Thinking big but starting small with a slow fix

Featured article - 10 January 2018
Samantha Clark, chief executive of the Local Area Coordination Network

Head-shot of the author, Samantha Clark, chief executive of the Local Area Coordination Network

From 2009 Ralph Broad championed and supported the 1st developments of Local Area Coordination in England and Wales. Local Area Coordination is a long term, integrated, evidence based approach to supporting people (of all ages, whatever their diagnosis, label or current circumstance) to:

  • Build and pursue their personal vision for a good life
  • Stay strong, safe and connected as contributing citizens
  • Find practical, non-service solutions to problems wherever possible
  • Build more welcoming, inclusive and supportive communities.

Build more welcoming, inclusive and supportive communities

In supporting those developments Ralph embedded some significant and challenging ideas. Now, these approaches are built into how we work as a Network and within our plans for supporting the long term implementation and growth of Local Area Coordination in Wales and England.

Think big, start small, get it right and grow

Ralph encouraged the areas developing Local Area Coordination to have a clear vision but to start small with in a few neighbourhoods and to learn the strategic, and community fit whilst building trusting relationships and local understanding. Like many other things that share similar values, Local Area Coordination cannot be imposed on or rolled out onto a community or service system; but it can be ‘knitted in’ to be sustainable and most effective. Recently a director in one area described this to me as ‘creating an environment in which a 1000 flowers could bloom.’

The “slow fix” delivers quicker more sustainable outcomes

With people, organisations and systems Ralph encouraged programme leads and managers to understand that taking time, listening, learning and building relationships would lead to deeper and longer term outcomes. As a group of network members recently said, it’s about 'holding your nerve' at times when others want to take short cuts or see short term, transitory results.

The design, development and implementation of Local Area Coordination will continue to build on our learning with people and communities. For example Steve was wary when he met the local coordinator as he’d had lots of interactions with mental health and others - like the criminal justice system - where he’d felt let down. Taking time, building a relationship and really listening have all helped Steve feel more confident to start volunteering at a local bike recycling project; using his skills and previous experiences to contribute. Steve has made friendships as well, as getting his lunch, which means he is no longer stealing food to survive.

Sometimes it may look like things can be done more easily or faster, but at the Local Area Coordination Network we believe that building sustainable change within strong communities means being in it for the long haul.

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