We believe that every person should have the opportunity for personal development and social mobility. That opportunity is enhanced through the support of strong communities and a holistic approach to physical, mental, and social wellbeing.
We believe that the best way to achieve this is to support people to build strong family and community foundations including their physical and mental health (the nests) and then to help people develop their skills, education, and opportunities (to grow).
Nest and Grow.
Let’s start at the very beginning.
Existing systems and processes may be perfectly functioning in supporting society in its aims of ensuring that nobody is left behind, nobody is disadvantaged, and nobody has to face a physical or mental problem alone.
They may be functioning perfectly, and they may also be producing outcomes in line with the original objectives.
Or it could be that the problems are too massive for the system built, that inefficiency and duplication have taken root within the systems, and that the systems themselves are too large, static, or cumbersome to adapt quickly and agilely to react and effect positive change.
It’s important to check ourselves regularly. We must combine experience with new-thinking. What would you do with a blank piece of paper?
Think: Dream Big
It’s easy to be overwhelmed with everything that we would like to achieve, change, and improve; everywhere we turn our focus we find people, things, and places that would benefit from love and kindness, leadership and financing.
Let’s start with making our proposition as succinct as possible: everyone should have the opportunity.
What is the opportunity?
Opportunity is the potential to change. The possibility of an individual to change their given or found circumstance, for them to achieve something they have not yet been able, to be socially mobile and be in a better state than in which they started.
This leads to more questions.
We don’t profess to have the answers, but we need a starting point from which we can learn and discover; we need to know what questions to ask:
- How do you give people the best start in life?
- How do we support people to be aware of their potential?
- How do we help people to stay on track?
- How do we help people who are lost to find their way back?
- Is a holistic approach best for recognising the beautiful complexities of human nature?
- How can we coordinate individual silos of thinking and practice to deliver that holistic support system?
- How do we put in place a solid foundation from which to grow?
- How do we engage with people and empower them to reduce dependency on external organisations?
- How do you build mental health support from the ground up and embed it throughout the process?
- Would addressing social isolation play a significant part in reducing mental health problems?
Learn: It’s not like it used to be
“It takes a village to raise a child”. “Blood is thicker than water”. “Charity begins at home”. These phrases together indicate we are stronger together, and our family unit is the solid foundation from which to build.
But what if it’s not like that anymore? If our modern societal foundations are now weaker than they once were, our houses will fall. So what’s changed?
Were there benefits to Religious Direction?
As a society, we are less religious than we once were, attendance at churches are down, and the number of ‘wise people’ at the end of the village has decreased. Although spirituality has increased among specific demographics – as the whole population, we are now less likely to be following a religious scripture, commandment, or direction.
Citizenship classes within our schools intend to fill the void and provide ethical and moral structure to our lives. Yet, many people are still in search of greater meaning in life and yearn for a sense of belonging to a tribe, congregation, or community.
Our ‘roots’ is one of our eight Hidden Needs (Packard, 1957), and our roots come from our identity and connections with the place and people within which we find ourselves.
Religion used to give us guidance as to how to live and what do do and not do. In times of trouble, it gave us someone to blame; the bad gods – or if it was ourselves to blame, then it told us a path to redemption and what we needed to do. In times of good, it told us how to be thankful.
I’m not advocating one way or another for religion and as Nest and Grow; we remain a neutral position on religion. Yet how can we recreate that sense of belonging, purpose, and fulfilment in our modern society and communities?
Confession as Therapy
The social contract is that by confessing, the priest or religious figure will tell us the path to redemption: you are forgiven if you do X. The further but optional social contract is that you will provide finance to the religious institution then you are demonstrating belief and gratitude to the forgiving party.
In Therapy, we talk about ourselves, our pasts, our issues, trauma, challenges, and connections. We discuss possibilities and potential solutions. We are either led to or co-create a path to a more positive future. Our social (or literal) contract is then that we will provide financial recompense to the therapist in return for their service. It’s rarely optional, but it’s also less likely to be ten per cent of your income.
Is Confession any worse than Therapy?
The point here is to look at our needs within the context of society around us. We don’t need to reinvent society. We need to learn what systems have worked previously and understand how to adapt or improve them for our modern requirements. We need to bring the right people and groups together and enable the most capable amongst us to share the right skills and direction. We need to devolve the power of delivery to the groups and individuals best placed to do so.
We need to work together.
Do: The Future for the Third Sector
The Government and statutory bodies are struggling to deliver services with funding restrictions and reductions. The modern anthropology of our families and communities means that we are less physically connected (regardless of increases in digital connectedness). We are now reliant on community and charitable organisations to fill the void.
What’s the role of social enterprises in this space?
Charities do an incredible amount of work in improving lives for the people they serve. It’s getting harder for them to remain sustainable as competition for donations and grant funding becomes more difficult and less sizeable.
Charities are having to diversify their services to appeal to wider audiences while remaining true to their charitable objects. There is consolidation in the charity sector endangering the local expertise and knowledge required to fill that void in local communities.
There’s a balance we need to strike between Government and Society, between charitable organisations with enough critical mass and smaller organisations with local intelligence and capability.
Transferring from the private sector to the third sector is eye-opening for many reasons; the incredible amount of passion, hidden talent, and idealism balances off against siloed working, duplication, and unsustainable practice kept alive on the backs of volunteers and unpaid work.
Can Community Interest Companies (CICs) provide agility and dexterity that is complementary to the purpose and practice of charities and Charitable Incorporated Organisations (CIOs)? How can we make sure that they add value to the system and don’t add duplication or wastage?
Navigation of a system
When we talk of ‘a system’ or ‘the system’, we refer to networks and pathways and goals. To visualise an organisation’s work is a useful approach in project and resource planning but can be daunting and unsurmountable for the average bear (there’s more than one Yogi in our lexicon).
There is a movement we support that’s encouraging organisations to look at themselves in a broader context; the Theory of Change – a specific type of methodology for planning, participation, and evaluation used in companies, philanthropy, not-for-profit and Government sectors to promote social change. Theory of Change defines long-term goals and then maps backwards to identify necessary preconditions.
We need to be aware of what the situation is, and what work is accomplished both upstream and downstream of ourselves. We need to communicate that appropriately to different audiences, and we need to connect with organisations around us to complete the chain as efficiently and positively as possible.
There is no doubt that different routes can and should be taken by different people as they navigate whichever system they have entered (willingly or not).
The whole premise of person-centred planning is that we all are starting from different points, finishing in various locations, and either want or need to take our path (which may or may not be the easiest, shortest, or cheapest).
Your map and my map may be different, but the territory is precisely the same. We must empower you to navigate the territory using your map and not force you to use ours.
Communication is about achieving a complete transaction of information given and received – and crucially that those pieces of information must align and there is no loss or mistakes made from sender to receiver.
If someone doesn’t understand, then it is on us to explain it in a better way.
We work with people to help them articulate and communicate their ideas, often under difficult and challenging circumstances.
David and Goliath’s Positive Co-dependency
Large charities and community organisations have the magnitude to effect real, long-lasting change, and with efficiencies of scale, they can deliver outcomes on a grand scale.
Small charitable and community organisations are agile and lightweight, cost-effective and able to harness grassroots support, pivot quickly and efficiently to target support and assistance where, and crucially, when it’s needed.
We need both.
What if we could bring the benefits of sizeable organisational skill sets and expertise to help smaller charities and community groups to spend less time worrying about funding, management; and evaluation – and let them concentrate on the doing?
What if we could help larger charities to be more responsive and flexible in delivering discrete time-limited projects to target specific additional needs or handle intelligent load balancing.
We need an intermediary that doesn’t add layers of middle management.
Separating Ideation from Management from Delivery from Evaluation
Our vision is one where we balance the large and the small, the strong and sturdy with the small and agile. We want the Government and the private sector and the third sector to work together in efficient harmony. We want the best possible outcomes for the largest number of people in the shortest amount of time in the most available places.
Ideas come from everyone; people who receive services, staff and volunteers, trustees and management boards – but the ideas often vanish into a gap of funding or knowhow.
Project Management is often left to the people trying to deliver a service – people whose skill and passion for helping people is not matched by their skill and passion for Gantt charts and spreadsheets.
Evaluation is often a second thought, long after the project has gained momentum, heading towards an unknown and unplanned future, or it’s an expense that can’t be afforded at the cost of delivering part of the project.
We believe there’s a benefit in separating Ideation from Management from Delivery from Evaluation.
Ideas must be rooted in experience and especially in lived experience. Ideas must be co-created to embed that lived experience into everything from the outcome planning to the project communications.
Project Management must be viewed as a skill itself and budgeted for in the same way as accounting and utilities. Project management should not be an add-on for people who just want to spend more of their time helping other people.
Project Delivery is best carried out by an appropriate hand-picked team who balance lived experience with qualified skills and knowledge and ultimately possess compassion in volumes that no-one else can.
Project Evaluation must be considered at the start during the Project Ideation phase. If we don’t know what we will measure then how will we know if we succeed or what corrections to our course may be required?
Start: So what’s the plan?
We will start by listening to those with lived experience, and we will focus on diverse and changing needs and work backwards to determine what needs to be done.
We will bring together diverse organisations with unique skillsets and capabilities to deliver those projects at a local and individual level, and we will free up their time for delivery.
We will put in place talented project managers to relieve pressure on small organisations and free up that delivery time. We will create efficiency through working across multiple projects with insight into the largest number of charities, social enterprises, and community groups.
We will build evaluation into all project stages and bring together art and science with a qualitative and quantitative assessment thread running through everything we do. We will work to pull diverse evaluation data together to build a bigger and better picture of what we are all striving to achieve, and develop that Theory of Change in realtime.
We will create opportunities for people and communities. We will work together.