Over the last few weeks I have had the pleasure of spending some time with the individuals behind Kingston RISE, a new initiative set up in and around the Kingston area.
Kingston RISE was founded and developed by individuals in recovery, and aims to create a recovery community within the Kingston area where people can support one another to continue on their journeys through life. They run drop-in coffee sessions, walking groups, and many other activities that provide support for those who need it using a highly trained team of volunteers. On top of this, they actively link these individuals with other projects within the community. They say that as long as someone is clean and sober that day, they will never, ever be turned away from their service.
We first heard about Kingston RISE through Hestia – a local housing association that we had completed some fieldwork with at an earlier stage of the Connecting People study. Hestia told us about this new, exciting team of volunteers who were pushing Kingston RISE out into the community and gathering speed and support as every week went by. They also spoke about the support that they had lent to Kingston RISE in terms of training, contacts and business support. On speaking to individuals from Hestia, it is clear that they really believe in the ethos of Kingston RISE and are willing to go above and beyond to try to ensure that it is a success.
Another group that are in favour of Kingston RISE are the commissioners. They have aided Kingston RISE to grow and innovate without placing too many restrictions on the process, and have developed an excellent rapport with the individuals running the service. This friendliness allows for debate and discussion, rather than the banker-client relationship seen between so many councils and the projects that need funding. There is no feeling of anxiety before a meeting with the commissioner for Kingston RISE, which runs in sharp contrast to some other organisations that we have visited over the course of the project. The position that this relationship has put Kingston RISE in shows the crucial nature of the environment outside of the agency, as well as the agency itself in completing good work and helping individuals accessing the service.
Kingston RISE is all about co-production. They have trained themselves up with the help of Hestia and its resources, are working closely with the Environment Centre in Kingston, and have made links with many other local agencies, initiatives and organisations to fully involve themselves with the community. The philosophy of Kingston RISE is to always ask, and to see the possibilities in a situation that can make things better for both sides of the partnership. This allows them to move forward quickly, and keep things fresh and exciting.
The team of volunteer staff that are developing the project are also key. A good sense of humour is crucial, and jokes and banter flow freely between team members. The nature of their interactions instantly puts others entering their presence at ease – no mean feat for a service dealing with individuals suffering from high anxiety levels. There is no hierarchy in the team other than in title, and this rings true with the concept of developing a recovery community, rather than a specific organisation with boundaries. Volunteers have been comprehensively trained in a very dynamic fashion – comments (and the usual banter!) flowed freely throughout the session that I observed – and the outputs of these training sessions have formed the basis for a practical, user-friendly set of policies and procedures that really echo the way that Kingston RISE will run, rather than being a barrier to them moving forward.
These individuals were so outgoing, innovative and insightful that we invited them along to help us develop a new game – the ClearFear game – last week, which aims to relieve social anxiety. Details of our Game Camp can be read here but to whet your appetite, think hide and seek, superheroes and conquering nemeses and you are starting to get a picture of the two days at the camp…! Kingston RISE were – as is typical of them – upbeat and creative throughout, challenging the rules of the game and bringing even more laughter to the group.
There is a long road ahead for Kingston RISE, who are only now at the stage of putting on a full timetable of activities and running a complete service. However if the ethos stays the same, and they continue to win the backing of organisations in the area, then I am sure that they will succeed and grow even more.