Avenues are working alongside the Big Lottery and the Community Voluntary Sector in Bromley and Greenwich, testing a new approach to community connecting in a 3 year project called 'It Takes 2'. This project is learning about the great question.
What is it to feel connected in the community where you live?
The big aim of the project is to connect 100 people facing some of the greatest social barriers to a full and active community life, to 100 fellow community members based on hobbies, interests and activities that people enjoy, for example singing, baking and any you can think of! Social barriers are thoughts and ideas which keep people apart from each other. For example "I don't know anything about disability so I can't talk to a disabled person - I might upset them".
The theory is that when people are sharing time together doing something they enjoy, there is a good likelihood a connection could be sparked which will eventually lead to people feeling stronger and happier. For some people labels like 'disability' have defined and limited their whole life experience. This project says that it is important to understand how people communicate, learn and exchange with each other and if we can understand that, then we see that we have far more in common with each another than we do differences.
'It Takes 2' looks beyond societal labels like 'disability' and aims to create lasting bonds based around the comradery, friendship and solidarity created when people share a passion. The connection formed will create the conditions where members of a group will ask after someone when they don't attend or haven't been seen in a while. A genuine concern for fellow community members is created, we all need to feel like we would be missed if we weren't here.
We are very much on a journey and learning lots about how this connecting work must involve people who face the greatest barriers, those closest to them, support workers, community members, community leaders and anyone who has a passion for making sure everyone in their community is able to contribute in a real and valued way.
We are running a 3 year evaluation of the project which will generate lots of learning about how to connect some of the hardest to reach people.
We have had some fantastic examples of people taking on new roles at their local church, joining dance groups, sports groups and of people becoming important in each others lives. 'It Takes 2' is about creating the conditions where people feel they can connect with one another and feel valued for who they are. 'It Takes 2' won the Greenwich Action for Voluntary Service (GAVS) Community Cohesion Award in recognition of this work in October 2016. We look forward to 2 more years of learning and hard work.