One of the highlights of my time with Dudley CVS has been the opportunity to help develop and support Dudley Parent Carer Forum – Working Together for Change. Not just because they are a group of awesome people with such amazing strength, that are giving, insightful and bundles of fun, but because they are completely committed to influencing decisions that affect their lives and the lives of other parents with children who have disabilities or additional needs. It has been a privilege to see their confidence and relationships with professionals develop and to see the real tangible outcomes of these collaborations. I truly believe that this has been possible partly because of the liberating leadership model of governance that they have chosen to use.
The forum formed just over 2 years ago now and is made up from six organisations, all with three seats each, and a number of independent parent carers and grandparents. The steering group is large in comparison to some organisations but it really works for WTFC; as parent carers have complex lives, having a large steering group removes pressure to have to be at meetings but still gives us solid representation to make decisions and move work forward.
The steering group is working to a liberating leadership style which makes the best use of people’s strengths, skills and experiences. Roles, tasks and groups are allocated based on interest and skills.
The forum spent the first few meetings really getting to know each other, forming a solid team with a collective understanding and vision. The purpose of the first session was to come together and collectively agree what the forum stood for and agree a way to move forward together. It was also an opportunity to agree how we want the forum to be seen. The session was designed to have an interactive and creative focus.
Box of postcards
To start the process the group was asked to look through a selection of postcards and pick one that they were particularly drawn to and one that they were not sure about. It was interesting to hear the reasons why different postcards were selected and different perspectives.
Drawing with eyes closed
Each member of the group was given a piece of blank paper and a pen. They were then asked to draw a flower with their eyes closed and hand the drawing in without looking at their own or each others. Incredibly everyone identified their own drawing even though they had not seen what they had drawn!
The group again with eyes closed were asked to draw something they liked. They then had to identify who had drawn what. We learnt a lot about each other through these activities as well as identifying some ideas of what our visual identity should be.
The group began to think about the importance of how they put their message across, and about the key elements that deliver that message such as a logo, the images we use, and our title. It was agreed that as a forum they need to be clear and say ‘this is what we do, and this is what we don’t do!’
After this session a clear vision was formulated which is to “Empowering Dudley Parent Carers to have their voices heard in a way that influences change & service design”
Having solid foundations and a clear vision has enabled the forum to work together, giving over 850 hours of volunteer time to collaborate with professionals, to influence policies, develop statutory organisations’ publicity materials and websites, encouraged partnerships working and discouraged silos and helped to shape new services!
They have achieved all this whilst still offering support, friendship and fun to all parent carers across Dudley borough, communicating and sharing with over 800 parent carers within the network.
You can find out more about Working Together for Change and their incredible journey by visiting the website or following them on Twitter.
Coming together is a beginning; Keeping together is progress; Working together is success!