Enterprising People Co-Producing Local Solutions

Read our guest blog post from Helen Allen, Operations Manager at Community Catalysts.

When asked to write a chapter for the publication 'Making Health and Social Care Personal and Local:  Moving from Mass Production to Co-Production' it didn't take long to showcase some examples from micro providers that would hit the mark. Community Catalysts is a Community Interest Company supporting the development of sustainable local enterprises delivering services that people can buy to live their lives. We believe that people in communities have many untapped gifts and skills and with help can use those to provide real choice of small scale, local, personalised and high quality social care and health services (in the broadest sense) for local people looking for support and services. These 'micro-entrepreneurs' may use services themselves, care for a loved one or have previously worked in social care. Some have no previous 'social care' experience but have a passion or an interest that they want to introduce to people in their community - some of whom happen to have some support needs. Services may be delivered on a voluntary basis, as part of a cooperative or as a small social enterprise or business. In all cases, because of their size they are more likely to be responsive to individual or quirky requirements and co-created, co-designed and co-produced.

Co-production isn't a word that would trip off the tongue of the average micro provider but it seemed that they were putting it into practice (more importantly) in three slightly different ways:  

INSIGHT For Carers- Harnessing the power of informal networks

INSIGHT for Carers Service, known as INSIGHT is an independent, not-for profit organisation for carers, run predominantly by carers in Dudley.  The project was set up in 2009 by Marc Carter who had a vision of creating a hub for carers in Dudley as he is passionate about empowering carers and people who use services.  As a carer himself of two autistic children, Marc believed that the needs of carers were being ignored and that bureaucracy stood in the way of genuine people who wanted to air their views, issues and concerns.

INSIGHT works hard to meet the needs of carers, developing and delivering the services that they want, rather than those people think they need while at the same time reducing isolation and empowering carers to lead fulfilling lives.   

In addition The INSIGHT project provides volunteering opportunities for people with learning and physical disabilities, mental ill health or disaffected young adults who are struggling to obtain employment.  Their aim is to help people to increase their confidence, gain the necessary skills to obtain employment and achieve a sense of fulfilment.

Funky Fitness and Fun - Creating ways for people to shape the service

Micro-provider Carita Smith set up her enterprise in Oldham in 2008 with the aim of using her own interests, skills and experience to provide a safe, secure and fun environment where adults with a learning disability, physical disability or mental ill health can meet and take part in a range of activities to enhance their overall wellbeing.

The service runs on two days each week at a local community centre.  Members tell Carita about what type of physical exercise that they would like to engage with in forthcoming weeks and she commissions it on their behalf - hence tai chi, dancing, aerobics, cheerleading, Elvis dancing, have all been included in the weekly sessions.

The sessions bring custom to the café within the community centre which is run as a social enterprise, as it provides a healthy range of food options for the members. Bringing people together has further opened doors for some members, who have now gained voluntary work at the café and are undertaking qualifications to further their chances of employment in the future.

A recent development includes the "Funky Fitness Fun Team". This consists of four members with a learning disability delivering fitness sessions to the wider community alongside Carita, for example at sheltered housing. All members feel valued by having this great opportunity and new links are being forged with the older residents.

Pulp Friction CIC- Equal partners in the design and delivery of the service.

Pulp Friction is a Nottinghamshire-based enterprise that works with young adults with learning disabilities to develop their social, independent and work-readiness skills. They provide opportunities and individual support for people to run pedal-powered smoothie bars at different community events.

Jill Carter and her daughter Jessie, who has learning disabilities set up the enterprise when Jessie could not find meaningful employment in the local area like many of her non-disabled friends - of real importance for both parties.

After seeing a smoothie bike at a local festival and speaking to a few of Jessie's friends who loved the idea, Jill provided support to put an application into the Youth Opportunity Fund for £1800 to buy a smoothie bike for themselves.  They were successful in their bid and the Pulp Friction Smoothie Bar project was born!

They launched their Community Interest Company in June 2011 and in November of that year Jill won the Nottingham social entrepreneur of the year and Jessie the Nottingham young social entrepreneur of the year.

People like Jessie and Marc are often pigeon-holed as 'service user' or 'carer'. But they should be seen as the people they are - people with great gifts and assets that they want to and can use for other people and their community. Their entrepreneurial spirit should be recognised and valued for the good work that they undertake and the effect they can have within their local neighbourhoods, co-producing local solutions for people.

Helen Allen, Community Catalysts

Last Updated : 11 July 2012. Page Author: Laura Bimpson.