Anya Mulcahy-Bowman (Wellspring Settlement): update September 2020

Context: ‘My original proposal’

Portrait of Anya Mulcahy-Bowman: A lady in her 30's. Anya has wavy pink hair gathered at the top of her head, and blue eyes.I led the development, set up, pilot and evaluation of the BOOST Finance Project and now manage it. This collaborative, innovative, project was in direct response to community feedback and places community engagement, expertise and experience at its foundation, with an organic approach that allowed for the development of the service to be guided by and respond to the presenting needs of the community, seeing the participants as the experts of their own lives. The approach responds to the barriers that create the communities’ sense of disempowerment and develops partnerships to respond. I am in the process of establishing an Economic Development Partnership with geographic partners. Strategic questions for investigation include looking at a ‘wider development’, piloting the tool in other geographic locations to fit differing presenting geographic issues, as the economic development partnership offers, or ‘deeper development’, offering more in our direct community for example engaging in the opportunities the Temple Quarter development presents for this community. As part of the fellowship programme I want to develop collaboration with both the University of Bristol, the local authority and wider collaborators to ensure the opportunities being developed on the doorstep of the Lawrence Hill ward are available to and benefit this community. The BOOST model is part of this and lends itself to informed development and innovative response. 

Covid-19/other

In its most immediate sense BOOST Finance has had to pause direct delivery as it has been impossible to continue a drop-in based service during this time. We have redirected our organisational energises into meeting the immediate practical and emotional needs of the community during this difficult period. This has included a call centre and befriending service, food delivery and shopping services, prescription collection and delivery service, family services including delivery of arts and craft, nappies, formula milk, children’s clothing and monitored use of our Family Centre garden for families in over-crowded high rise flats as well as support to and the establishing of mutual aid provisions across Lawrence Hill. With the support of Bristol University we have been able to engage a proportion of the community in a series of survey’s to assess the ongoing and changing needs and aspirations of the community we work with to ensure our Covid19 Emergency Response Service adapts and meets this community’s needs 

What that means for me

Much of the opportunity the City Fellows provided was the chance to collaborate with others to help both develop the BOOST model across the City through the development of a Community Partner Economic Development Partnership and make connections on ‘our doorstep’ to ensure the opportunities that present through the Temple Quarter development reach this area has been put on hold. Much of this has had to go on hold with much more of an immediate, inwards focusing approach being needed. 

As we enter a new phase of the pandemic situation communities are facing more immediate challengesMany are dealing with either reductions or loses of income, rising debts, challenges to  mental health, anxieties of having to step out into the world again, children returning to school, mixed messages from government which are confused and unclear whilst challenges that were present before Covid19 are exacerbated. Meeting up on any level, other than virtually, continues to be very difficult and for those groups on the margins of decision-making processes, the reality of digital exclusion, either through means or skill is ever apparent and make this type of engagement impossible. It has been difficult to maintain focus on a City Fellowship program when my role has and continues to be very directly involved in the response to the needs of our community through this time.  Services are struggling to reopen under government guidance we are seeing more issues that are not ‘emergency response’ type interventions but either gaps in service provision due to COVID19 service closures or gaps that have always been in the system.  

Challenges that this has presented

My interpretation of this heading is how this is affecting my original vision when joining the fellowship and where I find myself now. There is a strong argument to say that despite the winding path I find myself on, it is all relevant as we look to be informed and directed by the communities we are involved in as communities at the margins. Collaboration on any level remains a challenge in times of social distancing and a rapidly fluxing and changing working and community environment. Things feel at an another precipiceThe government appears to be shifting its narrative on to one of blame, of illegal activities, of bans, of new laws, of stronger enforcement of the rules, of fines, of Covid-secure Marshalls, of curfews and punitive action, the language of community spirit and togetherness appears to be rapidly disappearing, the sense that we are all in this together, of Thursday night appreciative clapping sessions. The challenge now is how do we hold on to a sense of hope, empowerment and community in light of the ongoing Covid19 challenge? 

Opportunities this offers

Covid19 and recent events have laid bare the very real social inequalities that existAs food poverty and the benefit system take centre stage, along with other issues, we have an opportunity to act and promote these issues as for a short period of time for some, they will be able to relate to what it actually feels like to be unable to feed your family, not nowhere the next meal is coming from and experience of having to navigate a very confusing and opaque benefit system as peoples financial securities have come into question through no fault of their own, challenging a carefully orchestrated ‘undeserving poor’ rhetoric that has been feed to us over this last decade or so 

recently attended a Finance Bristol & Bath Recovery Planning workshop facilitated by Bristol’s One City Economic Board which is a filter into the production of an economic recovery strategy and associated actions plans for Bristol, the mood from this was very much one of challenge to the notion of recovery, posing recovery as suggesting that overcoming and reverting back to the ‘norm’, when it is clear the economic system does not work for all, and that an economy that is addicted to growth and profit maximisation should surely not be the driving force of economy ‘recovery’ when the very state of it is creating additional anxiety and stress for those who have lost or are at risk of losing their income and livelihoods 

What are your priorities moving forward?

Prioritise moving forward are learning from the redesign and repurpose model we ran as a response to the lockdown we experienced in late March for several months. Learning form this model again places emphasis on the need for us to refocus our work as an organisation to fit holistically around people recognising them as multifaceted as opposed to labelling issues and syphoning them into silo’s, for example parents access the family services, those with debt and employment issues access BOOST etc. We are exploring a Community First response that builds on an assetbased community model that looks to the community for the solutions through our Network project, with project expertise where necessary, but not as a defining point. This is broadening the BOOST Finance model out to incooperate our approach organisationally, as opposed to project, wide. We are envisaging BOOST Finance being in high demand going forwards, there are funding implications around being able to meet this need as are adapting the model to be delivered in a ‘socially distanced’ way. 

As we move into a second stage response the BOOST Finance model has now set up a Food Club in Lawrence Hill, in partnership with Family Action. In the first 6weeks of operations we have had 27 members joining, whose membership has benefitted an additional 20+ adults and 46+ children. Many members are working but finding it increasingly difficult to make ends meet, others are struggling either on benefits or in the process of managing changes to their financial situation. 

Natasha Broad: Update September 2020

 

Portrait of Natasha Broad: A smiling lady in her 30's Natasha has thick straight dark brown hair and a heavy fringe.Context: Covid-19/Other

As the quarantine period started, Freedom and OTR worked to take all services online as quickly as possible. Freedom met with some of our members to discuss the ways in which an online service would most meet their needs and used this to inform our delivery. We’re still offering an online session for both groups (13-18/18-25) each week, but using different platforms based on the group feedback. We have worked to ensure that we have regular connection to our members through a variety of methods, including social media, and we have been able to offer 121 sessions online with an LGBTQ+ specific counsellor and with Wellbeing Practitioners, who offer solution focused support around mental health such as anxiety, low mood and depression. We have several members who are shielding due to other health considerations.
Our young people are socially active and have been affected by recent events including the Black Lives Matter movement, trans equality in the UK, alongside recent events surrounding trans communities in Hungary and the US, and this is being taken into consideration when working alongside our members. Ensuring that our project, and the work involving the City Fellows, is intersectional and reflects the rich diversity of Bristol and of the LGBTQ+ community remains a priority.
Freedom have expanded our remit over the last few months in other ways, working with SARI to offer consultation around LGBTQ+ phobic hate crimes. Moving forward, this will include an element of health promotion around reporting hate crime.

What this means for you

Restrictions relating to Covid-19 have had a significant affect on LGBTQ+ young people and has affected the intended impact of the City Fellows project. Having come into this project intending to work with young people to establish and create a project that directly relates to their needs, this has been delayed. I would like to work face to face with young people where possible, recognising that hostile home environments can mean that our members are unable to engage with LGBTQ+ specific services in the same way remotely. I am also conscious that the needs and desires of LGBTQ+ young people may change in the coming months, and local activism is likely to become important.

Challenges that this has presented

A big part of our work is about creating community, and being unable to offer face to face services has changed the way that this operates. As this City Fellows project is slightly different from that of other fellows, in that there isn’t a pre-planned proposal or an existing project to work on, the circumstances surrounding Covid-19 have affected my ability to create something as quickly as I might have liked. However, changing social circumstances, specifically relating to LGBTQ+ people, mean that this project is likely to have greater potential moving forward, as we work alongside the University and the City Office to centre their experiences, as there have been smaller pieces of work locally that have benefitted from the input of LGBTQ+ young people, including the Economic Recovery Webinars organised by the City Office .

What is more/less important now

Freedom are focusing this year on celebrations for our 25th birthday, which took place on July 4th, making us (we think!) the longest running LGBTQ+ project for young people in the UK. Celebrations for this feel particularly important in light of cancelled LGBTQ+ celebrations worldwide. We are focused on making international connections to show solidarity with LGBTQ+ communities globally, including a potential collaboration with China Pride.
Re-establishing community connections will be important moving forward, and a recognition of the contributions of LGBTQ+ people feels like it could become particularly pertinent. Conversations have taken place locally around some intergenerational work involving older and younger LGBTQ+ people, and the importance of documenting history feels more important than ever in light of recent events.

What are your priorities moving forward

I want to ensure that experiences of quarantine and Covid-19 for LGBTQ+ people are collected and recognised. There are some conversations that are taking place around inclusive SRE education, and offering support for teaching staff in the south west to ensure that HIV awareness is included in PSHE lessons. We are also looking ahead to LGBTQ+ history month in February 2021. As we come out of lockdown and the ‘new normal’ becomes clearer, I will work with new and existing members to establish what their priorities are in the city and how we can ensure that their voices are heard.

 

Lucie Martin-Jones (WECIL): Update September 2020

Portrait of Lucie Martin-Jones: a Smiling lady in her 30's looking to the side. Lucie has straight medium length blonde hair and a fringe.Context – Covid-19/other

In early March 2020 the global Covid-19 Pandemic reached Britain which saw WECIL entering emergency response mode immediately. Within the space of a week WECIL’s whole delivery model needed to be overhauled and adapted as well as mobilising our entire staff team to work at home in the space of two weeks.  

This meant that we cancelled all home visits and face to face appointments, groups for young disabled people, office walk ins, volunteering activity and group courses. This affected our Independent Living Payments team (Direct Payments and Payroll), benefits advice, advocacy, employability services, short breaks for families with disabled children, inclusive youth groups, participation groups and befriending services). Sadly, the support we provide to Businesses on a commercial basis (which is a crucial income generating part of the organisation) pretty much stopped overnight. This includes Disability Equality training, access audits and supporting organisations to become Disability Confident.  

What that means for you/ Challenges that this has presented         

Positively we managed to get staff working from home pretty seamlessly as home working was already part of our working culture and the technology was in place as part of our risk mitigationTo date, no existing grant or statutory contract funding has been significantly reduced and staff have worked hard alongside members and funders to find innovative solutions to support oucommunity such as running Zoom courses, Facebook live youth sessions and increasing telephone support.  

I had to step into another department (Independent Living Payments Team) to meet rising demand by reallocating my own workforce and finding solutions from a Community Development perspective to meet the need. 

As a Head of all Community based services this did mean that personally my attention was heavily focussed on adapting services and working hard to retain staff and funds. As a fellow, this has meant that face to face interaction with our community has been much more limited and some of the plans I had for engagement have had to be put on hold. This is especially relevant to the creation of the Disabled People’s Co-Production Toolkit due to the challenge of not physically being able to engage with members.  

The disabled community will be and are disproportionately affected by C-19 with many people’s requirements to shield continuing much longer than the ease of lockdown. The narrative within the media has portrayed ‘older and vulnerable people’ for whom C-19 is more likely to be fatal, as almost disposable causing great anxiety for the disabled community.  

The impact of increased long term social isolation and the inability to access supportive therapies, medical appointments, planned surgeries and social interactions will have a knock on effect on physical and mental wellbeing for disabled people which in turn will create an increased demand for care and support.  

Access and inclusion will always be an issue whilst we work in this way as many will not be able to access online/ telephone interaction or have the means to do so, however, this has also opened up opportunities for people to engage with us who may have previously struggled to do so.  

Opportunities this offers

As WECIL’s fellowship proposal focussed heavily on the ‘development of new systems which are truly person-centred and target supporting disabled people towards independence and control  and the One City Plan aim to work towards ‘integrated health and social care’ which ‘seamlessly meet(s) the ever-changing needs of our communities’, C19 has given us an opportunity to review our internal systems as well as working closely with BCC and other stakeholders to effectively support emergency response systems. From involvement in meetings with other third sector organisations (both locality based and representing communities of interest), this seems to be the consensus across the VCSE sector.  

Early on in lockdown, we worked closely with local authorities Bristol City Council, South Gloucestershire and B&NES to risk assess over 800 disabled people who receive a direct payment. The purpose of the risk assessment was to understand how ‘vulnerable’ their packages of care were. For example, if a disabled person relied on one PA (Personal Assistant) for significant care needs/ hours and this PA became unwell or needed to self-isolate this made their care very vulnerable. If a disabled person had a bank of four PA’s who supported them with general daily duties, then their care was less vulnerable as they could rotate PA’s or reallocate some of their care needs. Other considerations included the health conditions of the disabled person and if they were required to self-isolate (a high proportion of our community), if they needed help with medication, eating, washing, moving etc. and would not be able to maintain their independence without this support. Our intervention and support with this activity has resulted in wide recognition and praise of WECIL and WECIL staff resulting in more cohesive working relationships and an understanding of our trusting relationships with disabled citizens. It also uncovered a high volume of people who felt anxious and isolated due to the global pandemic.  

Make it Local  

As part of ongoing work and discussions with BCC we have now had confirmation that WECIL will receive £55k from Power to Change for our role in the Make it Local project 

This will be the cross sector collaboration described in our City Fellows proposal bringing together  

  • WECIL  
  • A locality-based anchor organisation (BS3)  
  • BCC Adult Social Care Commissioning  
  • Locality UK (national community anchor infrastructure org)  
  • Other representative local anchor and key local (strategic) VSC organisations (e.g. in BS3, Windmill Hill City Farm)  

WECIL’s role will be to work with local disabled people managing their own care at home or wishing to move to doing so to establish how they would choose to use their personal budgets to meet their care needs if the system were truly person centred. 

As a partnership we will then  

  • Describe (at high level) the resources and assets in the area, and their capability to meet the aims identified by disabled people managing their own care  
  • Present (and debate) the challenges in the area from a general community and from a social care perspective (including local social care “market”).  
  • Scope the feasibility of developing a local, community-owned enterprise which can meet the care needs gap identified 

Create My Support Plan  

We have also received £18k of funding from BCC to update WECIL’s support planning tool (Create My Support Plan- CMSP) which has been underutilised since its inception. The tool gives a disabled person the ability to carry out a self-directed care assessment which can be shared with whoever the individual wants to understand their care needs. This includes PAs, family, Social Workers and Advocates. Aside from influencing a culture of ‘person centred care planning’ in general, this is especially relevant during C-19 when disabled people are needing to draft in temporary care and support from people who do not know and understand their needs.  

Additionally, people need to find alternative means of meeting their care needs as previous means may no longer be available 

The tool will link in with Well Aware so that the individual will be able to also direct themselves (or with the support of a navigator, family member or PA) to other areas of support available to them within their area for example, mental health services.  

Care Act ‘Easement’s and the Coronavirus Act  

On the 25th March 2020 the government passed the Coronavirus Act. For disabled people this means the rights disabled people are entitled to through the Care Actincluding Local Authorities having the duty to assess people who might require care and support and make the assessment centred around what matters to the individual, were impacted. The Coronavirus Act means that Local Authorities have the option to suspend some of these duties if they can say that this is reasonable to help manage the burden of C19 on health and care systems. These are rights that disabled people (including the founders of WECIL) fought hard to win to give them more choice and control in their lives.  

This was deeply worrying for WECIL and alongside our commitment within the fellowship to ‘work with disabled citizens, commissioners (e.g. Bristol City Council Direct Payments Team and BNSSGCCG Continuing Health Care)’ to identify system conditions which: Contravene the Care Act  in response we have managed to keep an open and ongoing dialogue with the Head of Bristol Adult Social Care regarding our concerns and the need to meaningfully include disabled people and users of care in decision making around easements. We also worked alongside Irwin Mitchel Solicitors who provided pro bono support to us to compose an easier read statement and information for our community to enable them to feel equipped and supported to challenge any decisions which could be in detriment to their Care 

What is more/less important now

It is more important than ever due to the context given above, that ‘development of new systems which are truly person-centred and target supporting disabled people towards independence and control’ are developed and reviewed.  

The C-19 crisis has given wider society the chance to look at how life was and how it could be. Even simple measures such as employers making adjustments for staff to carry out home and flexible working if continuedopens up opportunities for wider access and inclusion for disabled people within the employment market. Arts and culture has become available in new platforms such as online (National Theatre Live Streaming) or through the use of Telepresence Robots meaning that disabled people who even before C-19 couldn’t access these spaces have now been able to.  

There is discussion of pedestrianizing large parts of Bristol which is an opportunity to look at the wider access issues many disabled people face when navigating the city and disabled peoples’ voices must be present in these discussions.  

In terms of health and care systems, the strain on Local Authorities and NHS from C-19 will undoubtedly create a long-term impact on resource and a backlog in assessing and providing commissioned care. WECIL believes that by placing the citizen at the centre of their care planning and decision-making focussing on ‘what matters’, not only does this make care more effective and personalised but this is cost saving in the longer term. Through the use of tools such as CMSP the citizen, with the support of WECIL completes the initial care assessment/ review process drawing in Social Care decisions later on and subsequently saving on resource for social care teams. Also, encouraging asset-based ways of assessing with the linking to Well Aware, the disabled person is also able to identify what other support is available to them potentially reducing the need for more funded care hours.  

Through delivering our C-19 befriending and social services, we are able to engage with disabled people who are socially isolated and identify some of the challenges people are facing offering support, signposting or safeguarding to contribute towards the prevention of a decline in mental and physical wellbeing.  

What are your priorities moving forward?

Whilst face to face engagement has not been possible as I had envisaged in my role as City Fellow, we have now opened up new platforms for disabled people to engage with us. For some people, using an online platform is more accessible for example for those who struggle to get accessible transport or find group environments anxiety inducing. 

I would like to harness these new opportunities to engage with people to attract those whose voices have not previously been heard into these really important conversations about the future. At a strategic level I feel that WECIL have made excellent progress with our City Fellow’s proposal however on a personal level I want to be more engaged with our members and actively promote the inclusion of their voices and opinions in city wide decision making.  

My immediate priorities include:   

  • Make it Local 
  • The roll out and promotion of CMSP 
  • Inclusive employment practices- engaging employers with WECIL’s WorkASSURED programme for disabled staff  
  • The redesign of Care Management Advocacy Services  

Morag McDermont: Update September 2020

Portrait of Morag McDermont: a smiling lady in her 40's with long brown and grey hair tied in a bun.Before setting up the City Fellows programme, Helen Manchester and I were working on a 5 year programme of co-produced research with community organisations, Productive MarginsOne of the main conclusions for me from this work was the following: that to engage communities at the margins generally excluded from structures of power and decision-making we need to support and maintain an experientially sensitive infrastructure of community-focused organisations working in collaboration with local universities and local government. (You can find more in the final chapter of the book the team produced, Imagining Regulation Differently. We used the (rather clumsy) term ‘experientially sensitive’ to denote the idea that expertise derived from everyday experience is an essential form of knowledge and practice that needs to be central to structures of power and decision-making. 

 Communities in Focus – harnessing the potential of community-generated data

With this concern for infrastructure came an interest in the role and potentialities of data generated by and in communities. Data is an essential part of infrastructures in the same way as communication and transport systems are. The project aims to make community-generated data more productive – making data flow in ways that enable the experiential expertise of communities to intervene and influence city governance. 

At the instigation of Wellspring Settlement, the project set out to i) explore innovative ways in which community-generated data can be used to inform new initiatives and policy interventions within the city, and ii) explore the potential for the database being adopted more broadly across the City in order to build up comprehensive, comparable information about the needs and attributes of the city’s diverse communities. 

The Coronavirus context

When Wellspring Settlement was appointed one of Bristol’s community hubs to respond to community needs in the current Covid-19 crisis the direction of data flows shifted slightlyFrom just before lockdown WS set up a survey to engage with those in the local Lawrence Hill Community, alongside those who access their services across East Bristol, to gather information about community needs during the Coronavirus pandemic. The intention was to give the Settlement real time and ongoing community information to inform how the hub services should be developed and as empirical evidence to lobby for the area with the City Council and others. The Settlement asked for help in analysing data, to devise and implement data collection methods into the future and to produce reports. Over the spring and summer of 2020 myself, a research associate Jack Nicholls, and three student researchers Gwen Brown, Nia Jones and Judith Kibuye, produced a series of reports  (available on the Wellspring Settlement and City Fellows website). 

However, one limitation of the survey as a tool for collecting data is the respondents to the survey do not reflect ethnic mix of the Lawrence Hill area nor the mix of communities who engage with the Settlement. This is an important learning point for a project that seeks to use the power of community-generated data, and important to reflect back to policy-makers who very often place great weight on seemingly large-scale survey information.   

The project to realise the potential of the Wellspring Settlement database and the potential for data collection across the city is now about to begin, with resources for more student researchers and a research associate funded through a successful UoB grant bid to the Office for Students One of the aims of this project is to generate data that can feed into Bristol’s future-looking One City Plan, data that arises from the communities of Lawrence Hill and the wider communities that engage in the Wellspring SettlementA longer-term aim of this project is to explore the potential for the database – or similar approaches to community-generated data collection – to be brought into play across the City. 

Alongside this data project, I and others in the University of Bristol are now working on a project with Locality South West to look at the future for the infrastructure of community organisations in the City 

Challenges and Opportunities

The Locality Research 

Locality has just launched a research report which shows the importance of existing social infrastructure and community resources that have been built up over time: including community assets, local services, volunteer capacity, partnerships and networks. The aims for their future work are: 

  • To demonstrate to policymakers that community organisations have the answers to the big challenges they are trying to solve 
  • To demonstrate the essential role of community organisations in the coronavirus/post coronavirus context. 
  • To set out path/recommendations for strengthening and harnessing the power of community organisations as a response to big social and economic challenges we are facing and will face 
  • To support the power of community brand campaign to champion the community organisation model. 

Locality SW have proposed that UoB bring its research potential to work with a collaboration of local community anchors to looking to developing an ‘invest-able proposition’ to put to the City, Region and communities to take them forward for the next 10-15 years which would 

  • Examine the consequences of recession: exponentially increased needs in communities alongside dramatic depletion in community organisations’ resources  
  • Rethink financial models  
  • Examine the opportunities and challenges of mergers and partnerships  

Priorities for moving forward

  • to establish a working brief for the community anchors project with Locality which enables UoB research resources to complement the expertise and knowledge of Locality members to shape strategy-making in the City  
  • bringing others in UoB into the collaboration – the work so far has been in collaboration with others in UoB, particularly Malu Villela-Garcia and Martin Parker of Inclusive Economies Institute  
  • possibly identify another City for comparative study/to enable cross-fertilisation of ideas 
  • to identify connections and linkages with other City Fellows work  
  • to work with the Social Justice Projects as advisers and reflectors to take this forward 

Helen Manchester: Update September 2020

Portrait of Helen Manchester: a smiling lady in her 40's with short grey hair. She wears a black raincoat and is in front of a landscape..City Decision Making

My focus and interest in the fellowship is particularly around the methods, practices and approaches we might adopt in order to enable communities at the margins to contribute to city decision making. I see my role as working alongside the City Office and the other fellows to embed new methods, practices and approaches into their ongoing collaborative governance work in the city. I am particularly interested in bringing creative methods and approaches to this process, and would welcome working alongside partners in the cultural sector to achieve this. I am interested in thinking about how we might all draw on the knowledge and the expertise of communities at the margins to understand better how we might build a more inclusive, sustainable city. For instance, in talking with Natasha Broad (add link to her 2 pager) we have looked at how the LGBTQ+ community have lived through the AIDS/HIV pandemic and will therefore have important experiences and understandings for the current COVID situation. Or in talking with Lucie Martin-Jones (add link) have realized how much we can learn from disabled people about staying strong and sane whilst living isolated lives.

Our work with the City Office was delayed as they were pulled into the Council’s response to the COVID pandemic however we have now established a way of working alongside the City Boards to support them to engage with communities at the margins as they work to refresh the City Plan.

The Civic University

The City Fellows programme is also a chance to think differently about how the University of Bristol can work with the city. We are therefore working closely with university colleagues who are working on newly emerging agendas concerning what the university is for – particularly in relation to the idea of ‘the civic university’. This has involved attending board meetings of the city engagement board to feed in learnings from the city fellows work with the City Office. We have also worked with colleagues in Research Enterprise and Development to design and run a piece of research around our partnerships in the city (Learning from our Partners) to explore  how the University of Bristol might respond to, or collaborate with our partners, around some of their key concerns. This is now becoming a bigger piece around what being a civic university means in Bristol and how this might work in the current resource limited environment. We are going to be analysing this data and then running an event with these partners to work on specific actions that we might be able to take over the next 12 months in order to test out some of our ideas.

City Futures: building a city of care

I am interested in how the City Fellows programme can support the city to reconsider it’s future and see the pandemic as an opportunity for this. Mayor Rees and others have also been working on this agenda, named the ‘Rebuilding Bristol’ initiative #buildbackbetter. Through the City Office we all got invitations to the ‘Rebuilding the City’ seminar and I was invited to speak at that. The provocation for that seminar was this:

‘Bristol, along with cities all over the globe, is facing an unprecedented health, economic and social crisis. This brings both a challenge and an opportunity to rebuild our city. If we do it well, Bristol will be more inclusive, more sustainable and more resilient in the face of future shocks. If we do it without thinking, falling into old assumptions (ie. badly), the opposite is true. How should we rebuild our city?’

As a result of that I posted a blog post entitled ‘Rebuilding Bristol as a city of care’– the main thrust of the blogpost being around how the pandemic has  helped to make visible, to more people, where people and communities are falling through the cracks in our cities and illustrated more widely that a return to business as usual is not an attractive option for those of us interested in social, economic and environmental justice. I believe that if we want to tackle issues of social, economic and environmental justice we need to focus on the role of care in the city. I draw on the feminist scholar Jean Tronto’s definition of care as ‘everything that we do to maintain, continue and repair ‘our’ world so that we can live in it as well as possible.’ (Tronto, 1993, p.103) Feminist approaches to care foreground our interdependencies, and encourage us to take notice of peoples’ lived experiences, their existing knowledges and expertise and the stories they tell about them.

As inequalities and the cracks in our city have become ever more visible to more people we should see this as an opportunity to open up discussion about how we can work as a city to tackle these enduring inequalities, alongside communities themselves. I think we have seen that there is a lot of existing excellent work in the city, organisations that are battling and working on these concerns with little resource and we need to re-value what’s important.

This brings me back to my own interests in the methods and approaches, and principles and values we might adopt in ensuring that Rebuilding Bristol is a collaboration that might not always involve consensus – that it is likely that we will all disagree about what is important and what isn’t but that doing ‘consultations’ in the usual way is not going to be the best way forwards.

Next steps

I will be working with the fellows to understand their methodological approaches and to work with them to develop and trial different methods and approaches to the inclusion of the communities they work with in city decision making processes. This will be achieved through continuing to work with the City Office and the City Boards in order to convene conversations across difference and methods of participation that might disrupt current practices of consultation in the city. This might involve working out ways of making visible stories of inequalities, and to surface ‘matters of concern’ in order to collaboratively work out how we can challenge them.

Working to rebuild a city of care could revolve around place based community approaches, for instance exploring how informal infrastructures of care that have emerged during the pandemic might survive. Questions here arise around how we might collaboratively build infrastructures of care and community resilience in hyper local, place based communities. However, recognition that this would also require support for the community and voluntary sector and systemic change is also vital.

I will also continue to work with colleagues across the University of Bristol on our role as a civic university.

Ben Carpenter: Update September 2020

Portrait of Ben Carpenter: A Smiling man in his 30's with blue eyes, stubble and medium length light brown hair.About me:

grew up in a single parent household and home life involved equal measures of love and chaos in the shape of addiction, violence and mental health problems within the family.  

 didn’t engage well at school and moved out of home with friends at 17 and in my early 20’s mum passed away from cancer. This was my catalyst for change.  

went travelling for a year that turned into 3 years, being in the right place, at the right time resulted in sailing half way around the world as crew on many yachts. can’t even swim!  

This experience allowed much time to reflect, to grow in confidence and come home with a clear goal to become a Youth and Community Worker. 

Ex-teacher and now Grassroot Communities Director Isobel Clark recently said ‘You always wanted to be a social worker and help others. Ironically if you had had the support of someone like you at 15, it wouldn’t have taken you so long to get where you are today’.    

started volunteering at youth projects on my return from traveling, whilst getting paid work in a secondary school behaviour department and then other paid roles in a variety of Bristol youth and community organisations. This allowed me to develop a varied skill set, a wide network of professional contacts and understand the different dynamics of communities across the city. More recently I’ve worked as a Senior Youth and Community Worker at Youth Moves in Knowle West and amongst many other projects built a youth and community club (roundhouse) and developed an acre growing space with young people and adults from the community! 

I’m now a degree qualified youth and community worker with over 13 years practical experience of working across South, Central and East Bristol. Also a qualified and experienced forest school leader that recently completed Shift Bristol’s yearlong Practical Sustainability course. 

Work I do:

founded Grassroot Communities in 2017 to deliver school, youth and community led projects in Bristol communities most in needThe aim is to connect people with their communities and nature to improve quality of life.  

The following innovative and community led project models give you a flavour of the work Grassroot Communities is currently or soon to be facilitating in South Bristol and across the city in the future. 

  • COMMUNITY CHAMPIONS Learning new skills, resilience and inspiring the next generation of leaders and positive role models through social action 
  • GRASSROOT ADVENTURES Inspiring young people causing anti-social behaviour in their community to become positive role models 
  • MENTORING Supporting young people/ adults at the edge of care and custody, and involved in serious and violent crime in South Bristol. I am BCC Safer Options team South Bristol Community Consultant 
  • DETACHED YOUTHWORKoperating across South Bristol without the use of a building or activity and taking place where young people “are at” both geographically and developmentally. We deliver informal and social education 
  • GROWING STREETS TOGETHER Engaging all ages of local people through positive activities, supporting them to plan and deliver a show stopping street party  
  • POWER OF NATURE supporting and inspiring Bristol schools, youth groups and communities to reconnect with the power of nature 
  • RECONNECT Improving relationships between carer and child through activities and adventure in nature. Please check out the Reconnect – Hartcliffe project video.
    • A dad’s feedback I feel closer now to XXXX, than I ever have and am extremely thankful to have had these opportunities to have spent with my son’. 
    • A daughters feedback ‘It has brought me closer to my step dad and gave me chance to relax and get out the house and do something without my 4 brothers and sisters’.   
  • RIDERS OF THE STORM Inspiring young people suffering from mental health to start their own self-help group. Utilising discussion, practical and creative ideas and activities in nature culminating in learning to surf!  

How I do it:

When you boil it down, all these projects are based on connection, relationships and opportunities. I/we always meet and consult local people of all ages where they are, listening and then acting (and reflecting). The community led projectcreate a safe, welcoming and fun environment, participants feel more open to sharing experiences, telling their stories and learning from each other as well as then shaping projects based on their own and collective wants and needs.   

Since recently being made a UoB City Fellow for the School of Education, I have been able to develop the yearlong Grassroot Activators Programme (GAP). Grassroot Communities above project models act as engagement tools, interventions and stepping stones and alongside new trailblazing modules have helped inform GAP. We are in the process of funding this life changing opportunity and would welcome any support in doing so and to discuss adding to our already amazing list of GAP partners! 

GAP develops pathways for young people from 16-25 to believe in theme selves, learning life skills, nature connection and supports them to thrive, not just survive. Having the confidence to grasp future opportunities in both hands such as in education, volunteering, apprenticeships and employment. 

Importantly GAP provides a solid foundation, practical experiences and skills to start filling the widening skills gap in youth and community work with localised workers. GAP will inspire young people to be the changes they want to see. Furthermore, within the process of engaging in the programme young people will practically cascade the positive impact of their various social action, social enterprise and environmental projects on communities in the margins of our city and create our diverse community leaders of tomorrow.  Young people are the solution, not the problem...