The Story So Far
Chapter 1 - An insight and an opportunity (1977-1986)
After more than a year (1977-78) of working as a psychiatric social worker, I had begun to realise that the reason many of my clients became ill was because of the circumstances in which they lived. It was the issues with which they were having to cope that caused their depression and anxiety. An opportunity arose to work with a community in which many of my clients lived. The brief was to 'do something creative' with the parents of young children in order to reduce the number of children coming into care, or being placed on the child abuse register. Two of us were appointed. We listened to parents, we asked what ideas they had for making life better for themselves and their children and then we supported them put those ideas into practice. Eight years later there was a thriving network of community provision for families, a Community Council of residents and workers and reduced numbers of children coming into care. Today we would call it 'Sure Start'. (Holme Wood Parents Project 1979 - 1986)
Learning and development: Group work, communication with a wide range of people, building relationships across professional boundaries, developing negotiation skills and a 'can do' attitude to problem-solving.
Chapter 2 - Replicating, testing and learning (1987-1991)
The test of the robustness of the results of a new experiment is that it can be replicated. I believed that the Holme Wood Parents project was a model for work with other communities. A return to my Christian faith provided an unexpected opportunity to test the model elsewhere. In 1987 I became the senior community worker for the Diocese of Bradford. Working with the Reverend Bill Holliday, in All Saints Parish, Little Horton provided the chance to apply what had been learnt on Holme Wood and to expand that learning. Bill was brilliant in letting me have my head and providing just the right combination of challenge and support. With former social services colleagues, Ginny Murphy and Chris Rollins, and a partnership of local residents, the Church, Housing and Social Services the Hutson Street Project was created. What was new about this work was the partnership between the Church, local residents and public services. Local residents became part of the management committee. Five years on the project had created bonds between people in a place where there had been no sense of community. Local people were providing activities and opportunities that enriched families and individuals. The project was featured in television programmes and newspaper articles. It continues in a different form to this day.
Learning and development: Fundraising, public speaking, writing and presentational skills, honing partnership building skills, learning to think theologically, preaching in parishes and Cathedrals.
Chapter 3 - Powerful Whispers: A Step-Change in Possibility (1992-2000)
By 1991 whilst it was clear to me that project work enhanced the lives of the people it served, there was a bigger job to be done if we were to make a difference to all the communities in Bradford. I was appointed to the post of Bishop's Officer for Church in Society. With the Bishop's support and in partnership with a Methodist colleague we organised for the decision-makers in the city to listen in silence to people living in four of the disadvantaged areas. The people described what they liked about living in their neighbourhood, the actions they were taking to make it better and their hopes and fears for the future. It had a powerful impact on those decision-makers. The findings were published and 200 people came together at Bradford's first whole systems conference.
That work led to the project C2M which modelled new ways of working between public services and communities and influenced central government policy.
Learning and Development: Strategic and political influencing and persuasion, whole systems thinking and planning, 'big picture' thinking and connections, building relationships and networks at a national as well as local level.