Our Innovation Project Showcase is a chance for Fellows to share their work from their frontline placements with the cohort and to meet potential partners and allies who might support them in later phases of the programme.
We profile four projects below and you can also download all 26 across our four themes:
In the first week of my placement at St. Andrew’s Health Centre, Bromley-by-Bow, I spent a day observing the waiting room. Because it was a walk-in clinic, it was full of patients, some of whom had waited up to four hours for care. I couldn’t help wondering whether we could turn this wasted waiting time into something productive for people’s health.
Over the course of my placement, I met with GPs who were frustrated by patients with non-medical conditions such as debt, loneliness, or unemployment, and community groups who were struggling to reach out to potential service users. I also spoke with patients who would have loved to know about free local services, but felt overwhelmed by extensive directories.
My project, Artful Waiting, brought interactive arts activities into GP surgery waiting rooms to create a fun and informal atmosphere, offer patients a de-stressing activity while they waited, and give them a chance to learn about local community groups and services. We set up tables in the waiting room and ran activities such as plasticine modelling for kids, origami for older adults, and colouring for parents. During the art activity, waiting patients got a chance to chat with a community organisation, learn about their activities and services, and make a personal connection.
Some of the community groups, GP surgery staff, and artists I have been working with are keen to continue running these sessions. In some ways I just kickstarted a project that was waiting to take off already. I also created a guide for anyone interested in starting one of these workshops sharing my insights on how to find the right stakeholders and convince them about the idea.
Other projects included Rosie Ashton’s project to link GP practices with local food co-ops and a brunch club for older Bengali women facilitated by Josephine Liang.
Nine Fellows were placed in academies, PRUs and educational social enterprises across London, on placements that came under the worryingly unfathomable area of ‘educational disadvantage’.
I was a Behaviour and Learning Support Assistant at Camden Centre for Learning, a Pupil Referral Unit and Special Educational Needs Centre. The young people at the unit had either been permanently expelled from school, or had complex social, emotional and mental health difficulties.
The students that I worked with were adamant that they were the angry ones: they punched walls; they started fights; it was their problem. At the same time, they had a natural inquisitiveness about other people’s behaviour.
I developed Face Time, a programme that harnessed this inquisitiveness and that depersonalised the emotion of anger. Students were shown video interviews of members of the public, answering questions on their own anger triggers and what strategies they had for calming down. They then interviewed each other with the same questions. Workshops followed where students looked at their anger triggers through step-by-step methodology, tracking, graphing and role-playing how they could ‘change the story’ of their own behaviour patterns.
The specialist school I was placed in will continue to run the programme this term with the Reintegration and Individual Programme students.
Other projects included:
The term ‘day centre’ conjures up pretty unglamorous images for most people, but the Bradbury Active Ageing Centre is at the forefront of changing what those words mean. My time there illuminated the importance of designing services for older people in a way that allows them to engage on their own terms.
Rather than being parked there for a day, they are “just popping in” as and when they choose, to take part in activities they enjoy. It seemed to me the next step had to be retaining this feeling of “just popping in” – but extending it to those who currently felt unable to do so.
With a couple of fantastic volunteers, I started running co-creation workshops in a sheltered housing unit for older people, where the sense of community perished after swingeing cuts. Within a few weeks we had set up a self-led event series, from quizzes to pub lunches, which is still running.
The best thing about my project for me was realising my near-redundancy to the process. Like all the community outreach projects, it demonstrated the capacity of a small, but well-aimed intervention to unlock massive latent potential. This is something that emerged elsewhere in the cohort’s projects in this area; from the upcycling of furniture for vulnerable tenants in Gwenno Edwards’ project to the culinary skills of the women involved in Emily Coleridge’s cooking club.
I was placed at the Care Leavers’ Service at Surrey County Council. There I worked primarily with unemployed 19-21 year olds to help them get into education, employment or training.
Early on I met a young care leaver who had been working cash in hand for a dodgy construction company that had refused to pay him for a month’s work. He was understandably angry about this, but what upset me about his response was that instead of seeing the people who had exploited him as the bad guys, he interpreted the situation as an indication of his own worthlessness.
I soon realised that low self-esteem like this, often relating to neglectful or abusive relationships with adults, is a huge barrier to employment for many care leavers. It’s a problem that is compounded by the high staff turnover in social services – meaning that many children in care have no consistent adult support or role model.
To respond to this, I began to work with the mentor scheme at the council, now renamed Finding Your Feet. After consulting with care leavers and previous mentors, I designed a training package and a handbook that enables mentors to really connect with their assigned young person and to help them to build their self-esteem and employability skills. The training is now compulsory for all new mentors and I plan to return to deliver some of the future training sessions.
Other projects included: