by Sally Dixon, Community Resources

At the Early Help for Families Network meeting on Monday three things struck me: firstly, the passion and appetite for change that there was in the room; secondly, the ‘sleeves rolled up, feet on the ground’ kind of knowledge and understanding that exists amongst the different organisations; and thirdly, the recognition that if we are to get things done then we need to work together – and that’s why the collective exists.

Passion for change

Social sector organisations are having a profound effect on countless families in the borough. Driven by the kind of passion that so often comes from first-hand experience, the leaders of these groups possess a keen desire to help families flourish and thrive. By getting alongside to provide educational support, online sessions or practical support, connections are being established and maintained during what continues to be a very isolating and worrying time for so many. Despite all the present barriers, these groups are sticking in there, actively looking for ways to connect and help bring change.

Knowledge and understanding

The groups represented in the network really know the people they’re working with. A great deal of effort has gone in to finding out what matters to people – whether that’s free or low-cost activities for families, or knowing where to go for help when it’s needed. It’s so important to build trust and that only comes about when people feel understood and valued. Again and again at the meeting I heard the phrase, ‘People tell us that …’ or ‘Our families say …’. These organisations have a wealth of knowledge that has come by simply getting alongside and listening.

The Collective – that’s us!

Finally, the word I heard repeated over and over again at Monday’s meeting was ‘relationship’. We are all doing different things but we recognise that in order to bring real change we need to work together. Through the network we are getting to know and value one another. We’re not naïve – I think we all acknowledge that there’s a lot of work ahead – but as we talk together and share our ideas there’s a growing sense of excitement and anticipation about what could be. The Collective isn’t some kind of organisation out there – it’s all of us working together and it’s key.