Working together – using innovation and collaboration locally to deliver services
Posted on the 8th September 2016
Peter Helly, Community Development Manager for the Accord Group and My Community Champion discusses the work Ashrammoseley and the Accord Group are doing to provide joined up, dynamic, innovative and ambitious services to over 80,000 people in the Midlands and beyond.
Ashrammoseley is part of the Accord Group, which is a not-for-profit organisation made up of seven enterprising housing, health and social care organisations. From its earliest beginnings Ashrammoseley is 50 years old this year. It started in 1966 – a very good year for English football and a breakthrough year for British television, with the BBC creating the gritty, bleak and realistic drama Cathy Come Home. Fast forward to 2016, and with many of the same social challenges, we are increasingly looking to innovation and collaboration to deliver services.
At the Accord Group we have created an Arts Team to take another look at our own assets including the people we work with, our service users and tenants and the spaces we own. We asked ourselves: “How many colleagues do we have with a passion for creative arts? How many useful community spaces do we have underused in schemes and offices in the heart of the community? And what about all of those service users and tenants with talents and passions?” In a time of decreasing services and the potential for increasing isolation we can sometimes look closer to home for solutions.
Connecting our assets with others has created a great ‘you scratch my back, I scratch yours’ relationship – we let the local drama group practise in an underused communal room and now they perform a free play for the residents who live there. We also let a healthy food start-up business use an underused communal kitchen, and now they provide healthy food and cooking tips for the local residents.
Elsewhere out in our communities, we have looked to collaboration in order to create more cost effective and relevant services. We recently teamed up with local community organisations Balsall Heath Forum, and The Challenge: National Citizen Service. We took 24 volunteers out to brighten up a street in Balsall Heath, Birmingham and have conversations with local people, asking them about their local priorities. A community street party was the most popular suggestion we had, so we are talking to residents and partner organisations about making that a reality and a potential setting for empowering local people.
Following conversations in nearby Sparkhill, we have also taken an unused communal garden and turned it into a secure space for women in recovery and other service users to undertake horticultural therapy. This collaboration has seen Ashrammoseley provide the space and tools, and our partners Kikit Pathways to Recovery and Change, Grow, Live invite their service users and provide staff to help manage the project.
Just by offering a space with a gazebo we also facilitated over 20 health and wellbeing organisations to not just meet their service users, but to meet and learn from each other.
A lot has happened since 1966, when people first realised the extent of the social issues that affected so many people and communtiies across the country. Ashrammoseley, like so many other Housing Associations was set up in response, to try to make things better and help those who most needed it. I certainly hope we will be here for the next 50 years, offering homes to those who most need them and supporting communities to prosper.
The Accord Group is made up of seven dynamic, innovative and ambitious housing, health and social care organisations providing services across the Midlands to over 80,000 people employing over 5,000 colleagues.
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