Resilience through community: a round up of our year
Posted by Johanna Brooks on 21st December 2021
“We can learn from each other, the younger ones from the older ones and the older from the younger in these ever-changing times.” Manchester Cares older neighbour Ged, 66.
This year, we’ve witnessed countless moments of connection – where neighbours have come together to laugh, chat and offer solace to one another. After the lockdowns of 2020, we were delighted to be able to safely reintroduce some face-to-face programming this year and see our neighbours spend quality time together again in-person. Older and younger friends have continued to learn from one another in these rapidly changing times - generously exchanging perspectives, wisdom and knowledge to help each other stay optimistic, connected and hopeful through the seasons.
Through uncertainty, it has become even clearer how vital meaningful community connection is.
Despite continued uncertainty, throughout 2021, The Cares Family communities continued to flourish:
- Together, 4,800 older and younger neighbours have shared time, new experiences and connection;
- 1,373 older and younger friends have shared 746 social clubs in person, online and by phone – a total of 6,920 times;
- Another 496 friends have shared 4,299 one-to- one connections lasting 2,852 hours.
- Our team have checked in 9,756 times with well over 2,000 additional older neighbours;
- Our staff have made 3,078 practical interventions in total, including referrals to hundreds of local partners who can help connect neighbours even more;
- Neighbours have shared over 100 creative tasks, tips and activities through 70,000 individually distributed #AllTogether activity packs sent by post to over 8,000 younger and older people.
The Power of Friendship
The power of authentic friendship and meaningful connection has become especially apparent over the past year as many people have begun to meet up again face-to-face. Many friends who were matched over lockdown through our ‘Phone a Friend’ initiative, but never actually met in-person, were able to finally share a meal or a walk together in 2021.
They include friends like Chrissie, 73, and Claire, 44, who first met in October 2020. Their friendship has blossomed over the past year, with the pair connecting over 60 times - through walks in the park, to craft projects, to long phone calls. And like many of our Love Your Neighbour friendships, what seems to define Chrissie and Claire’s connection more than anything is laughter.
"She just refuses to conform to any stereotype – I love that," says Claire about her older friend Chrissie.
In September, we launched a new initiative called Community Champions. Community Champions puts the microphone in the hands of our older and younger neighbours and - through media training and collaborative storytelling opportunities - supports them to share their stories of how relationships formed through our work have unlocked meaning, purpose and belonging in their lives and communities. But Community Champions is about more than just creating media-trained spokespeople. It’s about creating local ambassadors who believe in our vision, and who feel empowered to use their story of friendship to inspire others to believe in the power of connection and community too.
Meet our Community Champions here.
Investing in Community Connectors
In 2021 we launched The Multiplier, a new Cares Family initiative seeking to empower local entrepreneurs to build activities and movements in their own communities that inspire cohesion, bridge divides and drive social connection. In February, our first cohort of Multipliers met for the first time on Zoom. The leaders - from Belfast to Birmingham, Cardiff to Cornwall - were selected from 129 applicants nationwide to participate in a programme run by The Cares Family that included workshops on leadership, storytelling fundraising and more.
Feedback from the Multipliers has been overwhelmingly positive, with one participant saying, "I love the programme - it’s challenged me and given me what I needed to grow. I can’t thank this programme enough."
We are excited to welcome 10 more Multipliers to the programme in 2022!
Driving Broader Change
2022 promises to be an exciting year as we broaden our work to drive change at the national level. As well as growing our network of older and younger neighbours locally, we will start to shift some of the systemic and cultural drivers of loneliness and disconnection across the UK. To do this, we will work with politicians, the media and businesses to help influence policies. Read our recent report ‘Building our social infrastructure: Why levelling up means creating a more socially connected Britain’ to find out more.
Over the coming months, we will launch new campaigns and initiatives to drive forward this important work.
Now, as we look to 2022 and beyond, our plan is to go deeper within our local communities, engaging more older and younger people in London, Manchester and Liverpool; to share these stories to help inspire further local action; and, by working with partners, to spur a national ripple effect of connection everywhere. We will continue to deepen our storytelling and influence politicians, the media and businesses to change the systems and cultures that underpin disconnection, loneliness, and polarisation; and to spur a ripple of activity across the UK that can lead to a more connected age.