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It’s hard to believe it’s been a whole year since Boris Johnson announced that we must ‘Stay at home, protect the NHS & save lives’.

Although it’s important to acknowledge we have not been in actual ‘lockdown’ for a full 12 months and there have been varying levels of restrictions at different stages; the impact has been felt far and wide. Many organisations involved with supporting people directly in a face-to-face context had to work out ways of doing things differently.

At Imagineer, we set about very quickly in thinking about how we could adapt our different services, delivery style, support and engagement to ensure continuity for all of the different people and organisations we work alongside.

Early innovations

Early on at the beginning of the pandemic and the first lockdown in 2020, we developed a ‘Support your street’ resource for free; which was available for people to download and use in their local community to support neighbours who were isolated, shielding or unwell. The resource was advertised via our social media channels and 20 people requested it for use in their local communities.

We also set up weekly ‘Brew Crew’ online coffee morning sessions (using the zoom platform) which were primarily set up for the people we regularly engaged with and provided Support Brokerage to- as a way of keeping them socially engaged and connected while ‘staying at home’. We delivered 36 of these sessions and had 9 regular attendees, whom we have been able to remain connected and engaged with. The people participating in the sessions have also provided peer support to one another during a very lonely and isolating 12 month period.

Changes to our usual service delivery

We worked fast to adapt the delivery of Support Brokerage, Brokerage Management and Support Brokerage Training so that this could continue online, using the zoom platform. Team Imagineer very quickly developed and honed their skills in using the platform to hold meetings, deliver webinars, provide mentoring support and training.  We also used the zoom platform as a way of continuing to engage with the people and families we work alongside.

As a result of working in this different way, we have:

New services

As a small, local and community-based organisation in West Yorkshire; the adaptation of our service delivery to an online platform immediately increased our reach and our engagement, and we have grown our networks significantly over the past 12 months by virtue of moving to nearly 100% online engagement and easier accessibility for people and organisations further afield wishing to connect with us and our work.

We saw an opportunity to share our years of experience, tools and resources we have been developing- increasing our connections and understanding of what is happening on a wider scale; by starting to develop a range of different webinar learning and engagement opportunities.

These have included:

Quick Bite for Lunch webinars

We recognised the need for people to stay connected during the pandemic. All of the usual methods of networking were unavailable to us because of lockdown rules. We decided to develop a series of Lunchtime networking webinars online and based around a key theme. Each ‘series’ has 6 sessions. The webinars run over lunchtime on Wednesdays for 30 mins over 6 consecutive weeks to explore different topics related to the series theme. People could bring their lunch and listen to a short introduction on the topic for the week, followed by an opportunity for a group discussion and a place to share stories, best practice etc. We have run 2 of these series so far- the first was on ‘Person-Centred Approaches’, and the second was on ‘Rights’ in relation to Health and Social care Support.

In total, we have delivered 12 of these sessions, with regular attendees. Our third series on ‘Rediscovering Communities’ is starting on 14th April (there is still time to book if you’re interested in attending!) We have used feedback from previous session attendees to develop the content for future series, based on what people want to hear about. We now have a plan for regular series throughout the rest of 2021 and into 2022!

Deep Dive webinars

Some of the feedback we had been receiving from people who had undertaken the Support Brokerage training was that they would value some ‘deeper’ detailed training into specific areas of knowledge and practice in relation to Support Brokerage, and the wider context of Health, Social Care & Community Development. We began to develop content for some more detailed and in-depth webinars which would last longer (1-2 hours) and we named these ‘Deep Dive’ webinars. Again, the content has been developed from themes which people tell us they would like more information about. The Deep Dive webinars are designed to be interactive and practical- enabling attendees to interact with each other in small groups to put their learning into practice and explore some of the deeper challenges and issues. So far this year, we have delivered two Deep Dive webinars on: ‘Having difficult conversations’, and ‘Developing a complex support plan’. Both webinars have been well received and these are now planned regularly throughout the year on the first Tuesday of each month.

Thought Leadership webinars

One of the opportunities with moving our work to an online platform was being able to engage with a much wider audience to develop relationships, networks and conversations about doing things differently and better.

As an organisation, our social mission is ‘To facilitate an empowering society and culture that supports people to live their best lives’, and so we are always keen to connect with others who are working towards the same goal and who have a desire to make a real and lasting change in society.

We decided to invest in developing and delivering some ‘free-of-charge’ thought leadership webinars in order to reach out and make connections with more people and organisations. So far this year, we have delivered 1 of these webinars: ‘Exploring the strength of community’ and we are preparing to deliver another webinar entitled ‘What does ‘good’ look like?’ in April. Both webinars are based on the content of  two papers we wrote and published in the past year (see below for more details).


Moving most of our work to online platforms also encouraged us to overhaul our website and to restructure it as the central point from which all of our activities can be accessed. We have been working with our friends at Pivotal to make these changes, and we are really pleased with how it is shaping up! Part of the website development work has included developing an e-learning platform where we will be launching online training in addition to our zoom-based webinar and  training delivery. The first course which has been developed is Graphic Facilitation and this is now live and available to book. We are looking forward to releasing our next few elearning courses within the coming months.


One of our commitments this year has been to share about our work more regularly. We have published a total of 13 blogs on the main Imagineer website; and Mollie has also been busy developing some blogs about Graphic Facilitation on the Big Picture Graphic Facilitation website too. There are plenty of interesting topics on the blog page if you fancy a browse!

Consultancy work

Doing the majority of our delivery work online in the past year has freed up a lot of travel time, and has enabled us to begin engaging on wider pieces of consultancy work with organisations who are wanting to work in new and innovative ways.

So far this year, our consultancy work has involved  helping organisations to train up their staff as Support Brokers; developing community-based welcome & advice hubs; providing information, advice and guidance support and training to family carers; helping support provider organisations to consider developing an Individual Service Fund model; and developing community circles and community brokerage models.

We’re really keen to help launch and support more projects of this nature. Our approach is always creative, warm and friendly. We encourage a working relationship with our consultancy clients which is collaborative and  inspirational. If you are interested in developing a new way of working or testing out an idea which will benefit citizens and communities, please do contact us for an exploratory conversation.

Publishing papers

Over the past year as we have reviewed our range of services, delivery style and range of activities we engage in as an organisation; it has afforded us the opportunity to reflect on the impact of our work, and where we want to focus in the future. Our reflections naturally developed into two papers which laid out our story and our thoughts to enable us to share this with others.

Exploring the Strength of Community

This was developed as part of a wider series of thought leadership work on Neighbourhood democracy, shared by Fellows of the Centre for Welfare Reform and Citizen Network, in June 2020. In this paper, we explored the challenges and limitations of the current welfare systems; and we explored and discussed the potential which was available within local communities which could help to meet need in a ‘Strengths-Based’ way.

We also presented the paper in the form of a webinar, which is still available to watch here.

What does ‘good’ look like?

This paper was developed as an update to the paper which Liz wrote in 2015 entitled ‘Reimagining Brokerage’.

As we began to write it, we realised we had many stories to share of our experiences of delivering Support Brokerage in the UK for over 10 years. What resulted was reflection of some really shining examples of best practice in relation to Self Directed Support; and also quite a lot of examples of where things have not gone so well- exploring some of the barriers and challenges which have been faced. You can read the paper here.

We hope this has given you a good flavour of our year in ‘lockdown’!

If you’re interested in any of our work, or would just like to connect, please contact us: or subscribe to our mailing list to be kept up to date with what we’re doing.

What a year!!

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.

2020 year in review

Before the pandemic….

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.

When lockdown began…

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.

Doing things differently, and working in partnership

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.

Developing our work and extending our reach

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.

Looking back and celebrating how far we’ve come

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.

Looking towards the future

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


Imagineer Training and Mentoring

Graphic Facilitation Training

Get Creative with our Graphic Facilitation Training! This is an online training course.

> Find out more and book

Support Brokerage Mentoring

Group mentoring and individual sessions can be provided for peer support with other independent brokers from around the UK.

> Find out more and book

Support Brokerage Training

The course is designed as a full programme which will give you all of the information, understanding and practical tools you need to be able to practice as an Support Broker.

> Find out more and book
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