By Aisling Duffy

Connect Do logo JPG with strapline (002)

I wrote previously about the role good providers play well beyond the contracts they are commissioned to provide by local authorities or the NHS. I write specifically from the perspective of a not for profit CEO. I am especially interested in understanding the conditions that help social care providers to support inclusive community development. I believe this needs to be ‘just enough support’ enabling the community to take forward what’s important to them, not dominated by a provider or indeed a commissioner. This isn’t always an easy balance to strike. These were some of the issues we began to explore at the ‘More than a Provider’ session at #social care futures in Manchester in November 2018.

Several VODG providers came together to share ideas, experiences and examples of using their assets, capacity and expertise to support local community development. We had a very broad range of delegates at our sessions, people using support, family members, other providers, health and local authority commissioners, innovators etc…

An impressive range of examples were on offer and shared as part of a world café style market place:

 Great Communities: partnership between MacIntyre, Community Catalysts and the people of Warrington making the very most of their assets to enable people who would otherwise be at risk of falling through the gap to live a good life, connected to and contributing to their community.

Stepping out into Community: A development by Imagine, Act and Succeed [IAS] to connect people with shared interests and tackle isolation. This has evolved into creating enterprises like running shops in extra care schemes, gardening and dog walking.

Connect and Do: Certitude’s approach to building local communities in London with shared creative interests. Working with partners such as The Brit School, The Tate, Gypsy Hill Brewery developing a range of creative ventures that are accessible to all and focus on well-being and nurturing meaningful relationships and social interactions.

SPICE up your life: SPICE is a self-advocacy group supported by Future Directions CIC who use their lived experience to bring invaluable insights, recruit and train others and help make people’s lives better.

One Wirral – an inclusive festival: A Community festival which Options for Supported Living developed alongside people with disabilities – there were about 4,000 people at the last one!

CVT Connect: Camphill Village Trust co-designed a digital platform enabling people with learning disabilities to connect, share ideas and inspiration while developing skills in a safe way.

Supported Loving: Very few people with learning disabilities live with a long-term partner or are married, even fewer with their own families. Supported Loving developed by Choice Support wants love to be a reality for every person who uses social care services.

Transforming Care settings into community anchors: Community Integrated Care works closely with the community so people stay connected to their faith, interests, hobbies and passions. They have thriving examples of arts, spots and community engagement to promote health and happiness of people in social care settings


What these have in common:

  • Approaches grounded in local community engagement – often the idea developing from within an organisation by listening and responding to people supported; not commissioner led
  • Values driven with a commitment to co-production and creativity
  • Seeking to support people to get on with their lives, to be as independent as possible and to fill the gap many people with disabilities are experiencing as a result of austerity and service cuts
  • Funded through an eclectic range of mechanisms but largely not ‘contracted income’ from local authorities – includes charitable sources, donors, investors, the organisations own resources and lots of good will!

Top Reflections from the #social care futures session:

  • Scale out not up! Small and local is critical to sustainability. Understand local conditions while options and ideas may be replicable, they need to be grounded in the local area
  • Autonomy and seed funding are important so community development entrepreneurs can develop ideas at grass roots – some will work some won’t – need to connect these talented people within and beyond our sector through buddying/mentoring.
  • Takes time and creativity and strong leadership – small changes really count – and can ripple out
  • People who are active in their community are less isolated and many end up volunteering or leading new initiatives they have been supported to develop.
  • Need to get smarter at demonstrating our social impact and local councils need to offer leadership, connections, encouragement to support community development – not procurement!
  • Challenging to find a way to measure outcomes without resorting to administrative and time-consuming approaches that can ‘suck the life’ out of the organic development of the initiative in the first place;
  • Social care leaders need to better articulate a vision and empower staff to embrace new ways of working with the freedoms to take ideas forward in the recognition that some will fail

What’s next:

VODG is drawing together the key messages, examples and top tips from the discussions and contributions to #socialcarefutures and Civil Society Future. Our focus is on those areas of practice and community development that witness providers doing more than delivering public service contracts or using those public service contracts to deliver social and economic benefits to local communities. We will use this content to prepare a report for publication which will shine a light on what contributes to real social change from the experience of not for profit providers.  We are also focussing on planning and practicalities of the next steps that build on the reflections set out above. So watch this space!

If you would like to get involved or share your ideas, please do get in touch.

Aisling Duffy is Chief Executive of Certitude

Aisling tweets at @AislingDuffy_

Aisling is also Vice Chair of VODG and a board member of the National Development Team for Inclusion.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s