Helping communities and neighbourhoods blossom

Featured article - 25 September 2017
By Mick Ward, Deputy Director, Integrated Commissioning, Adults and Health, Leeds City Council and Leeds Clinical Commissioning Groups

Head-shot of the author, Mick Ward, Deputy Director, Integrated Commissioning, Adults and Health, Leeds City Council and Leeds Clinical Commissioning Groups

My recent – unscientific - survey showed that less than 10% of adult social care staff lived within a mile of where they work. In fact, there was a view held for a long time that social care staff shouldn’t live in the same area that they work in, and whilst I understand some of the reasons behind this, it feels more appropriate for a time when we descended on a community to ‘do to people’ rather than now, as we increasingly move to ‘working with’ individuals and communities.

What is happening in local communities and neighbourhoods? We need to ask this so we can support people to access local resources and also feel connected to their community; and as a result help them to blossom. A feeling of disconnection can be compounded by the fact that we increasingly do not live near the area in which we work. Now I am not proposing that everyone has to move down the street from where they work, though that would mean me having to get a nice apartment in Park Square in Leeds!, But I do think there are a few things we can all do to build our knowledge of the local area in which we work. These include:

Walk the streets

You can’t beat seeing somewhere yourself to understand what’s on offer. See if you can walk in to work, walk to meetings, or in the spirit of health and well-being at work set up a walking group and arrange walks across the area, and whilst doing so, note services, community resources, and just pop in.

Go to local events

Pretty much every area in a city or rural area will have its own major annual event, such as a fair or a fete, but also festivals, organisation’s AGMs, and other cultural events - all these are great for understanding the area where you work and meeting people. Often, one contact will lead to another and of course many of these are fun and interesting in their own right.

Share your space

Are you able to offer meeting rooms in your office or other facilities to local groups for the occasional session or event? Could you have your meetings in other local venues? Local groups often like the chance to meet up with their partners and to showcase what they do, so you will often be pushing at an open door if you ask.

Also:

  • Have vibrant notice boards
  • Know your local organisations
  • Produce newsletters
  • Access social media to advertise events or link to others
  • Know your community connectors
  • Network, network, network – get out there
  • Be local

I believe that working in this way has three key outcomes that really benefit strength based social care. Firstly, knowledge: If we are to promote individual and community strengths we have to recognise that for many people we are a key source of that information. Secondly, identity: the key to working with, rather than doing to, is a sense of shared ambitions, goals and plans. Finally, pride: in order to really harness the assets of a local community you have to believe in them. If we as workers have that pride in a neighbourhood and community, we will be the ones fighting for it and celebrating it.

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