On the 8th & 9th May 2017, I spent two days at a National Summit jointly organised by the MEAM Coalition, the Big Lottery Fund, Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK, Lankelly Chase and Revolving Doors Agency. The summit title Tackling Multiple Disadvantage and the subsequent ideas, policies, and best practice explored, offered valuable insight into a complex area.
Bringing together over 300 people from a range of charities and organisations across the UK, there was plenty of time for conversation, and with an agenda packed with content including mental health support, measuring outcomes and influencing policy, there was a lot to talk about!
Perhaps it is because I work in communications, but one factor that I heard mentioned frequently over the two days was… communication. Be it the sharing of statistical evidence, the views of people with lived experience, talking to Commissioners about how and why services need to change, or simply communicating best practice across teams, communication was key.
Reference was made during the conference to how collectively we can make a difference. We know that many of our approaches are working; we know that if services are developed and delivered in the right way positive changes can be made to the lives of those facing multiple and complex needs; and we know that funding and many approaches at policy-making level need to change. Conveying this with impact at a local and national level is not easy. There are so many challenges facing those making decisions (funding, resource, targets to name a few!) So, how can we get our voices heard? How can we influence change?
This really made me think. I didn’t come across any other communications colleagues during the conference, which is perhaps telling. With funding tight, these roles can often be difficult to support when frontline delivery of services has to be the priority. But; with the potential impact communication could have in supporting system change, it cannot be ignored. Whilst a sudden rush of communication based job vacancies is unlikely, perhaps there are things we can all do collectively (and easily) to get our voices heard…
- Consistent use of #tags (if we all use the same key #tags they will trend more often and we will get our voices heard repeatedly)
- Working with national organisations to collectively convey key messages (if we all focus on a key story at once it is more likely to receive coverage)
- Sharing ideas so we can save time and money (content plans, copy, contacts who will offer good rates on design)
Perhaps we need an online forum where those working within communications in the world of multiple and complex needs can ‘talk’. Perhaps we need a Communications Conference. Communication is an area we all have our part to play in, from meetings with commissioners to educational programmes and everything in between. But; for those of us who work specifically in this role, we have the opportunity to ‘shout loudly’ on behalf of everyone else and push the message out to those who will directly impact the future of those we are trying to support.
We are starting to explore this approach across the 12 Big Lottery Funded Fulfilling Lives (Supporting People with Multiple Needs) projects, but perhaps we can all work together on a wider scale. If hundreds instead of a handful of us are talking about a key point at the same time, someone, somewhere will start to really listen, and maybe those doors we are knocking on to drive change, will open a little more easily.
I would be more than happy to discuss this approach in more detail with anyone who is interested! You can call me at the Opportunity Nottingham office on 0115 850 4128 (Tues – Thurs).
Stacey Murton, Communications Officer, Opportunity Nottingham.
Stacey has worked in Communications and Marketing for over 12 years, across numerous sectors.