Skip to content

Positive thinking and the strength based approach.

August 22, 2016

One of the key themes of Big Lottery Fund’s People and Communities programme and also Awards for All, is to be strength based.

We aren’t asking you to pump iron at your local gym and tone up your muscles.

A strength based project is one that supports people and communities to build on the knowledge, skills, experience they already have to make the changes they want.

When I think about a strengths based approach, I remember a conversation I had with a community group about how they changed their approach to community planning.

They explained that in the past, they had started with the question “What’s wrong and how can we fix it?”  It did get them some answers, however it was like opening a flood gate for complaints and grudges.   If people get caught up in a series of negative rants, it can become hard to move them on to think about the future. There is a risk of deflating community spirit.

The group I spoke to, adopted a strength based approach, which has a positive outlook.  They began to ask positive questions such as “What is working well?” instead of focusing on problems. They trained people in their community to interview others, and held some lively public meetings with artists who drew up large scale illustrations of their ideas.

The strength based approach helps people to recognise their achievements.  It helps to identify skills and resources within a community, then to look at how to improve use of them.  It can encourage volunteering. It identifies good practice and role models and also the types of activity that are popular and needed.  It can be fun to get people together and talking about what works well in their community.  You could have a social event and celebrate your successes.

To build on the past, you need a vision for the future.   Do a bit of time travelling!  Ask people what they want to see in their community.  In 10 or 15 years’ time what do they see happening?  How can existing services grow?  Any ideas for something new?  It is good to have dreams and aspirations, they are optimistic and can spark creative ideas.  Some of them might be achievable.

Which brings me to my final point. Take a practical look at how to achieve that vision for the future. Use the learning from the past.  Some of the ideas might be too aspirational or idealistic – at least for now.  But if you have used a strengths based approach you will have the support of your community behind you, a good knowledge of the available resources and a clear vision to work towards together.

 

YOUNG PEOPLE CELEBRATE NEW PROJECT

August 19, 2016

Earlier this week we awarded almost £3 million to five projects across Northern Ireland through our Empowering Young People programme.

CAN, based in Ballymoney, is one of the groups celebrating after it received £574,217 for a project led by young people with learning disabilities in the Causeway Coast and Glens area. The five year YE (Youth Empowerment) CAN project is working with the young people and their parents to help them make the move to adulthood and plan for the future.

It is supporting young people aged 12-18 with learning disabilities and their parents to move from children’s to adult services, while helping to improve their employability, self-esteem and independence.

arly McClements and Gemma McMullan fundraising for CAN

Carly McClements and Gemma McMullan fundraising for CAN

Janet Schofield, CEO of CAN, said the project is helping young people across the Causeway Coast and Glens area with learning disabilities at an important time in their lives.

“Our young people struggle when it comes to leaving school, leaving children’s services and moving into adult services – it’s a massive leap,” she said.

“There isn’t a lot of transition support out there so we’ll be bridging the gap by signposting the young people to the right support, providing one-to-one mentoring and training and education in life skills.

“It is also a lot for parents to navigate and it can be overwhelming. It can also be hard for a parent who has always been protective over their child to let them be more independent – they can be afraid to let go. So part of this project is about supporting parents to share their experiences and be a positive support network for each other,” Janet said.

Janet explained the project would be shaped by what each young person needs, including support with independent living skills and opportunities to make friends. It will also connect the young people with programmes in their communities and CAN’s other projects.

The young people will help promote the project and activities and they will have their own leadership forum.

Mary Hunter, whose daughter attends CAN’s Best Buddies project said: “Hollie has been involved with CAN for three years now. It’s building up her social skills and helping with her independence. She is making new friends in her community which is fabulous for her future. It’s great for me, and other parents to know that CAN will be there to help us too.”

Jade Millen preparing a speech for the Ambassadors Programme

Jade Millen preparing a speech for the Ambassadors Programme

Jade Millen from Coleraine has been involved in the organisation for over six years.

“Being part of CAN really helped me. I was going through a bad time when I got involved in the youth project but by being part of the group, I’ve been able to make friends and had so many experiences I would never have had. CAN gave me the confidence to go to college and I’ve just started my first job.”

Other projects receiving funding:

The Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children has been awarded £600,000 to provide tailored support for young people across Northern Ireland aged 8-17 whose parent or carer has cancer, young people who have lost someone to cancer and young people who find themselves in a caring role.

MACS Supporting Young People has received £599,977 to help young people in Belfast, Lisburn & Castlereagh, Newry Mourne & Down aged 11-25 to improve and better manage their mental health, reach their potential and become active members of society.

Liberty Consortium in Derry/Londonderry has been awarded £600,000 to offer activities, work placements and training to increase the personal and social skills of young people aged 16-23 with learning disabilities.

Youth Action Northern Ireland Limited has received £599,999 for a project supporting young men in Belfast, Derry City and Strabane, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon and Newry, Mourne and Down who are involved in or at risk of becoming involved in violence to make better choices.

The Empowering Young People programme can support projects working with young people across Northern Ireland including young carers, young people with a learning disability and young people who face barriers to education, training or employment. More information about Empowering Young People can be found on our website, www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/northernireland.  

£3 million to help young people across Northern Ireland

August 16, 2016

Today we’ve awarded almost £3 million to five projects across Northern Ireland through our Empowering Young People programme.

YouthAction is one of the groups celebrating today. Two young men who have been helped by YouthAction in Co Armagh tell us how they have changed from young boys with low self-esteem into confident role models and mentors.

 

Walter first got involved with YouthAction when he was invited on a fishing trip - an activity which he loved when he was younger but never got the chance to try again.

Walter first got involved with YouthAction when he was invited on a fishing trip – an activity which he loved when he was younger but never got the chance to try again.

Walter Wood, 21, from Armagh lived in care for 14 years. Walter’s mother passed away in 2008 and his father lives in Australia.

“I had been in the care system since the age of three and moved around from place to place living with multiple foster families. Being in care for most of my life gave me low self-esteem, a lack of drive and a bad attitude towards authority figures. I’ve been involved with a few different organisations which have helped shape me into a better person and this helped me see the great opportunity YouthAction could give me.”

Walter was 18 when he got involved with YouthAction’s Young Men Talking project, which was previously funded by Big Lottery Fund.

“Being involved with YouthAction has helped me feel more confident and make new friends. One of the things we talked about was violence, how to combat it and how to deal with different situations. It’s helped make me calmer and improve my communication. I joined in discussions about the new project, which Big Lottery Fund is funding, to give ideas about what young men want and need – it’s great to be listened to and know that I’m contributing to something that’ll help other young men.”

In the past few years, Walter has transformed his life.

“I’m now on a paid work placement with YouthAction as a Young Men’s Peer Mentor. I help other young men by talking to them and giving them advice. Some of the young men I mentor are in the care system so I’m in a good place to share my experiences – I’ve been there, done it and got through it. They look up to me as a role model which makes me feel good.”

Matthew Leonard, 17, from Darkley, Co Armagh, is also a changed person thanks to YouthAction’s support.

L-R Matthew Leonard and Walter Woods

L-R Matthew Leonard and Walter Woods

“I grew up in a very small village, and there was no else my age. By the time I was in secondary school I was stuck at home, in my room, on the computer.

“I became a recluse and it made me a shy and anxious person. I was quiet in school and I found it hard to look people in the eye when they were talking to me so it was hard to hold a conversation.”

Mathew’s parents eventually persuaded to get involved in a local youth project. His confidence great and he later got involved with YouthAction. The change in him has been dramatic.

“After being involved with YouthAction for a few years I got the opportunity to do the Northern Ireland National Citizen Service (NINCS) project and as I got more involved in YouthAction I came out of my shell more and more. In the last couple of years I’ve hosted NINCS graduation events with 500 people in the audience – something I would never have seen myself doing.

“I’m proud of the work I’ve done and I volunteer with YouthAction now. I can’t believe it when I look back at how shy and alone I used to be. It’s great that YouthAction got the funding to do another project – there are other young men like me who may have nowhere to go to socialise so they end up feeling isolated, spending all their time online or end up getting mixed up in anti-social behaviour.”

YouthAction has just been awarded £599,999 from Big Lottery Fund’s Empowering Young People programme for the four year Everyday Life project. It is supporting isolated young men who are involved in or at risk of becoming involved in violence to make better choices and improve their lives.  The project will work with young men in Belfast, Derry City and Strabane, Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon and Newry, Mourne and Down.

Michael McKenna from YouthAction said: “We are delighted to receive this funding for the new Everyday Life project. Young men are leading this and it is grounded in what they see as key issues. In particular, it will allow us to support more young men who are at risk of getting involved in recreational, sectarian, domestic or cyber violence and aggression. It’ll give them the skills to deal with confrontation and difficult situations safely.”

Other projects receiving funding today:

The Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children has been awarded £600,000 to provide tailored support for young people across Northern Ireland aged 8-17 whose parent or carer has cancer, young people who have lost someone to cancer and young people who find themselves in a caring role.

MACS Supporting Young People has received £599,977 to help young people in Belfast, Lisburn & Castlereagh, Newry Mourne & Down aged 11-25 to improve and better manage their mental health, reach their potential and become active members of society.

Liberty Consortium in Derry/Londonderry has been awarded £600,000 to offer activities, work placements and training to increase the personal and social skills of young people aged 16-23 with learning disabilities.

CAN has received a £574,217 grant to provide support for young people with learning disabilities and their parents in the Causeway area, who are dealing with issues moving from child to adult services.

The Empowering Young People programme can support projects working with young people across Northern Ireland including young carers, young people with a learning disability and young people who face barriers to education, training or employment. More information about Empowering Young People can be found on our website, www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/northernireland.  

 

What does putting People in the Lead REALLY mean?

August 15, 2016

At Big Lottery Fund we want to put people in the lead. Being people-led is a key theme of both our People and Communities and Awards for All programmes.

So what does this mean?

Putting people in the lead means the people you’ll be working with will be meaningfully involved in the development, design and delivery of your project.

That sounds simple enough, however there is a temptation to design the project yourself and then ask people if this is what they want.  This isn’t being people-led.

For example, if you have questionnaire that looks a bit like this:

Tick what activities you would like to do:

o  Computer courses

o  Art therapy

o  Grow your own vegetables

o  Reflexology

It looks like you are getting people to design the project, but really you are making suggestions and leading them.  You are missing out on giving them the opportunity for them to come up with their own ideas and talk freely about their needs.  The project design needs to come from them.

So if you really want to put people in the lead –  talk to them first!

You can use whatever method will work best for them. Be creative, and take into account any barriers they may have such as language difficulties or limited mobility.  Don’t limit yourself to the people you usually speak to.  For example, talk to people who don’t normally come along to your activities who could be helped by your project.

You can get a group together and have a chat with tea and buns and take notes.  (Food is a great incentive). You can talk to people individually, you can even use a questionnaire as long as it has open questions that give people the opportunity to come up with their own ideas.

Then when you have made this start, keep the momentum going.  Shape the ideas into a project and look for ways of involving people in developing it and delivering it.  Find out what skills they have to contribute.  Would they be willing to share these skills by doing a demonstration or some mentoring or volunteering?  Are they members of a steering group or committee?

How people get involved will depend on the type of project. You want people to be able to make a meaningful contribution. Make sure that they are willing to come forward and participate and that you are being realistic in your plans. When you are talking to them, find out what day of week and times and venues are suitable.

The benefits of involving people do outweigh the challenges.  If people have ownership of the project, they will bring their energy and ideas and enthusiasm. You will end up with the type of project people really need, rather than one you think they need.

Action Mental health – Life Cycle #A4ANI Funded

August 12, 2016

Action Mental Health has received a £8,682 grant from Big Lottery Fund’s Awards for All programme. AMH New Horizons Foyle works to enhance the quality of life and employability of those with mental health issues across Northern Ireland. They are using the £8,692 to provide 10 high quality bicycles for a series of four 10-week cycling programmes for clients in the Derry/Londonderry area.

Guest Blog by Darrell –  a Life Cycle service user.

I have fond childhood memories learning to ride a bike.  Once I started I was able to jump on the bike and go explore the big world beyond my front street. Meeting friends and heading out with jam sandwiches packed, and away we went – we were cowboys and Indians, we were young Joey Dunlops on motor bikes and even better still we were the highway police from Chips the TV series.

Then adult life kicked in,  as I got older I left school, got a job, and eventually ran a small but successful business. I had a great family life and normal challenges: reasonable health, normal day to day worries, family growing up, bills to be paid, aging parents, and my own aging process, none of which we can avoid or slow down.

Gradually I found myself to be very unwell, there was no one thing or major issue. Looking back the invincible confident Me I began to realize I couldn’t bounce back as quickly as I used to. I wasn’t as confident as I knew I had been. I found that I just couldn’t keep my balance on the bike I had been using all my life. I know now my mental health was suffering due to multiple demands, and setting unrealistic goals.  I was sore on myself. I was very self-critical. Everything was all my fault and I didn’t need help – an attitude that will sound familiar to anyone who has gone through the same experience.

Eventually I was referred to AMH New Horizons, I have found great benefit through the many options already available within the service, and now thanks to the vision of AMH and funding from Big Lottery who have funded the Life Cycle project  I am back in the saddle and all my worries are gone. It’s me and the bike. The chance to learn and build confidence through cycling is a new step forward to help me manage my mental health.

I know cycling is good for my physical health and learning that it can have a positive effect on my mental health is now ever more important. I am looking forward to spending time outdoors, having a renewed sense of freedom, confidence and energy.

AMH is using the grant to provide opportunities in Foyle to either reengage with cycling or try it out for the first time. The project is encouraging service users to integrate physical activity into their daily routine. They hope to show people all the positive mental, physical and social benefits associated with cycling as a lifestyle activity.

AMH Life Cycle project offers clients the opportunity to build cycling confidence and Highway Code knowledge, and learn basic bike maintenance, repairs, and pre-use road checks. It will give participants a chance to meet new people and join group rides with access on weekends.

Service Manager of AMH New Horizons Foyle, Mickie Harkin, said: “We are hugely excited to be launching the Life Cycle project this summer and welcome all of our clients to get on their bikes and enjoy the great outdoors with us.”

The AMH Life Cycle project is available to clients of AMH New Horizons Foyle. To take part, email Mickie on mharkin@amh.org.uk or call 028 7137 3502. For more information on Awards for All please visit: http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/northernireland