Having heard the good news that I had been offered the role of Health and Care Development Worker at Macc, I was obviously elated and very keen to get started. So, I looked in my diary and saw that the North Manchester Community Explorers meeting was coming up. These meetings have been so useful for me in my previous role as a Community Connector. They have supported me to learn about the fantastic work being done within the VCSE sector but also became pivotal for me when building networks across sector boundaries. You’ve got to love those relationship building opportunities, right?
At this particular meeting, I was presented with what appeared to be a sprawling and never ending map – a map that detailed health and care services in Manchester. At first I felt slightly dizzy then reminded myself of my mantra that ‘every day is a school day’ and concluded, ‘It must look this confusing on purpose, surely that is the lesson?’
It was at this point, whilst my eyes darted between organisations and their connections that my wonderful new colleague Claire whispered, behind a very wry smile, ‘Welcome to your new world.’ So, here I am, taking a deep breath and doing my utmost to immerse myself in to all things health, care and VCSE sector in Manchester.
As a ‘proper proud’ Mancunian – please insert thick manc accent here – it doesn’t get much better than working for an organisation that describes themselves as, A charity whose purpose is quite simply the City of Manchester.
I love this place. I grew up in North Manchester and have strong and deep rooted family connections here. I studied at Manchester Metropolitan University, so my continued love of learning began in Central. As a member of the student community of Manchester I lived in a few areas in the South of the city too, in various student houses with varying degrees of kitchen cleanliness.
‘Us Mancs’ have so much to be proud of. Our music, our football, our Suffragettes, our revolutionary way, our innovative ideas, our research, our inclusivity, our ability to throw a cracking party and most importantly our unflinching ability to stand together in the face of adversity. So having the city I have lived in and loved my entire life as my sole purpose is a daunting yet exciting prospect.
As a person who has always been involved in and loved client facing roles, becoming the Health and Care Development Worker at Macc was starting to feel like a huge leap from my comfort zone. Throughout my time as a social work student on placements and during my time spent working within voluntary sector organisations, I have worked with a wide range of individuals who have been experiencing loneliness and social isolation.
The simplest way for me to make a distinction between the two is to describe loneliness as a feeling that directly links to a lack of companionship. Whereas, social isolation occurs when a person has fewer opportunities to connect with the world around them. The Campaign to End Loneliness report that social isolation and loneliness, lacking this opportunity to connect with others, can be as damaging to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes per day. This statistic never fails to floor me. On an individual level, the barriers that restrict people from accessing meaningful opportunities to connect with others are as diverse as the people I have worked alongside to provide ongoing support. I feel this has enabled me to become a creative practitioner, a skilful negotiator and a person completely dedicated to relationship based practice.
So why the change and why now?
When applying for the role of Health and Care Development Worker, I was inspired by Lemn Sissay, one of my favourite Mancunian poets and Chancellor of Manchester University. In his poem ‘Making a Difference’ written to describe the universities commitment to the social well-being of our communities and wider society, he writes, ‘We are shaking and breaking and waking indifference.’
This role for me is about ‘waking indifference’ towards the VCSE sector. It is about an exchange of skills and knowledge, recognising the expertise of colleagues across sector boundaries and shouting from the rooftops that VCSE sector organisations should be seen as equal partners. It is about sustained action that creates lasting change.
This role is all about relationships.
I am a firm believer in the idea that relationships can grow and develop in to something beautiful merely because you share an obsession for the television show RuPaul’s Drag Race… just me?! It is as simple as having a shared interest and common ground with another human being.
So, is it always that simple when tasked with working together professionally and specifically when asked to work better together with our friends from the local authority or those within the NHS? I’m not completely convinced but always hopeful. My question therefore is, how do we change this hope into action? Maybe we need to go back to basics and find a way to celebrate our shared interests. I believe that holding a passion for developing relationships that are reciprocal rather than transactional will be the driving force for all that I do as part of the Policy and Influence Team here at Macc.
This is where you come in. Returning to the dizzying map that made my head spin but equally filled me with excitement at the learning opportunities ahead, this is an open invitation. Please give me a call, follow me on Twitter or send me an email to say ‘hello!’
I would love to hear more about what the view from your working world looks like. I am keen to understand how everything fits together. Does it fit together? If you’re reading this thinking ‘oh what a lovely, optimistic and utterly naive thought,’ get in touch, tell me why. What would make working together across sector boundaries much more comfortable?
I have one rule and that rule is – if your role, or the organisation you work for, uses a fun acronym – you simply must tell me what it stands for. I am new to this ever changing world, remember (the word rule is used loosely here. It’s more a recommendation or request).
So now it is time to get started and I promise that I will take great pride in the idea that my ‘New World’ and role within it is to strengthen and develop lasting relationships in my beloved city of Manchester.
Twitter - @DanielleCMacc