It’s All About Relationships and Learning…

 relationships and learning pic


by Charlotte Kirin & Wendy Lansdown | find us on Twitter – @ckkirin @wendylansdown


We didn’t get round to publishing this one as soon as we planned, still relevant though we hope…


We get together when we can, usually first thing in the morning and in Soham, to talk about where we’re up to and what we’re thinking. It seemed like a good idea to collate some of that on here. It helps it not to get lost, and it might create more links, or awareness of where there are links.


This morning we reflected on an Integrated Neighbourhood launch event we had been to, led by a local GP. It provided an opportunity to share ideas about where community development should be focussing,  with GP’s and parish councillors,  volunteers, community rep’s and specialist nurses. From a social workers point of view, the lasting impression was of GP’s being human, stepping out of the surgery and stating a commitment to all the other areas of people’s lives. It was also a chance to explore a bit more the role of social work in Primary Care Networks.


We’ve booked tickets for Edinburgh, based on relationships formed on Twitter. Brigid Russell, Charlie Jones and Maureen Swannie are running a session about relationships, and it will be a chance for us to meet people in real life who we’ve come to appreciate and connect with on line. It’s a long way from Cambridge to Edinburgh but we have decided to take on the time and expense outside of work, because it feels important and interesting, and because it prioritises learning.


We had a phone call with Mark and Sarah from Gateshead this week too. There is something both comfortable (other people understand what we’re trying to do)  and motivating (there’s more opportunities, more to try, it’s happening out there in the world) about talking to people who discuss responses to the big problems in terms of relationships and learning. Mark’s emphasis on learning, and his concern that it is seen as a luxury by some, felt very close to some of what we’ve talked about and that was written about in our sheep-dipping blog!


We talked about Radical Help, Hilary Cottam’s book on these subjects, and tried to feel through where work that is effective (and can be evidenced to be good for communities and individuals and workforces) gets lost as it moves up through the system, and gets further away from the person. We created a visual image of people -with all the sounds and smells and shapes of people,  all the connections with others, all the community stuff, all the being held in a web of relationships and history –  being inevitably reduced to measured units as they travel up through the organisation, all the edginess and messiness and fascination of the individual being lost. Of course it makes sense for senior decision makers to take traditional steps to manage risk, and of course they have to look for one size solutions, and stick to policy. They have a huge job, a terrifying amount of responsibility, and a shrinking resource. It’s just, that’s not how community works.


We’re excited in Cambridgeshire to be part of exploring how our Think Communities approach  can tease out a way forward in a changing world, where bureaucracy has a valuable place (when efficient and effective), and, where suited, the public sector collectively and collaboratively also plays an enabling role recognising and valuing the glorious technicolour of people’s lives, being the facilitator who connects and enables people to build on their passions and skills, as part of a rich inter-connected community.


We also talked about the social worker from the Older Peoples team, hot-desking in the library, who we’d overheard talking passionately about a couple she’s working with and who she is trying to move mountains for, to keep them together. How much she cared and how clearly she saw the important bits. How hard she was having to fight with the person on the other end of the phone to get the truth of these people and their situation across, to make it about more than a physical environment and an agreed spend.


Relationships and learning are recurring themes in all the places where good things happen.


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