Monday, 16 August 2010

Hubble Bubble... health and collaboration!

Last Wednesday I enjoyed a lovely cycle ride in the sunshine over to Mary Stevens Park in Stourbridge to see the new Healthy Hub building. The bike racks were next to some outdoor gym equipment which I understand has been installed in 5 parks in Dudley Borough - helping them to be 'Healthy Hubs', part of Dudley's Healthy Towns Initiative. There was a man exercising on the equipment and I was rather intrigued so I had a bit of a chat to him and discovered that he uses the outdoor gym for an hour a day, that lots of people come to the park early in the morning to use it, and that now it's the school holidays a lot of children and young people use it during the day.

I wanted to see the Healthy Hub because Dean Hill, who co-ordinates Healthy Towns work, had mentioned to me that there are meetings rooms available in the Healthy Hubs to hire free of charge. I also wondered whether the Hub Stourbridge, a new initiative, might have reason to link with the Healthy Hub. Shelley Jackson-Woodall, a volunteer representative for Hub Stourbridge had agreed to join me to see the Healthy Hub.

It seems that the two Hubs are very different in terms of the thinking behind them, however they both have something to offer people from Stourbridge and further afield. The Healthy Hub will be a great community resource, supporting all sorts of activities taking place in the park and will make available a lovely meeting room with kitchen facilities in a fantastic park setting.

Hub Stourbridge is more about nurturing a collaborative community of professionals and volunteers, enabling networking and a sort of cross-fertilisation of expertise in different fields through the provision of a shared workspace with hot-desking, meeting facilities, a cafe and creative areas. At present Hub Stourbridge is building up a network of ambassadors and potential users, and growing a group of people with the skills needed to take on the running of a building in the centre of Stourbridge. I’ve put my name down for a few hours a month hot-desking, as I really like the sound of the Hub Host who will be able to point me in the direction of people working in completely different sectors and fields to me but who might be able to offer advice on things I’m working on.

I’m also keen to see what another development - The 3rd Place in Halesowen (which also has a Hub – for youth activities) might also have to offer in a similar vein.

Shelley and Dean seem keen to promote each other’s Hubs, and I can’t wait to have meetings in the park and meet people at Hub Stourbridge. As I left the park there were 5 women using the outdoor gym equipment - on the bikes and other stations, chatting and exercising. Stourbridge really does seem to be getting healthy and connected!

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Values Modes, Community Influence and Big Society

I’ve just finished reading a research report published by London Civic Forum about some of the ways in which people define and experience ‘influence’ in their everyday lives within their local areas in London. The research uses Value Modes segmentation, which I’d never come across before, and which seems interesting to reflect on in relation to research and work that we have carried out in Dudley in relation to community influence.

The research report describes Values Modes as a way of dividing people in to three main segments (each sub-divides in to four, but we’ll stick to these for now):

• Inner directed - also known as ‘Pioneers’
• Outer directed - also know as ‘Prospectors’
• Sustenance driven - also known and ‘Settlers’

These are described further:

Pioneers … tend to be focused on self-actualisation – they want to acquire knowledge, learn about themselves and start initiatives. They are more global in their outlook, and driven by ideas and ethics. They tend to have large social networks and are happy to embrace change. Interestingly policymakers and senior people in organisations such as councils are more likely to be [Pioneers]. Apparently 40% of the UK population are pioneers.

Prospectors are more motivated by material things, status and being seen in the right places. Where [Pioneers] lead, they will often follow, but for different reasons. Prospectors comprise 30% of the UK population.

Settlers … tend to have smaller social networks based around family. For them, everything is local, and local can be defined as a very small geographic area, even down to a street. They are more uncomfortable with change, nostalgic about the past, and respectful of tradition. They also tend to be more pessimistic about the future. Settlers comprise 30% of the UK population.

More on Values Modes can be found on the Cultural Dynamics website

Now while I’m not sure how much I buy in to this model, Values Modes and the research in London did get me thinking about a few things.

The first is around ways that communities influence. Our research in Dudley in 2005 and subsequent work with the resulting Voice framework (see changes website) identified seven significant methods of influence:

• Whispering (in the ears of influential people)
• Shouting
• Negotiating (for which you need to be at the table in the first case)
• Taking action
• Being part of a bigger network
• Shaming
• Flirting (including marketing/selling an idea)

I think campaigning could also be helpfully added to the list.

So – does a person’s Value Mode affect which methods of influencing they might incline to? The research indicated to me that settlers seemed to have a lot to shout about, and may feel in that position of frustration which leads to shouting. By their description, pioneers seem likely to take action, network with others and ‘sell’ their ideas. The research report suggests that Settlers and Pioneers in particular are sceptical about the ability of individual to influence and so where appropriate will try to attract or join others with like minds. This bodes well for collective, community influence work – so how do we encourage the Prospectors to join a participatory democracy?

Reflecting on various online Big Society discussions and ideas I can't help feeling that those involved online would probably fall into the description given to Pioneers. And yet some of the people which the ideas growing under the Big Society banner target are likely to be Settlers. The research report suggests that Settlers are, statistically, more likely to be older and less likely to own a computer than people in the other two Values segments. Settler groups may consider the use of online content and a sign that 'people like us' are being excluded. The strength of emotion behind this feeling is conveyed in a quote from a focus group in the research report, from a man contributing to a discussion on gritting and waste collection, who stood and said in a raised voice 'and I phoned them up and do you know what they told me? They told me to look at the website!' While this helps to illustrate issues around mismatches in communication preferences between service providers and local people, should it also signal a warning to any of us getting too wrapped up in online debate and ideas generation in response to the Big Society?

I also wonder whether our use of discussion around subjective feelings of degree of influence when we use the Voice framework should take in to account Value Modes. Apparently over four-fifths of Prospectors in the London research definitely agree or tend to agree that can influence. This was a huge proportion compared to the other two groups.

Those of us involved in developing Voice have a theory that as a community group or network develops more capacity to influence, the subjective degree of influence which members of the group feel will converge to around the same point. But will it if their starting points are different, for example as described by the Values Modes? Will Prospectors tend to feel quite differently to Pioneers or Settlers in a group who feel that the degree of influence the group has is low?

The research report was trying to provide a qualitative side to national indicator 4 (‘do you agree or disagree that you can influence decisions affecting your local area’?). The research draws out some useful perceptions of influence, and as we have found there were lots of different views given in relation to what influence means.

The research found a general agreement that acting collectively, for instance through community groups, was likely to be more influential than individuals acting alone. This helps to provide buy-in to the use of our Voice framework, which is about steps that groups can take to increase their capacity to influence, and indicators against which they can measure their capacity to influence.

I was also fascinated by the findings of the research in terms of lessons for public service providers who want to engage with local people. There seems to be an almost complete mismatch between what the public sector seeks to engage people in and what people seek to influence. So here I find evidence of why the Echo framework that we are starting to use is so important, as it encourages public sector agencies and partnership to move towards supporting communities to influence and changing the way how they do things.

I hope to discuss these ideas further with Voice and Echo facilitators attending our national networking event in September. Equally I welcome comments from anyone less familiar with Voice or Echo!

Thanks to Leighton Pendry at Dudley MBC for sending through the London Civic Forum research report. It was posted on a Local Government Improvement and Development Communities of Practice site and I can’t find it online.