A Time Bank for Wales? Workshop & Seminar update

Edgar Cahn and Chris Gray came over from the States to help with the Timebanking Workshop and follow-up Welsh Government Seminar – both cracking events with lots of enthusiasm, plentiful ideas and, most importantly, a pile of commitments to action.

These included one from us! We’ve offered to act as a central communications point for all this activity, and to share information about time-banking with our Networks. Here are some useful links

Spice is a UK-wide social enterprise originating in Wales that develops agency timebanking systems for communities and public services. The site includes links to evidence of the impact of time-banking, media coverage and new models for development.

 Time Banking Wales

Resources, contacts and extensive experience of time credits and their capacity to strengthen communities and transform the lives of individuals.

Lots of organisations have promised to spread the word about time banking – what it is, what it can achieve, and how it works. They include WLGA, WCVA, PHW (who will explain the principles and process to local health boards), Welsh NHS Federation and the Big Lottery who will work with Spice and WLGA to share this information as widely as possible.

Might be an idea to get together to produce a fact sheet + resources so that we are all using the most relevant and up-to-date information. Any offers of help with this?

In addition, there was a proposal of using Welsh Government staff  5 Volunteering Days for piloting time banking within the Welsh Government, the Chief Medical Officer will work closely with us to identify academic partners for time banking. Prof Edgar Cahn also suggested software for time banking could be tested in Wales.

 Look out for information about the Time-banking Conference which will be held in the new year to provide updates about the actions and move us one step closer to the Finance Secretary’s aspiration for a time bank for Wales.



Seminar in the Welsh Assembly: There’s (much) more to life than services

You can take a horse to water… – Bob Rhodes, Lives through Friends
It was at the end of the launch of the Coproduction Network for Wales that an opposition AM approached me to ask whether I would be able to convene a session for new Members of the Welsh Assembly and their advisors to give them some background to the principles of strengths-based practice and co-production that are emblazoned so boldly in recent legislation – especially relating to Social Care and Wellbeing and Future Generations. We did something similar 4 years ago.
A date was agreed for a midday seminar and during the planning it soon emerged that we would be expected to feed our visitors – “they probably will go elsewhere otherwise?” We invested from our own pockets to satisfy this expectation!
Our emphasis for the seminar was essentially to share some of the best practice in community building and social care in Wales in the context of the obstacles and contrary systems conditions that the best leaders and practitioners need to overcome in order to achieve the results for which they are so appropriately respected. Leaders and practitioners in 9 leading edge agencies plus representatives of people who use public services and carers gave their time to planning and delivering an informative and collaborative event and, when the day arrived, only the sponsoring AM, one of his colleagues, and a press officer from the most relevant Cabinet Secretary’s team attended.
From this we can only adduce that the successful implementation, which will inevitably necessitate amendments, of Assembly policies on public services have little priority or interest for our elected representatives? With one exception, the subject of how we care for each other in Wales and the nature of the relationship between citizens and their institutions that impacts upon this did not even warrant AM’s delegating attendance to a researcher or advisor. We “led the horse to water” and ended up doing all the drinking (and eating) ourselves.
Our three hours together strengthened our Network but left us with little optimism that our life and career long experiences of rowing against the tide and working against the grain will ever change. The introduction of systemic co-production poses a deep-set culture change challenge for institutions in Wales – and that starts at the top.

A Better Future – Co-production in Torfaen

What would social care for people with learning disabilities look like if the people who used services designed, developed and decided what was needed?

In Torfaen and across the counties of Gwent we are on the brink of finding out.

As a former manager of provider services, I am personally challenged but ultimately excited by the prospect. I am convinced that the people who have experience of receiving services are a beacon of good sense and that many of the best ideas in social care come from the grassroots.

In October this year, I began the journey as innovation and development manager in Torfaen County Borough Council. The post, funded by the intermediate care fund, has the brief to coproduce a plan for new ways of working and delivering services for people with learning disabilities.

I have been lucky enough to enlist the excellent support of Barod (a training and information company whose owners are a mix of disabled and non-disabled people), Torfaen People First and other People First groups across Gwent as advisors and co-producers respectively.

Together we have developed some principles for our work:

  • People with experience of using services will decide upon the final recommendations
  • We will make sure that the voices of people with learning disabilities are put first
  • All the documents we produce will be as accessible as possible
  • We will work with other people and organisations involved with people with learning disabilities to include their ideas
  • We will find out about the best ideas and make them accessible
  • We will involve people using their strengths
  • People will be reimbursed for their time and expenses
  • We will use person centred communication

The final report will be published in April 2017, concluding a series of workshops and network events across Gwent. It will be easy read and will include business cases for new services and enterprises.

We have found many examples of good practice but would be interested to hear from anyone who has good ideas, knows of something that works well or wants to help in other ways.

Jim Wright – Innovation and Development Manager Torfaen County Borough Council

Poetry, football, and ballroom dancing – “unexpected ways” to reduce alcohol harm


Communities Together is a community development project in north Pembrokeshire. It’s a project about facing up to alcohol issues in our communities – but one that didn’t begin with questions about alcohol at all.

Here in Wales, much like our neighbours across the British Isles, we don’t always have the healthiest relationship with alcohol. Doctors and public health workers have been telling us for decades to cut back. It’s a simple message, but in our complicated lives it’s not always an easy one to follow.

Telling people to live healthier lives doesn’t work. But what happens if we ask people what good health would look like for them? The pioneering American alcohol researcher Dr Harold Holder has urged “the well-intentioned people who introduce programmes into communities”, to engage with the community, relinquish control, and be prepared for things to happen in “unexpected ways”. That’s exactly what we did. Poetry, football, and ballroom dancing have been just some of the “unexpected” outcomes.

We believe that we’ve created a new paradigm for getting to grips alcohol issues in our communities. To find out more, contact the Project Manager,
Marc Mordey.

co-production, communities

Article: Why is Co-production so hard to understand? 

By Geoff Thomas, Timebanking Wales


Co-production like any new buzz word is easy to hijack. Often times you will hear people say “we’ve been doing co-production for years but we never called it that”.  Really!

Like any other form of piracy it is simple to select elements of a buzz word and badge them up as co-production. At worse this leads to service providers powdering themselves with make-up, at best the dawning realisation that instead of designing people around services, we are beginning to design services with people which mobilises their social energy. But this is only the START.

The next question centres on how public and third sector providers define community engagement. The Communities First programme stresses the need to ensure community engagement. Similarly, the Welsh Government is a great drumbeater for engaging with communities. Unfortunately, neither mention a methodology for the ‘how’ or what form of community engagement they wish practitioners to adopt – a Lady Bountiful model of engagement (one way service transactions helping people in need) or an interactive model of engagement (two way service interactions enlisting people in need as contributors to change). The latter is a two way conversation founded on the ethos of mutualism. So make your choice, what is your preferred model of engagement to implement co-production?

The next question is somewhat tricky as it forces human service organisations to face another fundamental question – how do we thank people for the work they do?  If you are bored with the old debate whether this question is about recognition or reward, believe me you are not the only one. I’m sure we all agree that giving time to contribute to civil betterment is just as important as giving time to economic growth. Whilst the latter is a familiar concept measurable as Gross Domestic Product, the former is best referred to as Civil Domestic Product. Co-production gets serious about Civil Domestic Product by giving it a social currency, beginning to construct dual currency platforms, market and non-market economies, that make the two economies visible. Now, how prepared is your organisation to take this concept on board?

So next time when some of the old guard fail to master the ‘simple perplexities’ of co-production, invite them into the vanguard reminding them that public programmes are unlikely to succeed unless they actively engage, are co-produced, with the people they are designed to benefit.