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 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.
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:
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:
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org or subscribe to our mailing list to be kept up to date with what we’re doing.