“Strong communities are really important for good health and wellbeing. A strong community is more confident and well-connected, can act on the issues that affect the people in it, and collaborate with others to make local services more relevant and effective. Research shows that strong communities are not just a ‘good thing’; they actually keep people active, involved and healthy.” – Building Stronger Communities in East Sussex report
We all intuitively know this, but now the concept of “community resilience” has become popular, and our local authorities are working to proactively help communities to become stronger and more resilient. In early 2016, a cross-sector partnership was set up under the East Sussex Better Together (ESBT) programme to explore just that. The ESBT Community Resilience Steering Group is made up of local NHS commissioners, East Sussex County Council (ESCC) and the voluntary and community sector – including the SpeakUp Forum.
Between March and May 2016, the Steering Group commissioned a broad and brilliant piece of research across the county, with over 1500 people getting involved in a variety of ways. The point was to ask people what the strengths in their communities are, and how they – and others – could go about building on those strengths. People from diverse places and spaces across East Sussex joined in, from street corner to County Hall, but when all the research was pulled together, a clear set of common themes emerged. These were:
The importance of understanding local contexts;
Allowing sufficient timescales for things to happen;
Making better use of resources, and distributing them better;
Helping people to get involved more easily, particularly as formal and informal volunteers
For full details of the research processes and findings, see the full report here.
The Community Resilience Steering Group now had to use these powerful findings to change practices and help bring about positive change for communities. The Steering Group set up a number of ‘deliver groups’ to develop and deliver strategies for each of the emergent themes. The SpeakUp Forum has representatives on each of these deliver groups and will continue to be as involved as possible as new strategies and ideas to improve community resilience and our East Sussex healthcare system are discussed.
The SpeakUp Forum further explored the concept of resilience in its Big Event 2016. The day-long conference event explored the resilience of the voluntary and community sector, and how that is linked to the resilience of communities.