The word ‘community’ can mean different things to different people. We can talk about community as a group of people with a shared interest or set of beliefs such as a sports club or a faith community. We can describe community as a geographic area in which people live, work and socialise. We can also use the word ‘community’ to describe a people group with a common ethnic or diversity label, a common ideology or political leaning.
For the purposes of this blog, we’re going to think of ‘community’ in three different layers:
Geographic communities (or neighbourhoods) are made up of a series of ‘bumping spaces’ where people congregate regularly on certain days or times of the week; and for certain events or activities. Bumping Spaces are unique to each individual community and are often the beating heart of where relational connections take place. These may be formal spaces such as community centres, libraries or GP surgeries. They may be hospitality-based spaces such as cafes, coffee shops or pubs, or they may be informal bumping spaces which take place around a particular community activity. Have you ever taken a moment to consider where the primary ‘bumping spaces’ are in your own neighbourhood? Sometimes it is surprising to discover where people congregate and where those relational connections are occurring. For example- if you ever walk past a primary school at the beginning or the end of the school day, you are likely to see a group of parents congregating- chatting, sharing stories, laughing together, commiserating each other over a poor nights sleep, and taking their children to the park to play together after school. If you ever walk in a park or countryside area, you are likely to pass many dog-walkers who stop and chat to each other, whilst their dogs play together. If you walk down a nearby canal towpath or riverbank you are likely to see barge-dwellers, boat owners and local fishermen who pass the time of day together. Community develops where natural connections occur.
In the practice of Independent Support Brokerage we often have conversations with people who are isolated and may have only paid workers and professionals in their lives. They don’t often use the phrase ‘My community’ because they don’t recognise or feel a sense of belonging to a particular community. One of the key ingredients in developing independence, resilience and wellbeing is community. Whilst we can’t prescribe community for people as such; we can provide assistance and ‘scaffolding’ to enable people to begin to develop their own natural connections and relationships- based on accessibility, interest, availability and encouragement. Often, people are held back from developing these connections, because they hold limiting beliefs about what is possible, whether they will be able to access anything, whether anybody will be interested in getting to know them, and how much things might cost.
The functions of Support Brokerage open up the conversation with the person by first understanding the essence of them- what makes them tick, what they’re passionate about, what’s important to them. What really brings them to life, what makes them smile and what they’re really good at. These early ‘discovery’ conversations provide the seeds for discovering opportunities (often at the ‘neighbourhood’ level)- for thinking about what might be possible and how we might go about achieving it. That’s the starting point for helping people to connect to their community.
The fuel for driving these types of conversations is resourcefulness.
People who access social care or health funding for their care & support needs are often restricted to a blinkered ‘service’ based view of what is possible. Often their understanding of a good life and good support is limited to a narrow understanding of ‘time and task’ based support- such as domiciliary care visits for Personal Care or meal preparation; or perhaps attending a designated day service or activity group for people with a similar diagnosis or disability. The Care Act actually intended the conversation to move away from traditional service-based solutions, and to actually start with the person and their ‘assets’ (their home, their relationship connections, their skills and other resources available to the person- in other words, the things which are ‘strong’ and available in a person’s life); in order to develop a plan which really supports the person to have a good life, and promotes and upholds their wellbeing- helping them to be really integrated into their local community and part of the diverse group of citizens who reside there. Most of the solutions to having a ‘good life’ reside within Communities in the first place.
Liz Leach Murphy is the Founder of Imagineer Development UK CIC, Chair of the National Brokerage Network and a Freelance Consultant working on personalisation within the Health and Social Care sector/community space.
Sarah Holmes is a Freelance Consultant working on personalisation within the Health and Social Care sector/community space; and a Director of Imagineer Development UK CIC
Both Liz and Sarah are practitioners, trainers and coaches in Independent Support Brokerage and consultancy for Strengths-Based Approaches with collectively over 40 years of experience in the Health and Social care and community sectors.
Imagineer Development UK CIC is a social enterprise based in the North of England with a national reach; originally set up as a test bed for Independent Support Brokerage in the UK. Imagineer is the hosting organisation for the National Brokerage Network, which is a community of practice for Independent Support Brokers. Imagineer provides a range of training & consultancy services in Support Brokerage, Person-Centred and Strengths-Based Approaches.
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