Community Catalysts (CC) is a Community Interest Company working across the UK. The organisation works on the basis that not every established health and care service will be effective for all individuals. With this in mind, CC aims to find innovative and sustainable approaches that help people live the lives they want.
I’m therefore delighted to share this guest blog from Chief Executive Sian Lockwood where she explains why unlocking the power of community is vital in the pursuit of person-centred support.
Sian: We know that every citizen and community has assets and strengths.
We try to unlock these strengths to make sure that people who need care and support can get help in ways that suit them, with an attractive range of local options to choose from. One of our biggest areas of work is community enterprise development.
Put simply, we help engaged local people support others in their communities.
Typically, we are asked to work in an area for two years, employing a local Catalyst to help entrepreneurial local people set up an enterprise to benefit other local people and their community.
We help them to take their idea and turn it into a sustainable high-quality reality. We collaborate with and through people and their organisations, helping them make their communities work, building upon and strengthening what already works well.
So, what does this look like in practice?
Four years ago, Somerset faced real challenges. It is a rural county with a growing older population and was struggling to find services that would support people to live good lives at home.
Traditional home care agencies found it hard to deliver services to the most rural parts of the county. Where they were delivering, they faced difficulties in providing the consistency and reliability people rightly wanted. Social workers were frustrated by the barriers they encountered to helping people stay at home.
Somerset County Council commissioned Community Catalysts to help tackle the issues and we employed Catalyst Rhys Davies to lead the work in West and South Somerset.
Rhys forged a wide range of partnerships and creative connections with people and organisations already working in these areas, engaging them in the ‘homecare challenge’.
He found local people in villages and towns across the county with an interest in offering help at home and homecare to local older people.
Rhys connected with parish councils and community activists leading amazing work. He encountered home care and other providers with a passion for person centred support. Likewise, he forged associations with social workers and other professionals searching for new ways to provide people with the help they needed. He loved working with all that passion, drive and positivity.
Fast forward a few years and things have really changed. There are now more than 300 tiny grassroots enterprises and ventures, all led by local people and nearly all offering home care or help at home to people in their village or town.
Locally these new services are known as micro-providers. Collectively, they help and support over 900 people, have a huge impact on their local community and keep local money local.
Social workers have played a key part in this local transformation, embracing what grassroots enterprises offer, helping clients to see the opportunities and making referrals.
Thurrock is an area that leads the way in embracing community-rooted strengths-based approaches.
In 2013 we were invited by its inspirational Assistant Director of Adult Social Care, Les Billingham to get involved in supporting community care enterprise.
Work had already started to bring Local Area Coordination (LAC) to the area and it was clear to Les that community care enterprise development could really support the local vision.
Work began with a targeted project to support local Catalyst Sue Wellard, a council commissioner, to stimulate and support local community enterprise. Her work threw up a number of system and culture challenges that were hampering the development of community care enterprise. We worked with the council on the cultural and systems changes needed to make sure grassroots support became the norm.
Two years from the start of Thurrock’s journey, Sue has supported over 60 community enterprises and there has been a significant increase in other local supports and services that people can use.
Sue has helped people to set up small local lunch clubs; supported them to help people at home and enabled carers, frustrated by the lack of provision for loved ones, to establish their own enterprise.
Work in both Thurrock and Somerset demonstrates how imaginative collaborations and partnerships can energise and drive community and statutory service providers to transform their thinking. In this way, more people are being supported to live the lives they want, connected to - and involved in -their communities.
Find out more
For more information about these projects or the work of Community Catalysts more generally contact:
Sian Lockwood at firstname.lastname@example.org