Update from Nick Sinclair, Director of the Local Area
Reflecting on 2020 and looking forward with hope
Well, that was 2020! It goes without saying it was a very odd year of great extremes. At times it’s been tragic, as we witnessed the full and devastating impact of this ongoing pandemic unfold. However, at other points it was inspiring and encouraging too, as we saw the true potential of people, communities and our service systems shine bright in so many places across the UK.
As we approached the end of this challenging year our Network rallied together online for our first ever Local Area Coordination Week which we held last week. This was an opportunity for us to celebrate our work in a variety of ways, mostly through the lens of celebrating our ten principles. Our online conference last Tuesday heard a variety of inspiring talks from Clenton Farquharson, Jessica Studdert, Nick Gardham, Sian Lockwood, Serena Jones, David Robinson, Clare Wightman, Angela Catley, Simon Duffy and Ralph Broad. It was opened by Eddie Bartnik who shared his perspective based on his 30 years involvement with Local Area Coordination internationally. It was a celebration of the principles of Local Area Coordination, the reasons why we do what we do, and was enjoyed by 180 viewers contributing their thoughts and reflections throughout. We will be sharing videos from it soon, as well as publishing a reflective piece about what was shared in February. A massive thank you to our speakers for your valuable and insightful contributions.
Last Thursday we also held our annual gathering where 70 people from across our Network (and some Local Area Coordination people from other parts of the world) came together to share, reflect and document the various challenges and successes from 2020. It was great to see people come together and support each other in such a positive way.
Whilst the events felt very different to the richness of connection that come with being together in the real world, they were something at least, and feedback has been very positive. Taking time to come together and reflect is such an important part of Local Area Coordination and this is something we’ve been trying to facilitate in a different way as a Network over these last 9 months, some of which I just wanted to share here.
In addition to a weekly bulletin, between March and August we held online gatherings on a weekly basis that many Coordinators and Managers attended. These helped us shape this timeline of the pandemic through the lens of Local Area Coordination that we hope is a helpful reflective resource.
This year we also managed to complete a number of other pieces of high-profile online work, including an excellent event with Swansea Council and the Welsh Government in October, and various webinars and workshops too, including one recently with the Local Government Association (LGA). Using our Network member’s feedback, we also re-launched our gatherings programme, developing it into more structured informal learning sessions online with guest speakers and break out room workshops etc.
We were delighted that development work with our new areas Havering and Luton has continued throughout, with Havering’s two Coordinators starting work during the summer and Luton currently developing plans to recruit in the new year.
Our Network co-produced report Which Way Next, which we published in July, has been well received, and helped inspire active conversations with new Local Authorities which are looking promising in some areas.
In many areas of the Network the profile and focus on Local Area Coordination has never been higher, and nationally our work is being routinely cited in various papers. This year the 15th independent evaluation on Local Area Coordination was published focussing on Derby’s work, funded by the Department for Education. We say a big congratulations to them all on 10 years of hard work that has paid off with full city-wide coverage this year too.
All of this, and much more, will be reflected next year in a forthcoming book on Local Area Coordination that many of the Network have contributed pieces to. Since February this year Ralph Broad, Eddie Bartnik and I have been meeting online every week to plan and shape it. It will be published by the Centre for Welfare Reform, edited by Simon Duffy and we are really excited to see what that brings in terms of new learning and conversations.
May I just say a massive thank you to everyone in our Network for all you have done this year. Your dedication and passion for Local Area Coordination and your caring approach to helping people, families and communities achieve their vision of a good life has never been more apparent. I am so very hopeful that we will soon be back out and about alongside each other and the communities you all serve again. For now, may I wish you all a very peaceful Christmas and positive start to 2021!