Reflections: Looking back on the last 18 months at Sheffield Flourish!
We are delighted to be sharing with you our report reflecting on what has happened at Sheffield Flourish, the impact we have made and the lessons we have learnt in the last 18 months. The report is split up into sections and summarised below. If you want to read the whole report click on the links. Within the report are further links to some powerful and inspiring written and video stories.
Our journey began in 2012 when a small group of like-minded people got together with a shared idea around valuing the talents and enterprising ideas of people living with mental health conditions. Recovery Enterprises charity was born. In the early years, Recovery Enterprises provided support to three grassroots community enterprises, CAST, OASIS and Hudson & General. The Board was ambitious to grow the scale of the impact and with a new digital expert Board Director began to make plans for a ‘digital hub’ including a successful Big Lottery funding application and support from Sheffield Hospitals Charity and Sheffield Health and Social Care NHS Foundation Trust.
In May 2015, with a managing director in post, the co-design of Sheffield Flourish, the digital wellbeing platform, began. By July 2016 with the help of around 200 people, three new members of the team, the University of Sheffield, Human Studio and Hive, Sheffield Flourish Beta was launched. In the last year the hub and community has grown as volunteers and contributors shared their stories, insights and ideas. Monthly events co-hosted by a variety of partners have taken place and our digital ambassadors have gone out into care homes, community and NHS venues to help other people go online. The organisation changed its working name to Sheffield Flourish. New formal and informal partnerships were formed including with Care Opinion, Manor and Castle Development Trust, Healthwatch Sheffield, Brunsmeer Awareness FC and ESP. New community enterprise activity has taken place including the Compassion Convoy and Rotherham Flourish. The Sheffield Mental Health Guide moved in with two new staff in April 2017, and Sheffield Flourish were also delighted to win a regional award for Patient Driven Digital Innovation. We were able to celebrate with the whole Sheffield Flourish community when we became UK Digital Charity Leader 2017 in June.
The success of Sheffield Flourish is down to the collective efforts of many people contributing in many different ways, volunteers, board directors, staff facilitators and other supporters have worked hard together to make a positive difference.
A whole range of online and real life activities are supported and delivered by the Sheffield Flourish Network ranging from the Sheffield Flourish Digital Well-being Hub which had over 11,000 visitors to CAST creative arts activities whose participants clocked up over 26,000 hours during 16/17. More recently we welcomed the Sheffield Mental Health Guide and the very special Rotherham Flourish creative story telling course.
Listening to the experiences of people who have got involved in the Sheffield Flourish activities reassures us all that we are heading in the right direction, helps us learn how to improve what we are doing and inspires us to continue our journey.
Sheffield Flourish has come a long way since the organisation was founded in 2012. In the period April 2016 to August 2017, the organisation has concentrated on building the digital wellbeing hub and the foundations for growing the scale of its influence and impact.
With over 11,000 people viewing over 86,000 pages since launching the site in July 2016, the site is already being well used. The on-going feedback and snapshot survey responses about all of the online and real life activities have been largely positive with 60-81% of respondents feeling more confident, 77-85% of people feeling more connected, 60-81% feeling they had gained more peer support and 81% feeling they had gained new skills. Digital activities can help people living with mental health conditions, but at its best should be blended with real life activities. This principle has been at the heart of the work of Sheffield Flourish, e.g. sharing real life ‘recovery’ stories online and supporting the development of a range of real life activities through social media and the website.
Co-production is the golden thread running through all of Sheffield Flourish activities from steering the design of the website to delivering creative arts workshops. The outputs of all our activities provide evidence that people are so much more than the mental health conditions they are living with. The 139 Sheffield Flourish stories and other activities reflect a wonderful community of talented writers, artists, gardeners, dancers and so much more.
Activities such as CAST, OASIS, Brunsmeer Awareness FC, Rotherham Flourish, the ADHD Peer Support Group, the Digi-Discussion Group, Sheffield Flourish Meet-ups and Digital Ambassadors workshops play a valuable role in supporting people to feel valued, connected and hopeful. This was reflected in the survey responses and the personal stories which have emerged.
There are also lessons to learn around the complexities of supporting people with mental health conditions, building supportive relationships with other partners and clear and sensitive communications including about the range of activities happening in our city. As the organisation grows and formalises, there is a need to ensure that accountability to funders is balanced with enabling grassroots activities to provide the nourishing conditions for community building to take place, and for people to move along their own journey of discovery at their own pace. It is important to recognise that it takes the time that it takes to build confidence, connections and skills particularly where people are really struggling with their mental health conditions and/or other aspects of their lives.
Over the next year, the new version of the Sheffield Mental Health Guide will be co-produced and published, the Sheffield Flourish site and community will continue to grow, as will the existing community enterprises. Sheffield Flourish is now poised to work hard to build relationships and work collaboratively with existing and new community led activities and networks in Sheffield and beyond to co-create the Sheffield Education Exchange.
The context we are living in has become more uncertain and difficult in recent times. An increase in poverty, climate change, digital dangers, hate crimes, and the lack of ‘good’ employment opportunities, housing, health/care services and trust are all having a deep and detrimental effect on our mental health and society. In a city which has a proud history of activism and community building, it is vital that Sheffield Flourish and others who care about building a better future work fast, hard and collaboratively to challenge stigma and unleash the full potential of all the assets we have in our people and place to improve lives.
Thank you to everyone who has contributed in so many ways to Sheffield Flourish.
I would also like to add it has been a privilege to be the Sheffield Flourish Managing Director and work amongst a team and community of such talented, kind and humble people. I have learnt so much about valuing people and life that will stay with me for the rest of my life! Thank you to all and my very best wishes for the next stage in the journey.
NOTICE OF AGM
If you would like to come and help us celebrate the year gone by and meet some of the people involved in Sheffield Flourish you are welcome to attend our AGM on 23 October 2017 from 5pm. Further information and sign up here
Credit to Becki Farrell, Creative Content Producer, Poet and Artist who produced the Flourish Poem