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A group of smiling people at the Ripple Effect residential.

Building joy and connection: Ripple Effect in action

Posted by The Cares Family on 6th October 2023

Please note: this post is 9 months old and The Cares Family is no longer operational. This post is shared for information only

Creating more socially connected communities can paradoxically be a difficult and isolating experience. Whilst working with our Ripple Effect partners this summer, what became clear is that joy can re-ignite momentum and provide a vital energy for generating social impact.

This summer we delivered the Ripple Effect to ten partners from across the UK. Through Ripple Effect we actively support organisations, groups and individuals to adopt The Cares Family approach and adapt our model to create meaningful connection across generations, backgrounds and experiences.

In June, we travelled to North Staffordshire to work with a coalition of partners from across the voluntary sector and local authorities who wanted to nurture more partnership working and social connection where they are. The following month, The Cares Family team spent three days in Wales working with nine individuals from community organisations across the UK – from Shoreham-on-Sea to Sale West- all with a shared commitment to increasing meaningful social connection within their communities.

The learning space had its intended impact, equipping participants with a strong grasp of The Cares Family's model and principles while sparking our partners' sense of joy, playfulness, and creativity. This helped them return to their communities with renewed energy, practical tools and drive to create meaningful social connection.

However, the learning wasn’t just one way. The feedback from the residential helped us crystallise three elements of Ripple Effect that will be key to the success of the programme in the future. From our partners’ feedback, we learnt that three things were key to helping others build meaningful social connection:

Joy

In both North Staffordshire and Wales this word came up time and time again, with one partner stating that the environment had ‘just the biggest amount of joy.’ In bringing a sense of fun to the space, an environment is created that allows for bonding, an increased sense of vulnerability and for deeper reflective work to take place. Social connection is a joyful experience and we learnt that having a joyful approach to sharing how to create meaningful social connection is essential. It requires us to make just as much space for encouraging joy as we do the sharing of detailed techniques and models.

Connection

One partner underlined ‘it was a complete joy to connect with complete strangers’ and another emphasised ‘we came as strangers and became a team, all on the same side, rooting for each other’. It was clear that the bonding within the space was an empowering and encouraging experience. Community work can be a lonely and difficult journey at times and connecting with other people with the same passion had real value. There was a strong desire to keep this national network for continued learnings and support. We learnt that this community spirit was a vital fuel for our partners’ continued journey in in nurturing social connection in their local places across the UK.

Practical tips

Partners enjoyed how the programme gave them practical tips and a structure to start creating inter-generational connection in their area. One partner stated, ‘the way it’s been structured over the three days has given us a whole new framework and ideas to work with.’

We learnt that ensuring partners had space to identify useful starting points for their social connection plans was really important and we took steps to support partners shape their first social clubs (our group model for bringing people together). On the residential all nine partners planned individual clubs, with everything from a ‘Do Your Ting’ dance and food night to an Apple ‘Pick and Press’ club at an orchard.

Ripples of connection from the residential

Nicola from the housing association whg attended the Ripple Effect residential, and three months on says ‘the Ripple Effect is in full swing in Walsall.’ To date, they have run nine Social Clubs, bringing people from different generations, backgrounds, and experiences together in the local community.

Nicola told us that she’s ‘embraced the challenge’ of bringing Ripple Effect to the housing association. And they are helping to bring the ten techniques that underpin our model to Walsall. They've integrated the technique ‘make “come as you are” your only requirement’ by providing flexible weekly sessions that give the group a space to try new things such as mindfulness and arts and crafts together. They’ve prioritised the technique ‘go out and find disconnection’ by choosing an area that had less pre-existing community activity and provision.

One woman who was particularly isolated before attending said ‘I used to be scared to leave the house, I really did lose my way before but now I have something every week that makes me happy. I like being around people and I think I had forgot that.’ She has now started recruiting her neighbours to attend the weekly events. We can’t wait to see what happens next.