Connecting People Study presentations

Dr Martin Webber gave two presentations about the Connecting People study at an NIHR School for Social Care Research mental health research seminar on Thursday 5th December 2013 in London.

The seminar heard presentations from:

  • Jerry Tew on family approaches to reablement
  • Julia Stroud on service user and practitioner experiences of Community Treatment Orders
  • Eva Cyhlarova on direct payments for people who lack capacity
  • Rich Watts on employment supports for people with mental health problems

Slides from the event will be posted on the NIHR School for Social Care Research in due course. However, in the meantime here are the two presentations he gave on the Connecting People Study:

Presentation #1: Developing a social capital intervention for people with psychosis: an ethnographic study of social capital generation and mobilisation

Presentation #2: Social care interventions that promote social participation and well-being: A mixed methods study

To get a flavour of the discussion during the event, please click on the link below to take you to the twitter stream:



Issue 4 Connecting People Newsletter

Here is issue 4 of the Connecting People newsletter. In this issue we have updates from the team as well as news about the International Issue 4Centre for Mental Health Social Research (ICMHSR). We also take a closer look at one of the agencies involved in the study, n-compass.

Please let us know what you think of the newsletter. Also, if you have ideas for things you want to see in Issue 5 please get in touch.

Many thanks

The Connecting People Study Team

Issue 3 Connecting People Newsletter

Here is issue 3 of the Connecting People newsletter. In this issue we have updates from the team as well as news of the development of a new training package encompassing video footage of the Connecting People Intervention in action. We also take a closer look at one of the agencies involved in the study.

Issue 3 Connecting People NewsletterPlease let us know what you think of the newsletter. Also, if you have ideas for things you want to see in Issue 4 please get in touch.

Many thanks

The Connecting People Study Team

Issue 2 Connecting People Newsletter

Here is Issue 2 of the Connecting People Newsletter. In this issue we are looking at the Connecting People Intervention in Practice, recruitment to the study and the process of interviewing participants.

Issue 2Please let us know what you think of the newsletter. Also, if you have ideas for things you want to see in Issue 3 please get in touch.

Many thanks

The Connecting People Study Team

International reach of the Connecting People Intervention

I am very fortunate to hold two roles with the Connecting People Intervention: one, as the full-time London based research worker on the pilot study, and two, as a part-time PhD student exploring the international scope of the intervention model.  To address the wide gap in global mental health implementation research and to promote capacity building of researchers in lower-and middle-income countries, I am working on expansion of the Connecting People Intervention to under-developed contexts that currently lack critical resources and skills.

Juggling two roles is not unfamiliar to me, for several years I have pursued my career in psychology research whilst also serving as a director for the small African development charity, SpanAfrica.   But until very recently these two passions for me—the drive to inform evidence-based research and to support meaningful change in underdeveloped countries—have not converged.  This is precisely the reason I jumped at the opportunity to explore the feasibility of taking the UK-based Connecting People Intervention to low- and middle-income countries (LAMICs).

I believe the Connecting People Intervention model has great potential to enhance health and wellbeing of vulnerable populations in LAMICs, especially with its focus on social participation.  I see the intervention as an opportunity to enhance social relationships between individuals whilst also developing the local community through existing services.  But most importantly the intervention model we have developed in the UK cannot simply be imposed on communities across the globe, instead my PhD will explore the ways that the CPI can be adapted to fit the local context.

With a background in health psychology and experience working in severely disadvantaged areas of Africa, I am often challenged by the varying approaches to addressing health inequalities through sustainable development.  We see blanket approaches where non-governmental organisations and international institutions will address seemingly similar issues exactly the same across vastly different countries or regions.

A story comes to mind of an NGO who visited a small rural town and asked male leaders what they needed most for their community. They responded, “a water well” because the women had to walk miles each day to access clean water.   The well was constructed but shortly after installation many people in the community fell ill and they determined it was the new well. What the male leaders didn’t understand was how important that daily walk was for the women.  It was their time for socialising, peace, and exercise.  One woman missed that time so much that she began contaminating the well water just to have that time back.  This is a story that reminds us the importance of truly addressing the needs of the entire community. Whilst the NGO had good intentions, and even worked with the local leaders, it wasn’t sustainable to the entire community.  Of course clean water is vital but perhaps the NGO could have consulted the entire community and in addition to providing clean water also considered opportunities for social participation.

Integral to conducting research in LAMICs is the need to establish strong relationships with key stakeholders to capture a realistic description of the challenges faced by vulnerable adults in the community.  Recently I have been collaborating with individuals from the King’s Centre for Global Health to explore the possibility of piloting the Connecting People Intervention in Sierra Leone.  The connections we are making now will enable us to reach individuals across health and social care systems in Sierra Leone to engage with community-based organisations, medical professionals, religious and community leaders, other mental health researchers, policy makers, and importantly, service users.  Connecting with these individuals in the research development stages, we seek to find the critical balance between addressing local needs in Sierra Leone with the innovative approaches that have been found effective in the UK.

We have developed a multinational research network that draws expertise and skills from diverse disciplines including social work and social policy, social and health psychology, medicine and nursing, global health policy and international development.  As a team we are scattered across the United Kingdom, Sierra Leone, and Australia with connections around the globe in these diverse fields of research and practice.

In order to assess the feasibility and acceptability of the CPI in Sierra Leone, we are arranging travel to Sierra Leone to engage with local stakeholders and gain a better understanding of the mental health services available as well as identify where significant gaps exist, forming the foundation for a needs assessment.  Drawing upon the extensive network of our international research team members in Sierra Leone we will use ethnographic methodology to gain a comprehensive description of the local context. This work will establish the potential for the model to benefit the outcomes for service users and inform the planning the protocol for a future pilot study.

Issue 1 – Connecting People Newsletter

An early Christmas present from the Connecting People Team to you…

Here is Issue 1 of the Connecting People Newsletter. This another way in which the Connecting People team will keep people updated on the work we are doing. It is hoped that this will help the team reach out to even more people and promote further interest in our work.

NewsletterPlease let us know what you think of the newsletter. Issue 2 will be produced in Spring 2013. If you have ideas for things you want to see in this get in touch.

The role of the third sector in the Connecting People study

The third sector plays an important role in the Connecting People study. Four of the agencies in the ethnographic study were in the third sector and at least three in the pilot study will be as well.

These agencies have played a crucial role in shaping the intervention model which we are now starting to pilot. Through observations, interviews and focus groups in third sector agencies we gained an insight into practice which appeared effective at facilitating social connections. We have harnessed these insights and integrated them with those gained from the statutory sector to produce the model.

I have written a paper to share case studies of the four agencies whose practice helped us to develop the Connecting People Intervention model. The full text can be downloaded here. If you don’t have the time to read the full paper, or to whet your appetite, the abstract is reproduced below:

The role of the third sector in social capital enhancement and mobilisation: evidence from an ethnographic study

A number of factors including increasing life expectancy, increasing expectation about independence and decreasing institutional care are creating a sustained growth in the need for social care services for adults in England (Care Quality Commission, 2009). In its vision for a ‘Big Society’, the UK Government aims to increase the role of civil society in the provision of public services such as social care (Department of Health, 2010; Her Majesty’s Government, 2010). Communities are to be empowered to develop local arrangements for the care of vulnerable and marginalised people, based on the reciprocal principle of providing and receiving services, facilitated by personal budgets. Integral to its aim of developing strong communities, the Government is committed to enhancing individual and collective well-being (Department of Health, 2011).

There is robust evidence that positive and supportive social relationships are associated with well-being (Aked et al., 2008; Webber et al., 2011). However, vulnerable adults in need of care services are frequently marginalised in communities and have restricted social networks (Catty et al., 2005). Some social care workers help people to build relationships and strengthen their connections with their local community (Huxley et al., 2009), but this is afforded a low priority by many (McConkey & Collins, 2010) in spite of increasing evidence of the importance of social capital for health and well-being (Kawachi et al., 2007). To address this, we are developing a social intervention for social care workers to use in supporting people with mental health problems to develop and enhance their social relationships. This provides training and a ‘toolkit’ of resources for workers in how to work alongside an individual to explore their current social network, identify their goals (such as increasing confidence or meeting new people, for example), and support them to achieve them.

The intervention has been developed from an ethnographic study of practice in health and social care agencies in the third and statutory sectors, and informed by literature and scoping reviews. This paper presents the findings of the Connecting People study, funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research School for Social Care Research, and will highlight the unique contribution of social enterprises, housing associations and other voluntary sector organisations in connecting people with their local communities. We will discuss the main themes emerging from interviews and observations with over 60 workers and 50 service users gathered over a period of twelve months. We will also present the intervention model which emerged from these findings, which dynamically relates the practice of workers to a cycle of change for service users, in the context of outward-facing agencies which are embedded in their local communities.

We will argue in this paper that the third sector is better placed than statutory agencies to support the participation of people with mental health problems, and other vulnerable adults, in their local communities. The Connecting People study found more innovation, flexibility and creativity in the third sector agencies in the project. However, in times of fiscal retrenchment and resource scarcity, the third sector will need to be more innovative than ever to maintain its success, which cannot rely indefinitely on voluntarism.


Aked, J., Marks, N., Cordon, C. and Thompson, S. (2008) Five Ways to Wellbeing. A Report Presented to the Foresight Project on Communicating the Evidence Base for Improving People’s Well-Being London: New Economics Foundation.

Care Quality Commission (2009) The State of Health Care and Adult Social Care in England London: The Stationery Office.

Catty, J., Goddard, K., White, S. and Burns, T. (2005) Social networks among users of mental health day care, Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 40, 6, 467-474.

Department of Health (2010) A Vision for Adult Social Care: Capable Communities and Active Citizens London: Department of Health.

Department of Health (2011) No Health Without Mental Health: A Cross-Government Mental Health Outcomes Strategy for People of All Ages London: Department of Health.

Her Majesty’s Government (2010) Building a Stronger Civil Society. A Strategy for Voluntary and Community Groups, Charities and Social Enterprises London: The Cabinet Office.

Huxley, P., Evans, S., Beresford, P., Davidson, B. and King, S. (2009) The principles and provisions of relationships: findings from an evaluation of Support, Time and Recovery Workers in mental health services in England, Journal of Social Work, 9, 1, 99-117.

Kawachi, I., Subramanian, S.V. and Kim, D. (eds) (2007) Social capital and health, New York: Springer-Verlag.

McConkey, R. and Collins, S. (2010) The role of support staff in promoting the social inclusion of persons with an intellectual disability, Journal of Intellectual Disability Research, 54, 8, 691-700.

Webber, M., Huxley, P. and Harris, T. (2011) Social capital and the course of depression: Six-month prospective cohort study, Journal of Affective Disorders, 129, 1-2, 149-157.

I’m presenting this paper at the 10th Conference of the International Society for Third-Sector Research in Siena, Italy, on Friday. I’m hoping to stimulate a discussion about the role of the third sector in social care and social work. I’ll be satisfied, though, if a few people go away having heard about the Connecting People study and perhaps take some ideas home with them.

(The paper is part of a symposium on personalisation. If you’re interested in reading the abstracts of the other papers, these can be found on my blog)