“Social Prescribing” or “Enabling Wellbeing”?
As 2017 nears its end, Inspire Women reflect on a year of incredible transformations; great learning and visibility. Discussions centre on individual and group achievements; the Ghosts of Christmas Past, and the hopes and desires of things to come. I am continuously in awe of the courage and dedication of the women who turn up every day. Change Makers who have created a space from where women can claim and live a different story, regaining her voice and inspiring others to do the same.
Inspire’s transformation and visibility emerges, and is played out by each woman who courageously embraces the change for themselves. An amazing experience of liberation and opportunity; of equality and enabling with a real sense of belonging and community. Active citizens engaged in developing and growing in a label free, thriving, empowered space.
We speak freely and openly without fear of judgement. A community of women who once shared common labels, and a lack of belonging and connection. MaryAnne talks about not being afraid anymore. “I have looked for fear and I cannot find her”. ” I stopped taking medication in August, just a few months after joining Inspire”. Noreen shares that her mood is so much better, “I feel happy here, before Inspire I was sad every day”. Louise talks about her journey of becoming visible, of bringing singing into the Centre, sharing her moments of overcoming feelings of humiliation. Other women speak about their anxiety and depression no longer being a prominent story in their lives. Anji talks about finding the things that she always needed, and the time she has spent searching. We reflect on the huge amount of learning we have all undertaken, excited about the new opportunities emerging in 2018 and of the journeys our Members are taking. We talk about our hopes and dreams and look forward to lots more “Power Showers” (Singing/Dancing/Meditation and visibility) ,and pink wigs!
A DESIRE TO INFLUENCE THE INFLUENCERS
Our Women First Voices Campaign focuses on the voice and visibility of women with an emphasis on enabling their voices to be heard, being visible at decision making tables, and influencing agendas that affects the lives of women and their children. This is very much about our desire to develop a “Movement For Change- Becoming Visible- #womenfirstchangemakers”.A DESIRE TO INFLUENCE THE INFLUENCERS
All of the women involved with Inspire, Members and Associates are so very far removed from decision making and influencing. We are making some progress; two Associates are involved in the Oldham DV Partnership, however there is still a long way to go in terms of women feeling they have a voice. Part of my capacity building support this year has been to attempt to bring an understanding of the external environment of decision making, and influencing into the Centre.
This has included Oldham’s Thriving Communities Agenda; The People’s Powerhouse and the Greater Manchester Strategy; Our People, Our Place. I believe that one of my biggest challenges as a Heart Centred Social Leader is to straddle these two worlds. One world brings a sense of community, joy, wonder, Inspiration and hope every time I step into the space. The other often leaves me feeling like we have such a huge way to go in terms of equality of power within influencing structures, women having a voice and visibility.
Earlier this year I spoke briefly at an event organised by CLES in Manchester. Here I spoke about being tired of writing proposals and bids that described women as disadvantaged vulnerable, unreachable; and being equally as tired of the system that disempowered women, made them unequal – the fixer and the victim.
I shared that I chose to walk a different path; to unlearn and to learn, to use a different language, and that women joined me who were once described as that and more, and who now run a Women’s Centre in Oldham. A centre built on kindness and equality, of women re-awakening. I truly believe that when we start from a place of seeing people as disadvantaged and discuss how we enable them in their absence, we send a message that says the only way out for you is being fixed or rescued. They are only ever a passenger. I often consider what we really mean when we say “people” and “community”. Empowerment is a crucial ingredient here that is lacking in traditional models. Systems and processes become exclusive and excluding with ideology based on “experts” and “professionals”. I know there are lots of new jargon, new words to describe people with “lived experience”. Those new words however do nothing to change the systems and processes.
There is a huge societal value if we can move away from a them and us mentality; those who “solve” and those who receive the “fixing”. Victor Frankl speaks about people who find meaning in their life surviving anything. Inspire see this in the awakening journey’s of women. As women re-discover their gifts, passion and purpose every part of their lives change. Creating a space for their voices to be heard is a crucial aspect of this.
I also believe that when we start from a different space; create a different environment; use a different language we see amazing transformations. Women flourish and thrive and reclaim their identity. I believe the latter is absolutely what we have to achieve across GM if we are all to feel a sense of belonging to ” Our People, Our Place “.
Reflecting on 2017’s “Finding Me” , “Give it a Go”, and “Girls Just want to have Fun” sessions allows us to consider and discuss the transformation journeys of Associates and Members, along with the framework they sit in. A number of common elements emerge:
- Women choose the change they seek- we do not prescribe nor do we force
- A strong focus on “wellness” not “illness”
- A strong focus on names not labels or histories
- Asset based working lies at the heart of everything we do and is visible in every part of who and what we are- equal
- We develop what women say they want with them, and provide a space from where they can grow, connect, contribute, have a voice and become visible
- We grow Heart Centred Leaders who inspire others through their connections, their passion and commitment
- We change constantly- evolve- emerge – as does what we co-produce
- We do things better because we know what we want – we are not controlled- we have found the freedom and a sense of belonging we were seeking
The evolution of the women drives what is delivered at the Centre. As Members become Associates they inspire other women through the sharing of new stories that are label free, that show wisdom, hope and changed lives.
There has been a heightened visibility of “Social Prescribing” discussions this year. I first came across this concept in 2010 and I believed then, as I do now that we are missing a trick if we fail to shift the power to the wider community, and to those who are in receipt of the services.
We recently began looking at what the Social Prescribing Agenda looked like for women at the Centre. In considering this we looked at it from the perspective of ” Our People, Our Place”. This Greater Manchester Strategy appears to offer and evoke a sense of belonging and opportunities for change.
The Implementation plan states:
“We will work in partnership to improve the health of all GM residents”
“Development of a GM programme for person–centred and community based approaches with funding agreed and resource established to support localities”
When we consider those two statements we acknowledge that all includes us, and that we understand person centred and community based, as they are two of the things from which we emerged. We don’t however have a desire to be a “GM” Programme unless that is truly person centred and community based. We want to continue to be led and shaped by Oldham Women, as indeed we feel sure Rochdale, Manchester etc women will too. We would like to discuss what that partnership will look like ,and who that is with; we would like very much for partners to meet us at our table. We know the Plan states the H&SCP (Strategic Partnership Board) Health & Social Care. Do they know Inspire? How do we get our voices heard there? Who represents women and women’s voices there?
The Implementation Plan also states:
-“Pioneer, within this programme, an approach based on the strengths and assets of local residents / communities, and radical expansion of ‘social prescribing’ approaches recognising contributions that housing, work, physical activity and social connections make to improving health.
When we use words like “Pioneer” it evokes a sense of exploration; discovery, creation, belonging and community. When we then blend with approaches that recognises the strengths and assets of local people we really start to get interested, even excited. Could we have reached a moment in time where women truly become equal partners in their health journey?
My own excitement is short lived as I read words like “Radical Expansion” and “Social Prescribing”. The word prescribing still implies and sounds like “doing to”. So the language doesn’t sit well with what I understand as strength based approaches, increasing autonomy and equality in power relationships, which I feel lies at the heart of real success. We can argue that this is something different; it’s a new way, we re-define it to make it so. The gift of time and experience has enabled me to see and experience that new words “Buzz words” offer many organisations opportunities to rebrand existing services, with little focus on the cultural and power changes necessary to achieve non-deficit based models. The desire to replicate- even “radically” replicate does not support strength based approaches. Each individual, community etc has its unique gifts, assets and sense of place.
I am asked often is it possible to replicate Inspire. The answer is always the same – no, that was never our intention. It is disempowering for the community that “receives” the model. Inspire as a model should and indeed does inspire other women; our journey stories encompass lots of wisdom, lessons learnt; kindness, hope and determination, and that is what we share. We recently shared our story in the Oldham Public Health Annual Report, p.37-38, where we are illustrated as a great example of a thriving community.
So we are left wondering and hopeful as 2017 draws to a close. Hopeful that 2018 is a radical year for Inspire and for women, as it was 100 years ago for my Great, Great Grandmother, when she voted for the first time.
OUR 12 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS – ENABLING WELLBEING
And the 12 days of Christmas we promised you ……….. our own journeys enabling wellbeing- rather than Social Prescribing
- On the 1st day of Christmas I had an opportunity to have an equal role in my health journey
- On the 2nd day of Christmas I had the opportunity to connect with kind women from the Inspire Community
- On the 3rd day of Christmas I had the opportunity to chat and laugh rather than going to my GP
- On the 4th day of Christmas I had the opportunity to sing and dance and try some karaoke
- On the 5th day of Christmas I had the opportunity to hear beautiful music and relax with great company
- On the 6th day of Christmas I had the opportunity to move my body and eat more healthy
- On the 7th day of Christmas I had the opportunity to connect with nature and holistic therapy
- On the 8th day of Christmas I had the opportunity to draw and write sharing my inspiring story
- On the 9th day of Christmas I had the opportunity to share my gifts and become part of the Inspire Women Family
- On the 10th day of Christmas I had the opportunity to develop and grow women’s services in my community
- On the 11th day of Christmas I was given the opportunity to influence and change health services for women locally
- On the 12th day of Christmas I had the opportunity to celebrate and share my amazing health recovery
ON FEELING BETRAYED
Maria, one of our Associates reflects on her journey through health:
” I was given my first label when I was 11 years old. I have always struggled with communicating with health professionals regarding my mental health. When I said, this isn’t working, or this doesn’t feel right, instead of someone looking at my life and helping me to understand reactions to trauma, I was given another label and a different or additional course of medication. Eventually I felt that I could no longer trust my own mind or body. I never heard anyone say to me, you feel like this because of this experience etc. It was always that there was something wrong with me. I feel this is a dangerous cycle, hard to break, and stretched over a period of time the people who I had hoped would help me to feel better, just made me feel worse. I feel very betrayed when I look back, so many lost years, so easy to medicate and no therapeutic alternatives offered. I wonder how many other women like me there are? It states that when a child is prescribed medication a talking therapy should be equally offered alongside the tablets. That is something I never had, it never got discussed, and affected me way into my 30’s”.
Sally Bonnie Founder-Inspire Women Oldham Members and Associates