Social Impact at a grass roots level – the beginnings of Community Bridges
There have been various attempts to map the different community services/activities to provide people with a one-stop-shop for finding what can help them. But often they were short lived, often only a year funded position with the council or part of another project.
Being a social entrepreneur is definitely the best job I have had. I have had only a few jobs before starting to work for myself, having spent 5 years at uni. The idea of Community Bridges came to me when I worked in a mental health team in Oxford, I was helping patients coming out of hospital find community activities to get involved with to help their recovery.
Although there was a lot of rhetoric around the power of community health and prevention, and each person I spoke to individually couldn’t agree more on the power of community, but there was really no oomph to actually get it going. I started going to the different community activities, art and drama at Crisis Skylight, cooking classes at Mind, gardening at the Recovery college, and so on. They were so fun, and people were so friendly you felt you could talk openly about deep stuff but then go back to having a laugh, it was so powerful. I thought, I need this, having experienced long-term anxiety, I felt like I needed this kind of environment to gain perspective. This made me think, that I can not be the only one and it is not just people leaving hospital, but people before they get there, would could benefit from these groups!
So this is was percolating in my mind as I left Oxford to work as a health policy consultant, which gave me this second side. The policy making side, where possibly one paragraph per report was dedicated to the power of prevention but the money and policy didn’t follow. Instead, like so much other health policies and innovation, it was about treatments. So I decided I wanted to do something about it, so being I researcher, I started researching.
Turns out that there have been various attempts to map the different community services/activities to provide people with a one-stop-shop for finding what can help them. But often they were short lived, often only a year funded position with the council or part of another project.
I also discovered from walking into every community organisation in Peckham that efforts in the past gathered the info from the charities/social organisations for the database and then asked the organisations to keep them up to date of changes or updates. Well as you can imagine, these organisations usually run by a few, seriously dedicated 12-hour-day-working-angels did not have time or motivation to fill in another form about their services, which quite frankly they couldn’t quite understand the benefit of.
This is something I come across a lot in public health a policy, what the officials call the ‘top-down’ approach.
Well I believe in a ‘bottom up’ approach, or a grass roots movement, so right away I knew we had to create something that engages with organisations at the same level and finds the value for them first before asking for them to give information.
So that is what we do, we support organisations to deliver their message digitally through podcast, blog and social media, whilst we are there we ask them to let us know about events coming up which we promote for them. This way we have a mutually beneficial relationship which respects the value we both give, no box ticking or form filling. Just some fun chats, backed up by amazing design and once that relationship is built we continue to collaborate to make sure the community is getting the most up to date details of events going on that could help their health & wellbeing.
If you want to join our directory or need support building the social value of your business then email firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss opportunities.
Thanks and see you next month where I will dive into social prescribing policy and evidence-base.