For the last 12 months, Do-Well has been working with three communities in North East Wales using a story telling technique called public narrative and some of the principles of systems leadership to improve community resilience. Band member Rodger Cairns who leads the work, tells us more about how it's developed and how it's helping people to reconnect with the work they do.
Commissioned by the East Area Local Implementation Team using Healthier Wales Funding, we have been developing a movement of people living and working in Flint, the Holway in Holywell and Gwersyllt in Wrexham.
We started by talking with a wide range of people from local councils, the voluntary sector, health, leisure, and local businesses. This included running a systems leadership masterclass for over 120 people to give them a taster of what was in store. This phase was all about getting interest in the program and trying to get the right people in the room with us (a key principle of systems leadership).
We then worked with small groups in each area supporting people to tell their story about what mattered to them and to identify the change they wanted to see. The aim was to encourage people to look at wicked issues - things that no one person or organisation can fix on their own and have often been around for a long time.
It hasn't been easy for people and there’s been plenty of puzzled looks on the zoom calls as they struggled with some tough topics. The range of topics has been really diverse, from encouraging families to read with children to support their development, to looking at how to encourage more physical activity as well as tackling food poverty and food waste and much more.
Reconnecting with purpose
Telling the story is only part of the process.
We’ve found that it’s helped people reconnect with the reason they are doing the work they do. It’s given some the confidence to challenge their colleagues and organisation to do more but also to listen and appreciate where others are coming from and the support they might need too. It’s been a real pleasure to see people share their stories and in doing so get to know one another in ways that simply don’t happen when meetings just jump straight to problem solving.
In the words of one person who took part: “We used to turn up to the meeting, each with our own agenda and just look to ensure we focused on that. It’s different now, we work together and understand one another better and can work together because we know we’ve all got the same aims.”
The final phase of the project, which we’ve called 'maintaining the community', is about supporting people to implement their ideas. We’ve done some coaching, hosted meetings and distributed some cash to help get some projects going.
Watch a public narrative
There were so many great narratives that emerged through the programme. Louise Blackwell, Community Development Officer at housing association ClwydAlyn, was one of the first cohorts in Flint to take part and has kindly shared her powerful public narrative, where she talks more about why food poverty and food waste is so important to her and how people can help in her local area.