We would like to share the updates about the final leg of our learning project journey in a dedicated document - this summary is structured to mirror the template for the final project report. We submitted a comprehensive summary that covers learning from the majority of our work in November 2021 (that’s hosted on our learning page here).
This final write up brings together overall learning that we have gained from specific focus on community & membership engagement that we have been supported to explore with the outstanding underspent of the original grant.
We offer more details on the last three months of our final extension - from April to June 2022 - a short interim summary for the start of 2022 can be found here.
CCCV - wider context
With this report it feels useful to start with an overview of the whole care co-op development, growth and changes and challenges that have both supported us on the learning journey and have meant some of the plans/aims have not been possible to complete yet.
The care team members have been instrumental to our understanding that there is a great need and demand for companionship from our user members. Through conversations we have learnt that wider/further/deeper community linking, connection making and engaging will not be possible without further resources. That supports our thinking and further action in connection to further work to make strength based community networks that support holistic care a reality.
There are positive and exciting plans coming to fruition in connection to business growth - we are preparing to take on support and care that will be signposted to us through the local authority - getting closer to our vision of being a care co-op for everyone in the community. We have done immense leaps in exploring and testing financial models to understand what the steps are that we need to take to make sustainable business a really viable option for the future. The financial tracking/assessment of our current situation can be viewed here. At the time of writing this report we are looking at making bold decisions that will enable us to grow strong and ‘break even’ in terms of our finances.
All this work is happening while operationally, we support our members in the community and there are a lot of staff changes all the time. As much as they are inevitable and of course part of the everyday business reality, they have been impactful in terms of the learning project as they limit the capacity of the staff team to engage in wider activities that take them away from the everyday essential work they do.
That is definitely one of the key learning points of the whole learning project - when we are growing, establishing ourselves, it is really challenging to pursue learning and explore wider issues and any additional elements of work. We are excellent in holistic person centred care and our team members go above and beyond. It is not possible to do it all at once though. We have learnt to understand that the pace at which we can implement, achieve and shift things changes. Critically, we recognise that without having the resources from this grant, most of the discussions, learning from progress and capturing of the changes would not have happened.
Outcomes and Impact
We have been able to put new systems in place that create more regular space for staff to influence how we work, so that the conversations we have had with the team in early 2022 are really only just the beginning.
In connection to new staff joining the team we have set up a system where staff will now meet the board members as part of their induction and learn more about co-operative ways of working together. We have set up an email newsletter that is created (for now) by the board for all staff as a space to share opportunities and invitations to events/discussions. Our staff have also been learning more formally about co-operative human resources approaches, CQC’s changes and exploring how those will impact our further work on wider community connections, as well as in peer spaces in sessions together and workshops with other professionals - more about that below.
We recognise that with all the operational pressures it can be hard to maintain those spaces and tools and we will keep striving to ensure they are available and adaptable. As an organisation we are accountable to our members and while the pace of change might shift as mentioned above, we won’t lose sight of it.
Our investor member engagement through the survey had just over 30% response rate. Vast majority feels either very/well informed or feels they receive just about the right level of information. Reassuringly, the vast majority of the investors felt that they would be able to support the care co-op again financially if they understood the reasons for that properly. The infographics as well as detailed results of the survey on our learning website here.
There have been two elements of our plans for membership engagement that have not run according to the plan. Firstly, the practical set up of all systems for membership sign up/registration. While we have made good steps with reviewing our membership handbook, exploring ways of logistically implementing the membership registration for most of our member constituencies, we have not been able to resolve all of the technical and financial solutions to date. These are not major, yet take time to put in place - we will ensure that the interface is ready soon so that we can start formally inviting our user members and staff members to become official society members too.
The second not fully fulfilled aspiration has been an engagement and consultation with our user members. This is connected to the key challenges that are outlined below - regulatory framework and operational demands. We have learnt that more planning and onboarding alongside additional resources are needed to this piece of work well. We re-started the process with a workshop that brought together our care team members alongside a specialist safeguarding officer from the local authority and Simon Sherbersky from Torbay Community Development Trust (TCDT) and our board to discuss challenges of wider engagement with the community that would offer support beyond the general care needs. This meeting has started the discussion and there is more work ahead of us and the key aspirations from that session alongside summary of main points are also on our learning website.
The events we have been able to hold went really well and we were really pleased with the quality of engagement of our members and supporters. The event at Watershed, in Slaithwaite, on 14th May, with our members face to face saw 38 people join us, we had a blend of staff, board members, investor members as well as other supporters and a couple of possible user members with their families. The venue is home to a local charity that focuses on wellbeing and creative engagement and the connection that we have made with the team will be part of our next/future work in securing further funding for taking next community based steps in our development. The photos from the event as well as thoughts, ideas and recommendations from the live event are on our learning website here. We also held an online version of this event to ensure that members who can’t join face to face are able to share their thoughts and learn about our progress too. On 19th May, we hosted a webinar and 24 people joined the discussion. The recording of the session can be viewed here.
At both of the events, Simon Sherbersky from Torbay Community Development Trust, contributed to the discussions while sharing learning and stories about successes of strength-based community engagement in Torbay. We have been working very closely with Simon and more about his contribution to the development of the final part of our learning project is outlined below.
We have stayed connected with the wider care & co-operative movements. We have been invited and were able to contribute to the Co-op Congress on 18th June. Our Chair, Graham, contributed to the discussion with the Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham about what solutions are needed for care. Cheryl Barrott was part of the discussion as well officially announcing the launch of Fair Care. The recording from the congress is available online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xk5IG0jzzXk (the relevant session is from 26:43 to 1:19:45; with our Chair’s contribution at 52:36).
We have been part of still evolving research with Steve Graby from the University of Leeds who is exploring co-operatives and co-operation in connection to people who live with disabilities. There is more information about how this work is developing on Steve’s blog: https://disabledcoops.uk/news/.
We have remained in contact with Community Catalysts, re-connected with Polly Trenow who is now working with Turn2Us and exploring financial related support and how care & co-operation can inform this, and met with Change AGEnts now officially launched as Guild of Social and Community Workers whom we will continue to stay in contact with in relation to fair care.
The most significant co-operative relationship of these six months has been Simon from TCDT who has supported our learning and development in relation to strength-based community support and care. Simon has been part of our events, shared his learning, supported our thinking and decision making about how to take this piece of work forward and is now actively involved in bid writing for the next piece of work. He has also been able to do introductions to other care companies and providers who already do some great community based support and we will be able to pursue and develop these in the future.
Successes & Achievements
It has been fantastic to reconnect with our members both live in the community and online, to share our ideas and visions for the next steps that we want to take - with the focus on wider community engagement - and to also share what we have achieved so far.
By the end of the extended six months we wanted to have more clarity about how to take things forward - and we have achieved that. All the challenges, shifts and changes have painted an ever clearer picture of the complexity of what we want to do. How patience, gradual learning, onboarding and co-operative approaches are the ways forward. We have re-learnt that we are ambitious and visionary as a team of people who feel passionately about how care that is embedded in the community with input not just from professionals but whole families, neighbourhoods and wider networks is the way forward for better lives and better lives earlier on. And we now understand the barriers and challenges that we are facing much better and have come up with a strategy to overcome these, steadily and sustainably.
And our business has grown - which is tremendous - and we are getting ready to take on more people to work with and for and alongside which means there are approaching possibilities for organic replication. Our gradual readiness and ability to adapt to challenges will be very useful when we start to lean into supporting fellow co-ops to emerge.
The regulatory framework framing & operational demands have been the key challenges in moving forward with learning and development (apart from business development, which is connected to the core of the care co-op business). They offer the key points of learning and challenge for us and will be so for the future co-ops that want to set up.
We have been expecting and discussing the tensions between co-operative approaches and the limitations that the regulatory framework creates for the care professionals. The discussions and planning for wider community engagement has fleshed out the concerns and challenged the possibilities of success of these ways of working. It has been great that we have been able to identify this tension early on as a successful development of the community engagement element of our work won’t be possible without full support of the care team - and also without capacity to support the care team members to learn and gain confidence in these ways of working. Our plans for the future therefore include just that - securing further funding to ensure we have increased capacity to start the development of the wider community care elements while working with the care team to gradually join all the parts of our work and support together.
This will also address the second point of the challenges - operational demands. The quality of work and commitment of the care team are essential to the success of the care co-op. Daily challenges come up for the team to resolve and respond to, for example: when our user member dies, when the staff team members are not well, when someone from the team had a family bereavement and their visits have to be covered, when people work flexible hours to fit around their busy routines and then additional requests are difficult to manage. These tension points have made us consider capacity, priorities and have pushed us to come up with creative solutions so that at least some of the conversations happen - holding a whole day learning session rather than a structured workshop; having conversations with staff over the phone when they don’t have time to come, offering peer time to discuss issues and progress.
Neither of these challenges are resolved; rather they are ongoing pieces of learning and exploring practice that enables co-operation despite difficulties and highlights the need for values and principles driven ways of working and a commitment to vision of our care co-op.
At the beginning of this final part of the learning project we said we want to have a sustainable plan for our members and community engagement in place by the time we finish. We wanted this to be informed by our members and our community. We also planned to have a clearer understanding of what is needed for a successful community engagement.
We did not know how this would exactly look and discovering the possibilities and options has been an inherent part of the process. We have been able to get our community input through the events and with the discussions we have had with our staff and it has become clear that we will need to look at further resources to engage with our current user members as well as the wider community.
As a result we are looking at a funding bid & co-operation with Simon Sherbersky from TCDT - using their good contacts and knowledge of the funding/grant landscape to make connections in the sector so that we can learn from others about how they have overcome some of the challenges we face. To increase our capacity to do so, we are writing an application to the Awards for All funding programme and we are planning to submit this during summer. In true co-operative spirit we are working on this with others in the community. Furthermore, we are aware and keep abreast of the local grant schemes that offer opportunities for match funding.
We also said we would be ready to support other co-ops and share learning - we hope sharing all our resources and learning online will support that really practically. We have also taken and will take other steps to make the information about our progress more accessible and readily available - we’re adapting the way we run board meetings so that we can publish the minutes, we’re sharing our financial planning and decisions we are making.
We will remain connected with the groups and organisations in care & co-operative sectors to further share the learning. We will remain open to enquiries and will maintain the resources that are available on our websites as much as possible so that we are able to capture our journey both for ourselves and others and we are really looking forward to see how the organic growth will enable replication in the communities near & far.
Finally, as it has been mentioned before, it is absolutely essential to note the support from Power to Change, with the flexibility and responsiveness and understanding of a truly progressive funder, has been instrumental to us being able to share learning and even consider some of the challenges we have faced in so much more depth and with rigour that will help us progress, grow and support other much more confidently.