your Pokemon for after joining teams, but you have to physically be in the vicinity of them with your phone. If your phone has a gyroscope you can use your handsets camera to “see” the Pokémon in the “real” world” but you actually have to get up and leave the house to play.

I side loaded the app 5 days before the official UK release after reading some of the hype coming from the States, Australia and NZ. Stories that included examples of communities coming out to play together, local police departments engaging with players, people being galvanized into getting out and walking – and the benefits it was having to peoples mental health through both the exercise and socialising (and the stories keep on coming – I love this).

It already had a core local audience when I got it, but mainly Pokemon fans and traditional gamers. But bigger communities online were emerging both global and local as people connected with the game, so I played and waited with anticipation for the official release, I had already engaged with some of the local players, but I wanted to see what would happen when everyone else caught up – I saw the beginnings of that yesterday.

UK Release bringing people together

The app officially launched yesterday 14th July and I first hand saw some of what had been going on in America all week;

Yesterday lunch time my son and I walked to the shops, phone in hand, a group of teens coming the other way caught our eye. “Pokémon” one of them shouted. “Pokémon” we shouted back, waving our handsets in their direction. A van pulled up along side us as we passed by a “Pokéstop” rolled down its window and the driver began to play, he looked at me sheepishly and smiled, I smiled back and went on our way.

Last night I went to the supermarket, I deliberately parked where I could see what I knew to be an active Pokémon area, with multiple “stops” and 2 “gyms” in walking distance. I spent a while watching as a group of teens walked around the area, to the casual observer aimlessly, but with the map open I could see they were looping around the Pokéstops. As I watched (and caught a few Pokémon of my own) a car pulled in besides me and a young girl got out and walked over to the nearest stop, I sat and listened as a conversation took place between her and the wandering teens and what was obvious was that some of these kids had never met before but were working together to capture the Gym – the lone girl joined in with their group and was all smiles, Her dad (or at least that who I assume it was) who was still in the car grinned as his young daughter made new friends.

In the store I overheard some of the staff were giving a colleague some gentle ribbing for hunting while on her cigarette break, to which her retorts, while said in jest, said a lot – “I’ve walked further today than I have in years” and as I left a Mom and young son were sitting together on the benches, he actively instructing his Mom how to battle in the app.

And that’s not all, I got home to find that the local Pokémon Wolverhampton group were arranging a met for that night in West Park, and were actively encouraging solo players along to buddy up with people of the same teams so that they wouldn’t be alone, The Community Centre I help to run is next door to gym, so we’re trying to make the most of it and we are planning on hosting a Pokéhunt, using out location as a charging station and base so that younger players can come together to hunt safely

So in one short week, and only 1 day after the official UK release this mobile game and franchise has bought people and communities together, it is getting people out of the house and exploring their neighbourhoods, it getting people on their feet and walking, making new friends and offering up marketing opportunities. I’m really looking forward to seeing how this can be optimised upon before the initial excitement dies down, and more importantly what comes next as we learn that our communities aren’t big scary places, and technology doesn’t have to be the death of social as people play together. But for now you’ll have to excuse me as my mobile has just told me that there’s a Jigglypuff somewhere local, and you know, I gotta catch ’em all.