A Chance to Champion Community-Led Health

Fiona Cross, Director at Ripple shares with us the importance of taking every opportunity that comes your way. 

When Elspeth from CHEX emailed me to raise the possibility of the Ripple hosting the Scottish Government’s launch of the Public Health Priorities I immediately said yes as instinct told me that this was not only a great opportunity to showcase a community-led approach to health but also a great chance to show the Ripple in action.

A follow up meeting with Mark McAllister, the Communication and Engagement Officer for the Public Health Reform Programme reassured me that that initial instinct had been the right one.

I was left feeling confident that the Ripple was indeed a ‘good fit’ with the priorities outlined but I think even more importantly than that was the recognition within the report about the impact health inequalities have on the health of the nation.

Furthermore there was a focus on the part communities had to play in creating a culture for health in Scotland and the need to: ‘deliver local services that work together even more closely with communities to meet the needs of the people who use them.’

This resonated strongly with the Ripple’s model of delivery. With over 80 local volunteers supporting the Ripple every week and a strong track record of delivering services in consultation with local people and in response to local need I felt we could deliver a positive experience of community-led health in action to those involved.

Of course there were still hurdles to overcome and I suddenly found myself working in a culture of ‘coms’, ‘press releases’, ‘ministerial diaries’ and a request for a pen picture and biography was naively met with a bio of the Ripple only to discover it was meant to be about me. Really?

A strict ministerial timetable also meant that the launch had to be at 10 in the morning. At this point in the day the Hub Grub Café volunteers would be in full swing preparing lunch for our older Ripple Lunch Club members and café customers, Caring Soles delivered in partnership with the Eric Liddell Centre would be setting up for their morning clinic and people taking part in the annual Big Fit Walk would be gathering. Pretty busy already but we couldn’t let an opportunity like this pass us by and a quick internal promotion to our service-users, volunteers and Trustee’s ensured that Minister Aileen Campbell and Councillor Peter Johnston were met by a great cross section of local residents and key partners.

The morning was a huge success, with both Minister Campbell and Councillor Johnston getting the opportunity to experience first-hand the impact a community-led organisation can have in an area with little other social provision or economic investment.

More importantly it was the people that use the Ripple that were able to tell, in their own words, why they come to the Ripple and why they think the Ripple gives the local community a focus and creates a sense of place and belonging. Lastly I think everyone there wanted to convey to our visitors all that is positive about living in the local area and celebrate our shared achievements.

Having fully embraced the use of Twitter around 18 months earlier the Ripple was able to share the launch with followers and partners and celebrate the success of the morning. Feedback from Mark McAllister was very positive and both Minister Campbell and Cllr Johnston sharing how impressed they had been with the Ripple and the breadth of services on offer. We even made the front page of the local community newspaper The Speaker.

I would encourage any of my peers to embrace these opportunities if they come their way and it feels like the right ‘fit’ for your organisation.

So much of the work of third sector projects takes place quietly in the background and this was a chance to take front stage. In many ways it felt like recognition and validation of the work of the Ripple and in a wider context the importance of a community-led approach to addressing health inequalities.

A final big thank-you to CHEX for making the initial introductions and for their continued support throughout the process.

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