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Changing cultures and exploring what a good life looks like

10 May 2022 · Categories: Communities Care, Events, Innovators Learn, Wales

2 weeks – 2 countries – 1 speed networking event and 2 “Helping people to get a good life” workshops!

As people start to come back together I had a wonderful two weeks getting out and about and doing what we do best – bringing people on the journey of understanding more about the great support that community enterprises offer. There is nothing like face-to-face contact to build relationships and find out more about the variety and range of support options on offer in a local area.

Speed networking with community enterprises in England

A photo of a mixed group of 19 local community micro-enterprise leaders and other social work professionals sat in rows facing the camera and smiling. So, my first pit stop was in Central Bedfordshire – over the years we have run several speed networking events in the area. It was great to do this again for the first time since Covid! Alongside Ian Hanton, Commissioning Manager at the Council and my colleague Elaine Davin-Jones; we took one big community room and filled it with twenty-five fantastic leaders from local community enterprises and a good mix of social workers Direct Payment teams/link workers and others who advise people about the different care or support options available to them.

Great event – great opportunity to meet lots of providers and learn about services I have never heard of

Social worker

A photo of the workshop in progress with local community micro-enterprise leaders and other social work professionals . People are sat around several circular tables in groups. They are chatting with each other and writing notes.We split the group up across 7 tables, community enterprise leaders introduced themselves on each table, then moved to the next table after 10 mins while other staff stayed seated. There was plenty of moving, talking and sharing of leaflets and contact details – all on the call of my whistle 😊

When people connected [through the Community Catalysts speed networking sessions] they could have that relationship moment, that sense of community [and] understand each other…and they started to find solutions – that was the opening door moment that allowed us to shift some of that culture away from ‘it’s a bit risky to do that’ to actually saying ‘there are some really cool solutions here’

Ian Hanton – Development and Commissioning Manager @ Central Bedfordshire Council

Building connections with community enterprises in Wales

In my second week, I travelled to Denbighshire to run 2 x 3 hour workshops – in two different venues in one day! This time I was joined by David Soley, Lead Commissioner at the Council and my colleague Fabrizio Donati.

As our project in Denbighshire is still in its infancy this was our first face-to-face event with staff teams due to Covid so it was great to see people from different teams such as commissioners, Direct Payment teams/Single Point of Access Teams/social workers and staff from the local carers’ organisation.

David opened the workshop by giving practitioners the backing from the Council to really embrace the new types of support on offer from community enterprises. In this style of workshop, staff are asked to take off their work glasses, forget eligibility criteria/assessments and talk to a colleague about what a good life looks like for them and an older relative that they know. We didn’t want service language like “inclusion” or “person-centred care”- we wanted to hear things like “going to the pub” and “catching up with friends”. Good food and loving our pets (dogs in the main) came out on top in both workshops…

…Of interest, “personal care” didn’t factor in anyone’s good life!!!…

…The resounding message was that personalisation is tricky – what is meaningful to one person is different to the next, so having a choice of quality options from many community enterprises who bring their own passions and skills really helps people to find the right support that works for them.

Meeting community enterprises – made it realistic. [It was really useful to see] the variety of support offered and its flexibility.

Staff at event

Later in the workshop, two amazing community enterprise leaders from SAFE and Lean On Me talked about what they offer in the local area. As a group, we then used lots of Post-it notes to identify all the good outcomes that they, and other, community enterprises could provide. We also looked at what barriers there might be for people in using a community enterprise. The exercise proved a great opportunity to share information, highlight where we can work together and to continue busting those myths and perceived risks to move towards changing cultures…something Denbighshire are leading the way with.

The power of connections

During the exercises, a social worker mentioned that someone they were supporting who has dementia was struggling to get extra help in their home due to having large dogs – traditional homecare agencies were unwilling to offer support.

We’re looking at really unique support for this person…someone who can build a relationship


Hazel from SAFE stepped in to say that as she has 4 huge dogs of her own she would welcome the opportunity to be introduced to the person (and dogs!). We’re looking forward to hearing how they get on once they’ve been introduced!

I have 4 dogs of my own…and I’m all about that personable, bespoke care


It’s been a while since I ran speed networking and in-person workshops and it was a real breath of fresh air to get back together, meet amazing people and help build those local connections to create the conditions for community enterprises to thrive – offering more choice and control for local people.

By Helen Allen – Director of Community Enterprise

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