Producing the North Yorkshire Framework for Tackling Loneliness and Social Isolation has been a significant multi-agency commission that has led to the co-design of 5 strategic ambitions to create positive change between 2020 and 2026. Inspired by real lives and stories of people overcoming loneliness, the work is just one strand of a wider ‘Building Connections Fund’ initiative in the County that will also see a number of campaigns to encourage connections, conversations and stronger relationships developed across all communities and contexts. The Framework’s emphasis is preventative, but it also recognises the urgent need to reach, understand and support those who experience feelings of chronic loneliness as this can have many negative health, economic and wider societal consequences.
Inspired by the What Works Centre for Wellbeing’s evidence-based approach, Skyblue is working with the Stronger Communities Programme in North Yorkshire to develop a long-term vision to 2030 to improve community wellbeing across its diverse, rural, coastal and urban communities. Achieving this requires the creation of conditions where ‘people, power and place’ come together to address issues that matter to them locally. This concept features heavily in our ongoing independent evaluation of the SCP (to 2022) which should provide thought leadership within the County, and around the UK.
When local people come together to tackle issues, or think about providing services, that matter to them often there is a period of needing to find a common purpose, resources and relationship building so that practical action can then be brought to life. Evaluating place based social action is a fulfilling and creative process where the community decides for themselves what success looks like by when, and our role is to work alongside them to help develop their capabilities whether that be in advising on research, data or evidence collection processes or supporting them as experts to conduct objective resident surveys that can be benchmarked against wider data such as the Community Life Survey.
This is an area of development for Skyblue as we notice an increased need for strategies and services to develop pathways, services and interventions across the life course, and more imaginatively than the traditional approach to services for people of specific ages. Evaluations completed with organisations that provide ‘whole family’ or ‘whole system’ support have helped us realise that they require greater understanding of how families play a huge part influencing each member’s feelings of wellbeing, agency and aspirations (positive and negative). Similarly, in seeking to understand what makes for a thriving, resilient community, it is our view that more emphasis on creating the conditions for cross-generation conversations and social action can break down barriers of misunderstanding, polarity of attitudes and more positively bring forward different ideas to tackle things that matter across the different age groups.
Commissioned by Joseph Rowntree Foundation, we have developed a customised learning, coaching and development programme for 14 local charities that have a common purpose of reducing poverty and tackling inequalities in the City of York. The organisations vary significantly in their scope and include those working to support those who feel marginalised or discriminated against, young people to improve their aspirations, older people to develop their confidence to step back into employment through to individuals that have suffered abuse or have barely enough to get by from day-to-day. This programme seeks to develop the capability of these charities to demonstrate their impact so that they can improve their support services and work with investors and funders to focus effort where it can make greatest difference in future.
Following cuts to youth services across the country we are supporting North Yorkshire Youth’s ambitions help over a thousand young people in the coming years so that they can feel trust, a sense of belonging and say in the places and spaces that matter to them. Using participatory research techniques designed with the young people themselves, we help bring out their feelings so that their voices can be heard to influence investment in services and youth mentoring support that will improve their lives in a meaningful way. This work builds on years of helping evaluate and improve youth programmes (linked to the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games) that aim to help them feel greater agency, and take positive steps towards education, volunteering, social action, employment and enterprise.