The Spice of Life

Justin Davis Smith, Executive Director of Volunteering and Development at NCVO, writes about timebanking the Spice way in this blog post.


Where’s the evidence? Here actually…

Understandably, and thankfully, health professionals rely on evidence rather than hapchance, hope and incantations at the moon. Also understandably, they are often suspicious of the claims made for co-production, particularly if they have faced a full-frontal evangelical enthusiasm overdose from either of us. So, from all vantage points, it’s really useful to have an in-depth evaluation of the impact of co-pro on people’s health and well-being. And they seldom come more in-depth than the recent Spice evaluation of the impact of co-production across a range of time-credit initiatives in England and Wales: over 1300 people participated during a two-year period. Given that time credits are referenced in the Social Services & Wellbeing Act and in Prudent Healthcare as a key approach to co-produced and citizen-led services, this report couldn’t be more timely. Headline figures are impressive: 65% of participants said that their quality of life had improved; 45% felt healthier; 19% visited the doctor less often; 71% had made new friends and 76% felt able to contribute more to their community. Significantly, 48% of public service organisations involved reported that they were able to offer improved access to services with the same or fewer resources. Read the full report or check out the executive summary.

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.

Focus on health: Llais Time Credits – working with older people

ABMU Health Board, Neath Port Talbot County Borough Council and NPT CVS are working in partnership with Spice to pilot Time Credits in the Upper Swansea and Amman Valley areas as part of its plan for improving the lives of frail older people. The pilot period will run from December 2014 to March 2015 with a view to growing the programme following this initial period of consultation and piloting.

Why is this co-production?

  • The project will be co-designed with the older people themselves, and in collaboration with the health board and third sector partners.
  • It will take an asset-based approach, building on people’s strengths and valuing the resources of the whole community.
  • It will use time-credits to encourage reciprocity and relationships of trust.

Spice Time credits – an evaluation

Spice, the social enterprise dedicated to developing agency timebanking systems, has published a two year evaluation of their time credits model. Results suggest that time credits have a positive impact on individuals and communities with 65% of Spice members reporting that their quality of life has improved; 45% of people saying they feel healthier and 49% less isolated. The evaluation also found that time credits are an effective way of engaging new people in their communities and generating more active citizenship and participation, as well as helping to create a more regular and reliable volunteer base.

California Passes Bill to Legalize Complementary Currencies

“A community without dollars is not a community without wealth – this basic insight lies at the heart of the community resilience movement. With income and wealth inequality still on the rise in our “post-recession” economy, communities are finding creative ways to meet their needs and maintain social ties through community-created forms of exchange, or complementary currencies. And, as with most social innovations, existing legal and regulatory systems take some time to catch up.

With the recent passage of the California Alternative Currencies Act, AB 129, California has taken a significant step toward fostering more just and resilient local economies.”

Co-producing healthy communities: the first steps (a report from Ely, Cardiff)

This report summarises the findings of a health design event run by Action Caerau Ely and Spice to engage community members in Ely, Cardiff, in the design of a healthy community. People shared their thoughts, feelings and ideas about things that they feel affect their health, barriers to accessing health related services and activities and ideas for improvements or innovations around the delivery of health services. Many of these are things which the community felt they can lead or play an active role in delivering. Since this event community members have become involved in a number of health initiatives including with working with the NHS to design a new NHS direct phone line service for Wales.