Recognising everyone’s assets to build a better community

Certitude held a conference at the KIA Oval, London on 23rd September focused on how community-based approaches can complement or even replace conventional methods for improving health and tackling health inequalities.

Speaking to an audience of over 100 commissioners, councillors, like-minded organisations and people supported by Certitude, keynote speaker Cormac Russell, Managing Director of Nurture Development at the Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute at North-western University, Chicago, shared his considerable experience in elevating the skills, knowledge and connections in communities to help people help themselves.

“We’ve unintentionally segregated our communities by segments of need, which is what I call the Tangerine Effect’’, Russell said. “It’s about recognising that we all have something to bring to building a community.”

Russell further emphasised that organisations need to focus on people’s assets, not needs, when addressing inequality and long-term health issues. Sam Clarke, Chief Executive of Inclusion North, a not-for-profit organisation which works with people with learning disabilities, addressed the importance of utilising the power inherent in local communities:

“People’s dreams don’t lie in support’’, Clarke said. “They lie in their ability to live and feel part of their community. We need to build upon people’s gifts to contribute than fight against them.”

Clarke said that organisations often get support provision the wrong way around, and what is vital is first starting conversations with people needing support with what makes a good life for them, rather than what are their support needs. ‘This is the stuff which really matters, and should be the first point of the service’’, she argued.

As part of the event, Certitude launched its new online social networking tool, Connect & Do, which was developed to help people connect to others around them and engage better with their community. Nicholas Campbell-Watts, Director of Mental Health at Certitude, outlined the research which was undertaken prior to its development, highlighting the fact that many people with long-term health needs such as those which Certitude supports find it difficult to feel fully involved with their local community:

“Connect & Do is focused on supporting people to develop lasting friendships with other local people around shared interests and use of local community resources.  We believe that this is an important step towards addressing the social isolation and loneliness experienced by many people with long-term health needs.”Building a better community conference audience

Developed across six boroughs: Lambeth, Southwark, Bromley, Ealing, Hounslow and Brent, the tool helps to address these issues, providing a one-stop place where users can find out what other people are up to, join in, or offer to help other local people or groups with a range of activities, hobbies and groups to suit their interests in the area where they live.

The conference sparked lively debate and discussion, and was followed by a leadership master class by Cormac Russell for Certitude staff, focusing on addressing the way organisations can utilise abilities inherent in communities to address support for people with long term health needs.

You can find out more about Connect & Do by visiting www.connectanddo.org