Here’s our year in review. Looking back over 2020 it is easy to be drawn into endless conversations and reflections about the Global Covid-19 pandemic- how it has changed life and society. Whilst it has had a significant impact and influence on our work at Imagineer and the National Brokerage Network this year, it’s also important to step back and review our year from the wider perspective. At the beginning of the year, Imagineer was functioning as a locally-based organisation in West Yorkshire, delivering support brokerage and brokerage management (mainly on a local level); and our training offer mainly focused on the delivery of support brokerage training and person-centred approaches which was delivered in person as classroom-based training.
We started the year by being added to the Think Local Act Personal (TLAP) directory of innovations in community-centred support, for our work on Support Brokerage and Self Directed Support. We became involved in the Social Care Innovation Network and were invited to participate in the Action Learning Set for Self Directed Support. We attended a number of sessions in London for the Action Learning Set and helped to develop the SCIN toolkit for providers and commissioners. The last session we attended was in March just before the first national lockdown started. Elsewhere, we had begun to have some exciting conversations about innovative projects, partnership working with like-minded organisations and new consultancy work. We had 2 social work students on placement with us alongside the Imagineer staff team. We were really excited to get stuck in.
With the national lockdown in full force at the end of March, we knew that we needed to make some decisions to ensure the continued stability of Imagineer and the National Brokerage Network. All of our activity was moved online, via zoom platform. We began experimenting with and developing new ways to connect with people, provide support and deliver training and consultancy. We developed and shared a ‘support your street’ pack for people who wanted to offer help and support to their neighbours during lockdown. We set up and ran weekly ‘brew crew’ online coffee morning sessions as a way to keep some of the people we work alongside connected and socially engaged. These sessions proved really popular, and the topics and activities for each week’s session were planned by the people who attended.
Alongside the need to change the way we were working due to the global situation; we had been developing our business plan to shape the future direction of Imagineer and National Brokerage Network. The business plan took a different direction as we realised that the need to deliver our work online was likely to be a long-term change rather than a temporary response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
We worked alongside Andy Peers to develop our plan, and brought in a number of other partners along the way to help us achieve our objectives. Pivotal have helped us with the development of our website and e-learning platform, Yolk Marketing have been helping us to develop our marketing plan and Pat Bannon has been instrumental in helping us to develop new film content to showcase our work. We developed our digital and technical skills, widening our use of software applications and digital technology to enhance our work online. We were also very happy when Alan Hiscutt accepted our invitation to join our board of Directors as Chairperson earlier in the year, and also Aarron Cammiss who has joined us as a Board advisor. The board of Directors have been focused on steering Imagineer & NBN through the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic and ensuring we have a stable foundation for us to continue our work into 2021, and beyond. We are very grateful for their wisdom and experience. The input, support and resources provided by all of our partners this year have been so significant in our journey and we would like to thank each one of you who has been involved in the process.
The re-development of the website afforded us the opportunity to review the way the National Brokerage Network was structured, including our membership structure. We have been very busy re-developing the ‘find a support broker’ function on the website and building the organisation directory for our partner organisations. We look forward to seeing the NBN membership growing in 2021 as more people complete their Support broker training and accreditation.
Liz and Sarah began to develop online training content, webinar topics and thought leadership work- leaning into our connections with Citizen Network, Centre for Welfare Reform and other partnership organisations. We dedicated time to develop our networks, connections and relationships to build on our knowledge of what is happening in the health and social care sector; and in the wider conversations about citizenship, communities and welfare. We also embarked on some new project-based work which was enabled via grant funding from The Longleigh Foundation, Imagineer Foundation (Supported by Peoples Postcode Lottery), Calderdale Community Foundation , Charities Aid Foundation, REACH fund, Awards for All and YOR4good. We are also grateful to Beware of the Bull for their support with grant funding applications. We hope to be able to share more about these projects in 2021 as we pick up pace again following the restrictions we have experienced in 2020, due to the pandemic. We’re extremely thankful for the grant funding we’ve received this year enabling us to develop our business model to online delivery and enable the future sustainability of Imagineer and National Brokerage Network.
In the background, Mollie has been working hard to develop our Graphic Facilitation services, online Graphic Facilitation Training and a graphic bank of images for our website, social media and training content; alongside producing some fabulous visual content for different projects we have been working on. Mollie’s unique and distinctive graphic style has become our ‘visual language’ as an organisation, and has brought really vibrant colour and depth to our work- we are very proud! Our favourite pieces of work this year have been where the three of us have collaborated together, bringing each of our skills in training delivery, facilitation, writing and graphicing to provide a dynamic, inspiring and creative experience for the people and organisations we have been working with; and to share our work with wider audiences. Each of us have also continued to work alongside people and families in delivering Independent Support Brokerage and Brokerage Management support in order to underpin our ongoing knowledge and experience as practitioners.
In June, we presented a webinar in association with Centre For Welfare Reform & Citizen Network, entitled ‘exploring the strength of community’; and a few months later, we published a detailed paper via CFWR to complement this.
Later on in November, we wrote and published a further paper entitled ‘what does good look like?’ documenting over 10 years of Support Brokerage delivery and sharing stories of what has worked well, through the eyes of people we have worked alongside. In November, we also began our first ‘quick bite for lunch’ webinar series– designed as short practical sessions which people could attend for 30 mins during their lunch break. We wanted to create an opportunity for networking, staying connected and sharing good practice and creative ideas. By this point in the year, people in our networks had been working from home for many months, and we recognised the importance and value of being able to connect with others informally as an opportunity to reflect and explore new ways of doing things. The sessions were great fun, and well attended. Each session, we would start with a short opening presentation on the topic, followed by time to share stories and ask questions- whilst eating lunch together! We also provided a tool or resource at the end of each session for people to take away and introduce in their work. Our first series focused on person-centred approaches. We will be continuing with these in the new year, and have already developed the content for the next few series! You might want to keep an eye on our webinars webpage for information about new ‘Deep Dive’ and ‘Thought leadership’ webinars we are developing for the new year too!
Towards the end of the year, we had begun receiving invitations to share the work of Imagineer & NBN into regional and national events relating to welfare reform, personalisation of health & social care, strengths-based approaches and community development. We have had some really encouraging and thought-provoking conversations about re-thinking systems and processes which have become ‘stuck’ and we’re really excited to see how these conversations will progress in 2021. Our heart is to see a growing movement of people and communities really in the position to determine how they can become stronger and more connected.
In early December, we released our video ’10 years of Imagineer’ documenting our activity and achievements as an organisation over the past decade. The video was produced by Pat Bannon and we are very grateful for his support with helping us to create this brilliant record of our work so far.
By the end of this year, we will have delivered a total of 6 accredited support broker training courses and over 36 new people trained in Support Brokerage, many of whom have now become members of the National Brokerage Network. We have also delivered some bespoke training to organisations and we have begun engaging with a number of exciting community-based consultancy projects with 4 new organisational partners we are regularly delivering consultancy work and training with. We are also regularly providing mentoring to people practicing Support Brokerage.
Our 2021 diary is already looking very busy and we are so excited to see the impact of our work on the development of Self Directed Support and community-centred approaches in different areas around the UK and beyond.
We know that this year has been a difficult and challenging one for many people (ourselves included) and there have been many losses and sacrifices along the way, but we are so very thankful for the opportunities and development we have seen as an organisation this year. We’d like to acknowledge and thank those people who have travelled with us this year through various stages of the journey, including those who are now on their own different journey whilst we continue to pursue ours. We’ve made some great new friends (as well as strengthening connections with old friends), collaborated on some brilliant projects and had some really exciting conversations about doing things differently. We remain firmly committed to our social mission “to facilitate an empowering society and culture that supports people to live their best lives” and this remains the benchmark for all of our work.
We wish you a peaceful Christmas season and we look forward to 2021 with hope and excitement for the opportunities, connections and partnerships ahead.
Team Imagineer- Liz, Sarah & Mollie