What does it take to build strong communities?
I've been feeling really upbeat this week after meeting with members of the TLAP co-production group about the Leadership for Empowered and Healthy Communities programme that I have been developing for the sector. The course aims to bring together senior leaders to look at how they can grow and nurture local social capital to build stronger communities and improve health and wellbeing.
The original idea came from Jo Cleary, co-Chair of the ADASS workforce development network. We had been having conversations about the part that ADASS could play in driving forward the community agenda and it was felt that a skills development opportunity for senior leaders would be a welcome initiative. Whilst recognising that ideas and energy often come from people and communities themselves we knew that senior people had a major part to play in creating the conditions in which local innovation and co-production could flourish.
We were delighted that a number of partners were able to come on board and jointly fund the work - Think Local Act Personal, the Local Government Association's Ageing Well Programme, Skills for Care, the National Skills Academy for Social Care and NHS South of England (Central) Strategic Health Authority.
The involvement of the SHA has added an extra, crucial dimension to the work - how we build the idea of nurturing communities and co-production into the work of Health and Wellbeing Boards and Clinical Commissioning Groups. As such, we are offering the programme not only to ADASS members and other senior social care leaders but also senior clinicians and Directors of Public Health.
The programme will cover the business case for building stronger communities; collaborative leadership and integrated approaches to tackling key issues of prevention; the asset approach; commissioning for outcomes; communication and political awareness. We will be bringing in thought leaders and experts as well as people with experience of using services to talk about great initiatives and models including Timebanking, Local Area Coordination and Community Navigator schemes.
Underpinning the programme will be a community leadership framework that I am currently developing based on collective knowledge of what works best and the thoughts and views of current health and social care leaders and citizens. When interviewing these 'key informants' I was struck by the remarkable consensus around what we all need to do to mainstream the community approach. People told me:
- Leaders need to take a strategic view of social capital and be able to connect things together - we need to move away from thinking about initiatives (however great) in isolation and towards whole system reform.
- There is a huge need for dialogue with local people and communities on an ongoing basis through community development, and we need to value the connectors in the workforce (paid and unpaid) who are best placed to do that.
- Leaders need to be able to paint a picture of success and sell the case for building stronger communities to others - so using both stories and hard data are vital.
- Collaborative leadership styles are the key - some described the qualities needed in public sector leaders these days as 'the opposite of command and control'.
- Leaders need to be flexible, genuine, and be open to new ideas - creating the conditions in which innovation can be unlocked and local citizens empowered and supported to contribute.
The TLAP co-production group welcomed the ideas we discussed this week and gave me some really helpful advice on what the programme should focus on. I am also delighted that some of them have agreed to participate and co-deliver parts of the programme with me.
If you are a health and social care leader in a senior role who wants to be part of a movement for change and reform and to think radically about the challenges and opportunities in a community-based approach please consider taking part! You can register your interest by emailing Jessamy.Done@southcentral.nhs.uk
Further details can be found on the Think Local Act Personal website (opens new window).
Catherine Wilton is the Think Local Act Personal lead for Building Community Capacity and works independently as a social capital advisor.
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