Fundamental to the intervention is the use of local community resources to help individuals to become more integrated into mainstream activities; meeting others from within and outside mental health services. It is necessary for workers to share their knowledge of community resources to help this process be as efficient and useful as possible.
Many of the skilled workers engaged in the Connecting People Intervention Study have their own bank of local knowledge. When asked where information about the local opportunities for social participation is captured, we heard of physical files, computer drives, or more commonly described by one worker who simply pointed to her head! It is true, agency teams hold a dearth of knowledge in each worker, some of whom are “experts” in various domains of the community such as sport groups or religious associations. But collectively across the team, greater knowledge of the community (local or community of interest) can reduce workload over time.
Therefore, we have found one useful training activity for agency teams has been the identification and mapping of community assets. The session aims to look at how relationships with the wider community can be developed for both workers and individuals.
Typically the session begins as a group discussion (or small groups by local teams) to define “community asset” and provide examples based on current case loads. We ask workers to each write five community assets on small slips of paper.
We then ask workers to share their five assets with the other team members, and in the centre of the room work together to somehow group the assets. For example, in one training session workers grouped assets into the following domains:
- Religious and Cultural Groups
- Arts and Crafts
- Alternative Therapies
- Non-Commissioned Services
- Neighbourhood Activities/Associations/Events
- Other: LGBT, Women’s groups, etc
In another training session, workers identified all the services and assets within specific geographical areas.
Once the arrangement has been established, workers are encouraged to add assets from their own knowledge of the local community. By the end of the session a small map of the community assets has been created. Some questions to consider of the group: What might be the connections between these assets? Where do the workers and individuals fall within this map? What assets might service users bring that workers are unaware of, how can they become involved in the mapping process?
Lastly we encourage the team to develop Action Plans through discussion of how community mapping can move forward, be regularly used and updated, and become a shared resource within the agency. Feedback from workers has been positive and we can already see that agencies are taking this on as an opportunity to create resource directories and as a dynamic way of sharing local knowledge.