Reflections from practitioners

On 9th October, we brought together the practitioners who have been testing the personal asset mapping tool together for the last time. At this session, we were keen to hear more about how they’d been getting on trialing the tool out in practice, as well as listening to their reflections on the process and being involved in the project overall.

Here are some of the things that practitioners said that they had learned in the project:

“How beneficial asset mapping can be to achieve individual goals”

“I’ve learned that I didn’t know some of my clients as well as I thought”

“How the tool can be used across the board, not just about mental health”

“Potential to use the maps with individuals and groups but needs buy-in from practitioners”

“That practitioners from different backgrounds are very skilled”

Similarly, we were aware that many of the practitioners involved in the project were very used to working within set-out processes, with validated tools and that working in an exploratory way would take them out of their comfort zone. We knew this might bring a number of challenges for the practitioners, which we were keen to understand better.

We asked practitioners about some of the fears that they’d overcome throughout the project process, and one of the clear themes was developing confidence – both in using the tool, but in their own skills as a practitioner. Some examples of other factors mentioned by the practitioners include:

“Overcame the people I support’s initial doubts about the project.”

“Overcome- lack of confidence in my knowledge.”

“Making something complex simple enough to explain.”

Practitioners were clear that there were still some barriers that would need to be overcome before the approach could be embedded in practice. These barriers included:

“The future. Where we go from here? Will the digital tool be used.? Selling asset mapping to staff.”

“Becoming more practiced in utilising the tool with others with different needs and support.”

“Follow up and engagement with people who use services”

“Adapting it so that it works for the majority or at least so they will try it.”

It was invaluable to get this feedback from the practitioners, and the project team will be considering these issues as we move the project forward – particularly that of ‘selling’ and communicating the goals and outcomes of the process to other practitioners working locally.

As part of the project evaluation, and understanding the worth of the process, we will, of course, be following up with individuals to find out how they felt about their experience of being involved in the project, to understand if they felt differently after having gone through the asset mapping process and to determine any changes they might have made as a result of this. A full report will be available in due course.

We are also working together with the Connections (The Richmond Fellowship) peer-support group to develop the next prototype of the digital tool, ensuring that people who use services are at the centre of the development process.

We’d like to thank all of the people who were involved in testing the tool and process in practice – your hard work, commitment and openness has made the project possible.

Mapping Torrance

Our world tour of East Dunbartonshire continues on schedule with a visit to the Torrance Caldwell Halls where we were assisted and supported by the Caldwell Hall Champions Cathy and Rona.  The Caldwell halls are a charitable organisation run by the local community that aims to promote a sense of community connectedness.

However, despite torrential rain, 5 people attended and helped us create an asset map of the Torrance area. Although the event had relatively low numbers it provided an opportunity for participants to learn what assets they have at their disposal and how they feel about their local community.

One of the key features described by local people (similar to Twechar) was their access to green and open space – particularly the River Kelvin and the Forth and Clyde canal walkways “this has enabled a lot of community groups to become established such as the Ramblers association, fishing and cycle clubs which all enjoy the natural assets available”.

Many people recounted stories of how they used to play with their friends beside the disused Tower Bridge “it was the best swing ever!” indicating how much these elements of the local landscape means to people, but also highlighting features of the landscape that have the potential to be developed and used differently.

We heard how a lot of new “assets” have recently been developed to improve the local area including:

  • Book exchange (“increase local knowledge and history”)
  • Bardowie Loch (“lots of chances to get wet!”)
  • Greenspace group (“Improving the environment for the kids to use to get them out and about”)
  • Local Historian (“it encourages an interest in local history and a sense of achievement of the past”)
  • Balmore Church (“good church support”)
  • Torrance Community Centre (“keeps up the community spirit”)
  • Local pubs (“people come to talk about different things and just get together”)

We had a great opportunity to talk at great depth with Cathie and Rona who know the area like the back of their hands! We were able to hear about what Torrance is like now, but more importantly, we were also able to hear about their future vision of how Torrance could be, and how it its currently a great asset to those who live there.

Some quotes from the day:
“Great place but could be better if we had improved transport”
”lots of walks and open spaces”
“The local pub grub is great”

It was really interesting to hear how people began to think a little bit differently about the different assets that were described. For example, many people hadn’t originally seen some of the local businesses as an asset, but were then able to consider the different contributions that each of them made to the feel of the area. Most importantly, people began to think of Torrence itself as an asset – which was lovely to hear!

Mapping Twechar

On 20th July, Twechar Healthy Living and Enterprise Centre hosted our most recent asset mapping workshop. We were fortunate to talk with 9 local people (age range from 4- 70  years old) to find out what assets they have at their disposal and how they feel about their local community.

It was clear from the beginning of the day, that although Twechar is a very small area, there is a whole lot of community spirit! When we walked through the doors of the centre we were struck by how many notices and signs that were available that highlighted lots of community assets and resources.

One of the key features described by local people, was their access to green space – particularly the forest. Many people recounted stories of how they used to play with their friends outside “we used to just let our imaginations run riot!” indicating how much this element of the local landscape means to people.

Similarly, every person that we talked to mentioned the close-knit community spirit, and that networks between people were particularly strong. Some highlighted that there was increasing demand for housing in Twechar, thought to be due to the attraction of the community spirit. There was also a sense that as the community had already achieved so much together, there was a belief (and hope) that there is always a way to get things done which was quite surprising, and very inspiring to hear.

We also heard about a number of initiatives driven by local people, that have helped bring services to the community, rather than the community having to go to them. For example, the Healthy Living Centre now hosts a weekly doctors surgery which has helped the doctors get to know the community better and has increased access for people.

As well as this, other assets included:

  • Fruit delivery service (“delivery straight to your door”)
  • walks from Castlehill (“lovely walks – if you’re fit!”)
  • swing parks (“for the kids to use to get them out and about”)
  • Dr Twechar DVD (“it shows the history of the area”)
  • community gym
  • Twechar Beach Party (“keeps up the community spirit”)
  • Twechar Parish Group (“people come to talk about different things, get tea and home-baking”)

My colleague, Marta Riberio from IRISS, was on hand on the day to add markers to the map electronically as we were talking. This saved a lot of time, and helped us categorise the assets as we went along.

We were also really fortunate on the day to meet Sandra Sutton – a true community champion – who has lived and worked in Twechar over the years to ensure that the community makes the decisions about its future, and who takes a truly asset-based approach to her work. Sandra and her team imparted a wealth of knowledge about the history of the area, as well as some of the plans for their future, which left the team feeling really inspired.

Thanks to Sandra and co for your hospitality – it was lovely to meet you all, and it was great to hear all your stories!

Some quotes from the day:

“its handy for me – everything is on my doorstep”

“with me being disabled, everyone looks after me”

“its a wee tote gym, but it does the job”

Mapping Bearsden and Milngavie

Regular blog readers will know that over the coming months, there are a number of events happening across East Dunbartonshire designed to engage residents in a conversation about living in their local communities and finding out what assets are the most useful.

The first of these events was focused on mapping Bearsden and Milngavie.

Drop-in session

Our first drop-in session was held in Allander Leisure Centre on Saturday 23rd June. We talked with over 60 people (ages ranged from 3 years old right up to those in their 70s).

We asked people what was good about living in their local community, and what local assets they’d want to promote on a digital map. We retrieved a varied response, some of the assets are listed below.

What was clear from talking to people, was that they really appreciated having lots of open green space in Milngavie and Bearsden. There is a host of evidence which reports the significance of access to green space for health and wellbeing (Ellaway et al 2001, Sooman & Mcintyre 1995), many people discussed how this was the most valued community asset, but that potentially more could be done with the green space to open it up to be used by more people.

Similarly, people were not shy in coming forward to identify local residents who they thought of as being the heart and soul of the community and who helped to foster a unique community spirit.

Following the mindapples philosophy, we also asked people what different things they do every day to promote their own well-being. This is in response to lots of recent evidence that suggests that as many as 50% of our mental health issues are preventable (Department of Health, 2009) with much of our mental health and well-being being down to our individual choices and actions.

This proved to be a difficult task for some people – many hadn’t ever taken the time to think about their own well-being. With some helpful prompting from the team, however, people were able to think more broadly about the types of things that they do generally (perhaps not every day!) to keep themselves well. These varied from doing a good deed, taking exercise, investing time in relationships, taking time to appreciate things and trying new experiences.

Many people (particularly families) commented that it had been useful to take the time to think about their well-being and we think that this is vitally important and as such we will be repeating this exercise through the rest of the drop-in sessions. So, why not come along to the next session and share your personal wisdom?!

Workshop

We also held a community workshop at the Enterprise Centre in Milngavie.This gave us the opportunity to work in a more structured way with a smaller number of individuals. Over a three hour period, we talked in-depth about the local area and were amazed by the wealth of contributions with such a small number of people. Thanks to those of you who came along!

A brief overview of asset contributions from the workshop included:

All of the assets identified will be added to the community map over the next few weeks. In the meantime, please remember that you can text COMMUNITY to 60777 followed by your favourite local asset to ensure it is added to the map (all texts will be charged at your standard network rate).

We found that Bearsden and Milngavie has a wealth of community groups and voluntary organisations with significant experience of community engagement. We also found, however, that there is potential for improvement in partnership working between public and community agencies. We heard that local people are concerned about the sustainability of current initiatives and believe that long-term solutions can only be achieved through greater community leadership and a focus on volunteering.

We also learned a lot about the history of the local area, and changes that have happened over time. Although the proposed community hubs were considered to a positive asset, there were some concerns voiced about the locations of these and lack of parking facilities to enable access to a wider reach of people.

Interestingly, when we asked participants how they thought local residents might engage with the digital map, they were clear that in certain groups there is a lot of apathy around trying out new places/activities. This was particularly so for older people. The participants thought that in some instances, it would be crucial to provide support, a ‘buddy’ along with sufficient transport to get people to even think about using some of the assets that had been mapped.

The project team were using these sessions as ‘tester’ events so that we could learn what works best and what doesn’t. We would have liked to get the views of more people in the area, and it is likely that we’ll arrange a future session at one of the local groups that were identified. Also, we didn’t get the chance to categorise the identified assets in the time allocated in the session, which is something we will incorporate into future events.

Participant quotes from the day:

“I’d just like to say how nice this group has been, you’ve made me feel very at home and I’ve enjoyed being part of it”

“I didn’t really realise how many organisations there are in the area”

“[the best asset] is our community spirit”

References

Department of Health (2009) Flourishing People, Connected Communities: Available from: http://tinyurl.com/cdsdo8s

Ellaway A, Anderson A and Kearns A (2001) Perceptions of place and health in socially
contrasting neighbourhoods, Urban Studies, 38 (12) 2299-2316

Sooman A and McIntyre S (1995) Health and perceptions of the local environment in socially contrasting neighbourhoods in Glasgow, Health and Place, 1(1) 15-26

Mapping Edinburgh’s Self Management Resources

One of the things that we are really keen to do is to share the learning from this Kirkintilloch project far and wide so that others can use and adapt the process that we’ve gone through to better understand the resources that are available in the communities in which they live.

We were invited to come along and give a presentation about the project at the ALISS (Access to Local Information to Support Self-management) event on Tuesday 25th October.

One of the things we did was to showcase some of the different approaches to mapping that we tested in Kirkintilloch. Some photographs from the event are available here:

This was just a taster session and I think we were a bit ambitious to think that we could begin to map out some of Edinburgh’s self-management resources in a little hour session. It was mostly about showing people a new approach, and giving people a method for which to start thinking about collecting the different resources that are available, as well as learning something new about the area in which they work. We came away with a wealth of knowledge and information which will give a helpful baseline for which to build on.

This wide range of ‘assets’ or resources, came out of conversations, scribbles, post-its and using 3D shapes. Maybe they popped into peoples’ heads when something related was mentioned or when they spotted something on the map, but what it seemed to do was to help people think about self-management in the widest possible sense – enabling them to think outside of ‘traditional services’. And that is one of the things we like best about using assets as an approach – it is not just about positive language it is reframing how people think.

Beyond developing a map of resources, we’ve also found the process to be useful in  promoting connections or relationships between individuals, between individuals and organisations and between organisations. This certainly seemed to be happening on the day, there was a really good buzz in the room – with even some talk about establishing a local network of people interested in self-management.

We asked people how they found going through the process and received a really positive response. Additionally, there were lots of suggestions as to how it could further be developed, including:

  • colour coding the different categories of assets
  • ensuring that the areas that we choose to map are at the right size and are not overwhelming for participants
  • involving people who use services to understand their experiences of the different resources mapped

More soon.

Making a community map

So, we’ve been a bit quiet on here over the past few weeks, but that doesn’t mean that we’ve not been busy.

We’ve been working on mapping out all of the different assets identified in the workshops and collating them together in one place.

We’re using the data collected to turn this:

into this

Not only that, we are thinking about how these different assets should be grouped together so that they are easier for people to find, as well as considering different ways that we might want to present them.

More examples to come soon.

We’ve been really lucky in that Peter from ALISS has been present at all of the workshops. He’s working on a different project that helps people access local information about self management. He is doing this by creating an ‘engine’ which helpfully gathers and organizes information in a coherent way and then points people back to the original source of information. This usefully reduces the amount of time and energy that we need to use to populate maps like these. Have a look at their blog post about putting kirkintilloch on the map for more information.

Workshop 2: 25th July

Our second workshop took place on the 25th July –  a bright and sunny Monday – in Kirkintilloch Health and Care Centre.

It was great to see so many people at the workshop – some familiar faces, and lots of new ones too. In the end, we had 22 people coming along to share their experiences and ideas (this was a split of 13 people who use services and 10 people who support those who use services) which was a fabulous turnout – even if it was a bit of a tight squeeze!

What we did

This week, we worked on tasks that encouraged people to share their experiences and that enabled us to gather ideas about how people could be better supported to use community supports and assets.

We started by getting to know each other. There were lots of new faces in the group and it was good to find out a bit about where everyone was from and what their interests were.

We then split into two groups and worked on answering the question: ‘if someone new to the area was to ask you advice for keeping well, what 5 things would you tell them?’

One group looked at this in quite a general way and were able to give lots of practical advice that included:

  • taking things a step at a time. the group agreed that it can be sometimes difficult to think about doing simple things, like taking a shower. The advice was to take it step by step and think about smaller aspects of the activity – like taking the first step out of bed, opening the door etc.
  • trying to keep active – going for walks and knowing good places to get out and about can be really helpful
  • knowing that you’re ‘not the only one’ can help, and knowing that everyone needs support sometimes
  • keeping focused on one task or goal for each day – and getting it done – can feel like a great achievement
  • reminding yourself of all of the things that you’ve achieved that day and focusing on those things rather than what you haven’t achieved can boost feeling well
The other group came up with suggestions like:
  • knowing where to start – having someone or something to point you in the (next) best direction on your journey is very beneficial (signposts to what is available)
  • having someone to talk to – ‘i use them as a sounding board, a mirror. I like to have the same people to contact to go back to time and again’ (people you can rely on)
  • find a place to go and chill out – where you can get peace and quiet (this group were able to identify lots of places on the map that would be useful for this)
  • do the little things that matter e.g. one person was very keen to keep their house tidy and as long as that was done she felt a sense of achievement. Find out what your ‘thing’ is.
  • having chance meetings – you might think that you want to be alone, but you might actually enjoy bumping into people. There are lots of cafes in Kirkintilloch that make wee 5 min chats with people easy – you can just pass pleasantries and you don’t have to plan the meeting (so you don’t need to cancel if you’re having a bad day).
We talked about how we could share this information with people and how we could make something physical that would convey some of these ideas. The groups came up with a few ideas that people seemed really keen on:
  • prompt cards: small cards (that you can keep in your wallet) with words and phrases by people with lived experience of mental ill health for those currently experiencing it
  • paper maps of the area that identify key services

We then went on to build on top of the maps that we’d produced in the first workshop.

The groups were keen to add additional services outside of Kirkintilloch – stretching out to Bishopbriggs, Milngavie, and Bearsden. Many people highlighted the poor transport links between these different towns and how this can make access to services incredibly difficult.

Other assets that had not been previously identified included:

  • public partnership forum – have your voice heard
  • local carers centres
  • aromatherapy (through EDAMH) – helps relaxation
  • contact point – at the park centre, useful resource
  • different walking routes
  • the Kirkintilloch players (theatre company)
  • community addictions team
  • EDICT – painting is  brilliant!
  • Carer’s Link – a rich source of support
  • Denise’s cafe – friendly staff and good for bumping into people
  • Kirkintilloch Herald
  • The badminton group
(we’ll have a few examples of maps available in a future post – very soon)

The groups also highlighted areas for improvement, including things that were missing within the community.

One of the groups talked in depth about assessment of need and the type and amount of information that is held about people using mental health services. Many people were aware of WRAP (Wellness and Recovery Action Planning) but not many had completed one. The group were quite clear that making a plan, and being assessed should not be a tick-box exercise and that it should be based on the individual and should be made to suit individual needs. The group also talked about how making advance statements was a useful thing to do, but not many had completed these either.

Many people highlighted the lack of social day activities within the area. People referred to the old Clubhouse and were clear that some of the functions that it had provided were really useful (see previous post). A few people talked about how there were many open spaces available and that an affordable cinema could be a good place to go and meet people, and that they could be used for big events like ‘ mental health awareness week’ or ‘gala day’ etc.

Community assets: think of a heavenly experience…

We asked the groups to work on creating a storyboard of the different areas that could improve and how the experience could be better – we did this from two different perspectives

  • Heaven: no barriers or hurdles/success and
  • Hell: barriers, hurdles and complications

People tended to draw on their own experiences of services or to focus on the different types of social activities that they perceived are missing within the community. The ideas focused on:

  • Being listened to more: people being allowed more time to talk and explain themselves, and to be seen as an individual.
  • Communication between the supporting services (health and community care professionals) and carers
  • Having a place to go where people understand you – where you can choose to talk about issues, or not – depending on how you are feeling
  • A drop in centre that is inclusive, allowing people access to a range of different services – like a hub

What should we do with all this information?

A key aspect of the project is to ensure that what we are learning is shared with others and is used to help improve existing service delivery. In addition, we want to ensure that the learning is used by people who use services – so that they can better see what is available and better direct their own support.

We were keen to ask the groups their views on how the outputs of the project should be shared.

Almost all of the participants thought that it would be crucial to share the project findings amongst the mental health service providers in the area. This was part of a broader discussion that highlighted that more could be done to ensure these agencies communicate better with one another – especially linking health, social work and voluntary agencies together.

Key, was also ensuring that the information was easy to access and always kept up to date – there has been some trouble with this in the past.  In addition, people were keen that as well as online based information, that there be a physical counterpart that people can keep with them to refer to.

Reflections…

We learned a lot from the last workshop and made sure that there were plenty of breaks – to keep ourselves refreshed and alert, as well as making sure there were lots of different ways for people to have their say. Ways to provide feedback ranged from speaking out into the group, posting thoughts and comments in the post box anonymously, as well as being provided with email, phone and contact information for people who prefer to reflect on their experience and to share afterwards.

The evaluation sheets were overwhelmingly positive from the day. Everyone who provided a completed sheet mentioned how much they had enjoyed the session with the following comments being made:

‘very interesting and thought provoking look at services and what helps people stay well’

‘the ‘holistic approach’ to what you were doing was really good – not just focused on services, but taking the whole aspect of folks lives into account’

‘enjoyed the contact with people with similar lived life experiences’

‘enjoyed the information sharing and mapping all the positives in the east dun area’

‘I’ve left feeling like I could do some research into what’s available and what would benefit my situation’

 ‘I felt really good getting feedback from the group and meeting other service users’

The next session will focus on different ways to share and portray the information that has been accumulated over the past few sessions. We expect to gather insights into the sorts of things that people think should be mapped for our online visualisation. In addition, we’ll be helping individuals to think about how they could use assets outlined in the community map to help promote their personal well-being.

I’m also learning lots about how the asset mapping process can be a useful tool for engagement with people – particularly how it can provide an opportunity for people to take a step back, think about what works well and why (and what does not) and consider how we can work with each other differently to change for the better.

This seems to be one of the things that people seem to be valuing most about being involved in the project. It seems to be getting more and more difficult for people to take the space and time to listen to one another and really hear what is being said – both practitioners and people who use services have commented on the value of hearing peoples stories and coming together to think about how things might change.

And there is more to come!

As always, any comments are very welcome.

Let’s start at the beginning

This project is all about empowering people to think about all of the positive assets that they have in their lives and communities. It begins with the premise that, “you can’t know what you need, until you know what you have”.

In order to start finding out about what exists in the local area, the project work began mid-June with a workshop that aimed to introduce staff (mental health practitioners from the voluntary, private and public sectors) to asset mapping as a way of working.

Facilitated by SNOOK (http://wearesnook.com/snook/), we spent time with the staff to share experience and practice across the different agencies, as well as exploring how this way of working is different from the techniques that they currently use to design services around the people that they support.

We worked together to have a go at asset mapping in two different ways. Firstly, to create a community map:

Then to explore the use of asset mapping for person-centred planning (where we worked together to create a person-centred map for me!):

Many of the participants thought that the asset mapping method could work well alongside the approaches that they are already using, although they did come up with applications that we’d never thought of! Ideas ranged from using the process as a useful way to reflect on progress with people using services, to seeing the world directly through the eyes of the user.

There were lots of things that people liked about the use of the tool. These included:

  • working well as an individual recording tool
  • good for training staff
  • provided a new way to access thoughts and feelings (which can be hard when you are obsessed with thoughts and feelings)
  • helping to unstick people and staff
  • capturing the conversation
  • thinking about different routes to get to a solution.
Some things that people weren’t so sure of, included:
  • it might paint quite a stark picture for some people
  • the need to make sure that the person/people are in the right place in the recovery journey to engage in the process
  • it can generally be quite hard to get people involved
  • hard to identify assets.

Staff could see how the process linked into work that they already do, but thought that it was different in the following ways:

  • it’s 3D
  • very visual
  • bespoke (different every time, depending on who is involved)
  • holistic
  • inclusive
  • fun

This workshop and feedback was really useful in terms of designing the next few sessions, which will bring together people using services and practitioners.

Over the coming weeks we’ll be talking to lots of people who use services, gathering their thoughts, ideas and experiences in the lead up to these sessions, where we’ll work on mapping out the local area in greater detail. We’re hoping to be able to determine the difference between individual assets that people use to support themselves, and the assets that exist locally – with a view to identifying the gaps and opportunities that exist.

Watch this space!

You can view the full range of pictures from this first event here:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/openlx/sets/72157626849988211/