About Hannah

Research Worker at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London

The training so far…

The Connecting People Study team have now trained 6 agencies on how to use the intervention in their daily practice.  Workers from all levels of seniority attended from the agencies, which allowed the intervention to be understood from both a practical and a more logistical perspective.  We hope that this will aid the dissemination of the intervention and training of other workers within the agencies as time goes on.

The agencies involved so far have been BlueSCI, Start Again Project, Grapevine, Waltham Forest 247 Markham Road, Waltham Forest CDS, and Wandsworth SCART.  Each training lasted for either 2 or 3 days, and shared a similar ‘core’ first day, during which the intervention model was described and explained fully and each agency’s existing practice was aligned with the principles of the intervention.  Activities also included a social network mapping exercise and some discussions on boundaries and barriers.  These activities were picked to give a good base of knowledge surrounding the intervention, as well as challenging workers to perhaps look at their practice from a new, and more personal perspective.  The ethos of the training and collectively determined guidelines ensured that trainers and workers from all levels of seniority were placed at the same level, allowing more useful communication to be achieved.

One major objective of the first day of training was to establish exactly what the agencies would need to cover over the rest of the sessions.  As the intervention is based on examples of existing good practice, all of the agencies were already strong in several aspects of the model.  This meant that we could really establish where the areas of need were and focus on training these.  It also meant that each agency (or group of agencies where more than one organisation trained together) received bespoke training that was tailored to their own wishes and needs.  Some agencies wanted help with the earlier stages of the intervention – for example building the relationships and trust with an individual, or seeing the assets within the community.  However, we found that most training need centred around the later stages of the intervention.  Agencies often felt that it would be hard to move people onto other activities outside of their service, and there were some concerns about stopping a relationship.  To tackle this we focussed significant amounts of training – where needed – on helping workers with these processes.  We talked about barriers to individuals moving on from an agency, for example complex external lives, and how to deal with this.

We asked those attending training to fill in feedback forms at the end of the first day, and at the end of all of the training.  This included ratings on how confident individuals felt about each aspect of the intervention model.  We used the first day forms alongside the feedback from the groups to guide the development of the subsequent training days.  We have also been looking at the ratings before and after the subsequent training, and have found that for the most part figures have increased for each agency, especially within the areas with lower confidence ratings that the training focussed on.

Although we spent a lot of time working with agencies as individual entities to ensure that the intervention works for them in the future, there was a lot of knowledge sharing between agencies when more than one were being trained together.  On two occasions, we trained agencies working with individuals with mental health problems alongside agencies working with individuals with learning disabilities.  These groups have commonalities in their needs that allowed for useful discussions to be held.  However, the differences between the groups meant that one agency were often able to problem solve for the other.  All agencies that trained with other organisations commented on how useful it was to have this differing point of view and learn from a completely different way of working.

We now have a short break from the training before it picks up in earnest again in September, where we will be training agencies nearly every day.  This will give us time to review the training exercises and refine them accordingly.  In the meantime, if you would like to have a go at one of the training exercises then try the below, where we are asking you to map and consider your social network.  Please give us any feedback that you have on this – hannah.reidy@kcl.ac.uk – we would love to hear from you!

Social network mapping exercise :

Draw a map of your social network, including factors (people) that protect your wellbeing.  This can be constructed in any way that you see fit, use your imagination, or have a look at the examples in the picture below.

  • Find a partner and get them to draw their social network too
  • Take it in turns to describe your network to your partner
  • Suggest another area that your partner could add to their network
  • Discuss whether there are negative influences within your social network and why
  • Talk about the direction of your network connections – what do these connections give to you?
  • What do you give to these connections (what are the assets that you give to your network)?

Questions to consider: look at your networks now through the lens of ‘the worker’. 

  • How many of these individuals are still within your network whilst you are at work – your professional network? 
  • How many of them disappear?
  • How many would you be willing to use to help an individual who you are working with?
  • Consider why you have responded in the way that you have to these questions

The context behind Connecting People

Professor David Morris is taking the lead for the UCLan half of the Connecting People Study, as it moves into the pilot study within agencies across England.  Here he tells us about his thoughts on the project as it is now, as well as putting the study into context within the policies that have guided its development.

Even at this early stage of Connecting People, we are clearly working with people and projects committed in their work to their users and to inclusion through participation. With our team, I am pleased to be working with organisations of very varying size and reach to see how their work can be shaped or underpinned by our intervention. Our intervention is not, however, set in stone; there is an extent to which it will itself be shaped by local experience and it is equally therefore a pleasure to be working with our sites reflectively – creating some time and space for collective conversation about what together might be achieved. It is already clear that this opportunity is equally valued by colleagues within the study sites for whom the day to day pressures of the work do not always allow for time to think and share as a team the experience of the work or their aspirations for it.

The process of our research is thus a co-productive one and in this we are likely to be reflecting the ways in which the intervention itself will be used locally. This seems to me to be really important. Services do not always work with their users to co-produce a way of meeting inclusion goals. Their work is often constrained by the imperative of quick outcome or confined to identifying individual goals and ambitions rather than enabling the realisation of these ambitions. Very often, these ambitions are simply about making a contribution as a citizen, offering personal assets – skills, experience, interest, enthusiasm – to a community (what I have heard described in some quarters as ‘Big Society’!). Since communities can of course be inhospitable places, these opportunities for community participation can be elusive unless (and perhaps even if) they are pursued through an approach to service delivery that incorporates both a ‘literacy’ about community assets and social networks and practical strategies for building the capacity of both.

The ideas that we are advancing here are rooted most recently in the social inclusion policy of the last government (but still largely relevant to the current one) that was set out in the series of reports from the cross-government Social Exclusion Unit. The five year National Social Inclusion programme (NSIP) was established in 2004 to oversee implementation that report which set out the evidence for exclusion in mental health and with it, some 27 sets of actions to address exclusion; to promote in policy and practice the rights of people with mental health problems to equity in relation to employment and, as importantly, community participation.

It was always clear that achieving change in relation to community participation would require a shift in the relationship of services to communities, harnessing the tasks of care, support and recovery to a more collaborative, constructive and engaging contract with communities themselves. While we saw in the National Service Framework the emergence of multiple forms of community mental health team, little attention had or has been given to how they – or any other part of the service system – would draw on and build up the social value of communities and their connectedness as an essential contribution to the service process. As a programme, we wanted to redress this imbalance, linking up with mainstream agencies to shape an agenda for connected communities in mental health. This was a commitment that migrated with me at the end of NSIP to the Inclusion Institute and it has been realised in a number of ways. For example, with the Royal Society for Arts and London School of Economics we established, with Big Lottery funding, the five year Connected Communities programme which is working on social network interventions in seven sites and elsewhere is provoking interest from many quarters nationally and internationally.

This then is the context in which ‘Connecting People’ sits. It is one that in turn will be enriched by the study and I hope in being part of the study, participants in it will feel part of that broader context. I would certainly want to promote that. People’s imagination and good work in this field need more than ever to be celebrated as a source of learning for others and we welcome your views about how, beyond the study, we can together best support that aim. In the meantime, despite the shocking impact of austerity to date and to come – and indeed, in part, because of it, there are significant opportunities to reveal innovation and to grow it appreciatively. This is what Connecting People is about. I look forward to our work together. Thank you for being part of it.

David Morris

Delphi Consultation now underway!

Hi all,

We are currently mid-way through the first stage of our consultation process, where we are asking individuals from lots of different backgrounds and areas of expertise to comment on the Practice Guidance for the Connecting People intervention.  This is a manual that will help workers to use the intervention effectively with the individuals who they work with.

We would like as many opinions as possible within this consultation process. If you would like to get involved, please click on the ‘Delphi Consultation’ link at the top of the header of this website.  Here you will find lots more information and links to the documents that we are using for the consultation process.



After a week off holidaying, I have returned to the office to put the finishing touches on the draft of our practice guidance.  The study’s advisory committee are now commenting on the initial draft and I am currently implementing any changes that they have suggested for improvements.  In the next couple of weeks, we will send it out far and wide for comments in a consultation process, and refine it further according to what the people included at this stage think.

The practice guidance is essentially a manual which acts a as a reference guide for workers using the intervention.  It explains each part of the process, and gives gold standard approaches as well as lots of case studies from the research that has been completed to bring the guide to life.  The manual is colourful and contains photographs and extracts from websites from some of the participating agencies – all of this endeavouring to make it as easy-to-use, and attractive-to-use, as possible.  Alongside the practice guidance, training is being developed.  The practice guidance gives the ‘what things are’ of the intervention, and the training the ‘how things are done’ to fit with it.

We aim to gain as many different perspectives as possible during the intervention consultation process in order to ensure that the feedback we receive is full and comprehensive.  We are therefore going to be consulting a wide range of people: service users, volunteers, workers, management, associated agencies, advisory agencies, experts in the field of social capital, commissioners….the list goes on!  If you would like to be involved in the consultation process, then we would like to hear from you.  Your viewpoint will be unique and therefore of interest to us!  Email me on hannah.reidy@kcl.ac.uk for more information.

Kingston Recovery Alliance

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.

Connecting the theory with the practice

Up to this point, our research has been focussed on gathering evidence from extensive fieldwork to form the base of our intervention.  We have travelled to projects all over the UK and consulted with a wide range of people engaging with different services including workers, volunteers, linked organisations, individuals accessing services, and funders.  This has aimed to ensure that the model is grounded in practical examples, and accurately reflects the processes that occur when a worker and a service user work together to increase the individual’s social capital.  Have a look  to understand in more detail the different components of the model.

Whilst we are still conducting fieldwork within several agencies, we are starting now to draw on our model to form the basis of a user-friendly, comprehensive guide of how to utilise the intervention.  We understand that whilst it is all well and good to have produced the model in the diagrammatical form you see in here, or if you prefer a more detailed explanation of the components on Martin Webber’s blog here, the professionals using it to guide their practice will need a more complete and practical set of materials to work from.

To do this, we are taking information from the fieldwork and using it to ‘flesh out’ the model – providing real-life examples at each of the stages.  For example, at the ‘building relationships’ stage on the worker side we will discuss points learned from interviews with service users as to what a worker can do to make them feel comfortable, including the importance of keeping to regular meeting times, remembering names and key facts.  We will also add suggestions that were given by workers at the projects we have studied on how to build rapport – for example sharing a small amount of information about themselves, or discovering shared interests to create an equal footing for the relationship to be based upon.

In order to supplement these practical ideas, we will also be producing a version of the model containing the procedures of a fictitious ‘gold standard’ organisation.  This takes the elements that different organisations from the study excel at and combines them to provide the ‘perfect’ example of how the intervention will work.  We hope that by combining the practical hints and tips, as well understanding how all of the processes fit together within this ‘gold standard’, professionals will be able to use the intervention to suit their own working style and the strengths and limitations of their organisation.

By continuing to conduct fieldwork as this process occurs, the model stays fresh and dynamic and ensures that the practical guidance that we offer from it does the same.

Once we have completed this process, we will be sending out a draft of the model and accompanying guidance to a wide range of individuals for their opinions.  If you are reading this post and feel that you would like to offer your perspective, please do get in touch with one of us at the study and we can talk about how you would like to contribute.

Next week, we will be visiting a project supported by Hestia in Kingston called Kingston RISE.  This service user led group is big on co-production with other organisations and should help us to discover more about how best organisations can link with external agencies to increase their members’ social capital.  For more information on Kingston RISE’s work, please have a look at this article.

Freezing but fun football fieldwork with Start Again

I spent last week in Birmingham visiting Start Again CIC – an organisation that provides a wide range of activities to engage young people from the local area and support them with decisions, changes and issues during an uncertain time in their life.

The original premise of Start Again used football as an engagement tool to encourage young people from the local community to participate, learning along the way lessons in teamwork and communication as well as about healthy lifestyles.  Start Again has since expanded into other sports (netball and yoga) and other activities (music) – as well as being due to open a semi-supported housing project in the next few months.  All of these streams aim to share the same ethos and atmosphere of openness and equality.

I spent the bulk of my time in Birmingham at the Powerleague pitches in Aston, where the football projects are run from.  I observed a variety of different groups of individuals accessing the Start Again scheme – from an open session where anyone could come along, to a closed session where clients from housing associations and the Early Intervention Service were participating.  I also observed a session of the Start Again/Development Keys ‘Winning Ways’ programme, consisting of 16-18 year olds from a local training centre. This again used football as the engagement tool, but taught more formal connections between behaviour and football inside the clubhouse, before the physical training began.  The ethos amongst all groups was the same, though, and it was a passion for playing the game.  As my predecessor David had reported last year, the footballers were effectively communicating and ‘playing fair’ throughout.  The impact of the Start Again value set was especially apparent during the Winning Ways session where lessons from the classroom were being played out clearly on the pitch.

As well as interviewing coaches, players and other staff at the Powerleague pitches, I also spent some time speaking to individuals with an external perspective of Start Again.  These included staff members from the EIS, supported housing agencies and the workers at the PCT.  These, combined with the internal perspectives of individuals who had been involved with the service for varying lengths of time, provided me with a rounded viewpoint on Start Again, how it has changed in the past year, and how it is continuing to change to fit in with future need.

I did not get the chance to attend any of the women’s only groups which is something that I am very keen to do in order to better assess the difference between programmes.  I will therefore be returning to Birmingham one Friday in February.  If anyone associated with Start Again would like to talk to me about their experience of the organisation, then please contact me on hannah.reidy@kcl.ac.uk and we can arrange a meeting.

In the meantime, the findings from this round of fieldwork from Start Again has allowed us to further refine the intervention model. This will ensure that it will fit with an organisation very different from BlueSCI in Manchester, by digging down to the essence of the process.

Thank you very much to everyone at Start Again for making me feel so welcome – and unobtrusive – last week.  I am aware that a female standing trying to remember the offside rule is not the most normal sight at the Powerleague pitches, but people carried on regardless! You allowed me to gain some really valuable insight into how Start Again’s processes work, and we look forward to sharing the results with you all soon.

Birmingham visit

Next week I will be going to visit the Start Again project based in Birmingham to complete the next round of fieldwork at this organisation.  Start Again uses sports as well as other activities to bring young people together in the Birmingham area.

As with BlueSCI, I will be hoping to catch up with interviewees from the last round of fieldwork to examine how they have moved through the organisation.  I will also spend time chatting to individuals who are associated with Start Again such as other linked organisations, referrers, and funding commissioners, to understand the project from a external perspective.

I will be getting involved with some of the activity sessions to gain an insider view of how the sessions work – apologies now for my netballing skills…!

More on the research at Start Again when I get up there, but here is a link to their website for further information on the organisation…


The Updated Intervention Model! Comments Please!

Now the fieldwork at BlueSCI is complete, a model of the intervention upon which we will base all of our training material is ready for your comments.  This is still a work in progress and has the potential to change based on any findings in later fieldwork.

You can either click on the link here for the animated version The Updated Intervention Model (you will need powerpoint to view this), or have a look at the still image below.

We would really value any comments that you have about this model.  Is there something missing, or something that you feel doesn’t need to be included? Please place any comments below this post, or email them to us directly at hannah.reidy@kcl.ac.uk

Thanks, and we look forward to hearing your views!

2nd week in Manchester

This week I spent Monday to Wednesday with BlueSCI.  On Monday I visited the Sale Waterside Arts Centre to explore the Digital Organics Exhibition created by Seed Studios.  The works were all incredibly creative and it was great to be able to see the input of so many talented individuals from BlueSCI in one place.

On Tuesday, I visited the Partington Library and Wellbeing Centre – the newest member of the BlueSCI family.  This place has a very different feel to the Old Trafford building – it seems like more of a community centre with lots of links out to local organisations, as against Old Trafford which holds the bulk of its resources on site.  It was very useful talking to the people who access Partington BlueSCI, establishing how they use the service and how it is developing since it opened earlier in the year. There were some really interesting contrasts between the two centres, however a lot of the BlueSCI ethos seems to be shared – and adapted – to suit both environments.

On Wednesday, it was women’s day at Old Trafford BlueSCI.  I knitted and nattered with the group in the cafe, and had the chance to talk to lots of people who use the service on a less formal level – for example just coming in to go on the computers or to grab lunch.  This gave me a good perception of the range of different ways that different people engage with BlueSCI, from those who come in every day, volunteer, and get fully involved to those who find BlueSCI’s value in the facilities that it offers or the friendships that it allows them to form.

I have returned to London with a lot of leads to follow up and material to look through.  This includes talking to people who work in the agencies and organisations that link with BlueSCI, to understand external perceptions. I do feel that I am getting to the point where I have a very full picture of BlueSCI, and this will be reflected in changes to the intervention model which will be displayed on this blog for your comments in the coming weeks.

Thank you to all of you at BlueSCI who were so very helpful during my time up with you!