Strengthening Local Voice – the real health inequality challenge?

We’ve mentioned Mark Gamsu before. He writes a wide-ranging blog on all things related to local democracy and health. His latest post raises some critical issues…
“So, system level organisations and agencies need to consider what they can be doing to strengthen citizen voice. This is where it gets really hard. A lot of the structures that operate at a system level are dominated (with the exception of local councillors) by professionals who speak on behalf of local citizens. By professionals I mean primarily managers from public sector bodies (mainly the NHS and Local Government) and the Voluntary and Community Sector. Of course they are well intentioned people – but they are constrained by their own organisation and services (they don’t usually have whole system view) and by their responsibilities for meeting their targets and contracts. This too often leads to relationships that operate within a paradigm that ignores conflicts brought on by competition and mistakes activity for systemic action.
Again, in Sheffield the Sheffield First Partnership has been trying to get to grips with this. They set up what was in effect a select committee process to seek to understand what good might look like with regard to community cohesion and voice; taking evidence from a range of witnesses – including voluntary sector organisations, the police, fire service and private sector. The outcome of this investigation is a “Fuzzy Framework” that seeks to provide a platform for a more self aware collaboration on this agenda across the city. It is very much a work in progress – but is a positive attempt to try to be more self conscious about this issue.”

Worth a read. The full article is here.


Real lives – co-pro stories

A highlight of the recent (and excellent) Community Currencies conference hosted by Spice was the number of presentations by citizens. One of those presentations was by Derek Hermann – an inspirational young man whose story demonstrates both the limitations of a purely medical model of health, and the powerful connection between wellbeing and the opportunity to make a contribution to the lives of others. Here’s his story, as he stood up to tell it on stage…
I started my sports career at a young age as a way of dealing with asthma. I trained in athletics and swimming, going onto become the youngest ever inductee to the Welsh Athletics Hall of Fame. By the age of 17 I was at Commonwealth Games standard and competing internationally for Wales. I was being groomed to be an Olympian, training every day. Sport was my life.
Then in 2000, while competing for Wales, an accident resulted in me breaking my back in numerous places and damaging my spinal chord. At 19 my career was over and I was told I would be in a wheelchair by the time I was 30. I was not expected to walk again.
I used to be known as Big Del or Del Diesel; I was strong and helped others. After the accident I was no longer able to do the things I’d done before, I became isolated, lonely and lifeless. It felt like I was hollow.
For 10 years I shut the door on the world and gave up on life. My home became my prison. I don’t know how my family coped. I ended up on anti psychosis medication because things got so bad. At one point I was taking over 80 tablets a day and morphine patches. I picked out my wall to drive in to…my body and mind were destroyed,
Things began to change when I met Rachel (a localities worker with Spice). She told me about some developments in my local community and asked for my help. I started to get involved in the community, to make suggestions about how things could be improved. Then I found out about the Street Buddy community ambassador training and attended. That was the big shove I needed to start doing things again. The spark has been ignited; I want to make the community a better place for my kids and everyone else within it.
I’m a rock for my family now. Last year I couldn’t get out of the chair, 12 months ago I didn’t have a single friend. Life has turned a corner, I am coming out of myself again and slowly getting back to the person I was before. I have a purpose and I can help others, something that I did before my injury. I can be involved in my local community, I am valuable. I am still in constant pain but now I have a purpose, I’ve got something to live for. It’s hard yes, but I can finally do things again and regarding the tablets I’ve reduced from 80 per day to 3 per day.
It’s my mind that has changed, having a purpose and living a life.

Community-led health projects in Fife

Here’s a useful piece of research by the University of Glasgow on six community-led health organisations in Fife. The report, which is available here, looks at the process, challenges and benefits of community-led approaches to improving health.  A particular focus of the research is on community engagement and community capacity building, the latter being seen as essential to supporting people “to realise they can have an influence”. Health Issues in the Community (HIIC) is identified as one effective method of building capacity. The research also highlights the importance of agency capacity building, stating that “practitioners found the community-led approach can be ‘challenging’ and different from approaches they may have typically used in the past.


New on our website and blog: Dafydd Thomas

The most recent “In my experience” article by Dafydd Thomas (previously CEO of Wellbeing Wales, now director of The Wellbeing Planner): Wellbeing in context – what makes a difference? where he reflects on a wellbeing project he recently undertook in Namibia. ‘Using any measure of wellbeing, it was clear that the individuals within the older conservancy were thriving in comparison with the other villages. The people had support networks, opportunities, services and a say in local decisions. They also shared the responsibility, the successes and the challenges facing their community with the government officials and other development agencies.  These individuals were ‘doing with’ rather than ‘being done to,’ and as such it was an inspiring experience.’

Could ‘co-design’ help Peckham where community consultation failed?

The Guardian reports on the co-design process being undertaken by Southwark Council on the area around Peckham Rye railway station. Following a consultation that angered many locals, the co-design model has been adopted with the hope of meaningfully engaging the local community who are “experts in knowing how their area works, what it needs, how it needs to be developed.”

~ Via the Scottish Co-production Network.