Welcome to the ABCD Project, a 9 month project that ended on Saturday 30th January 2016 when hundreds of people attended a huge Winter Wellbeing Festival at Connaught Hall in Attleborough. The idea of the festival was to create a “living map” of everything we had discovered on our travels around South Norfolk. Wherever we went, we asked people “what keeps you well?” and we brought as many things as possible together that day. Over 50 different organisations and individuals took part – either had a stand or ran an activity or workshop, or performed in the evening. You can find a full list of them in the Welcome Book by clicking this link: ABCD Winter Wellbeing Festival Welcome Book. A crew of people met fortnightly for months to organise the festival. We had shared lunches and lots of fun. We got great press coverage – the festival was in the EDP, Norwich Evening News and all the local weeklies, as well as on Radio Norfolk.
We wanted to maximise the learning we got from the project so we have organised an ABCD Showcase & Equality Soup event in Loddon on Thursday 14th April, from 2-6pm at the Lecture Hall, George Lane. From 2-5 we had a series of short talks from all the different people involved in the project telling us what they learnt (with tea and homemade cake at 3pm) and from 5-6pm we had Equality Soup with the team from Rosie Lee’s.
The original aim of the project was to use ABCD (Asset-Based Community Development) to map the services and support that’s available in the community for people experiencing mental health issues. We learnt pretty quickly that “there’s no point asset-mapping without asset-mobilising” so we decided to take a total community approach to mental health; to recognise that we are all vulnerable to mental health issues and that the best way to tackle social isolation is to build stronger communities. ABCD asks us to think about “what’s strong with you?” not “what’s wrong with you?”; “what are your skills, talents and gifts?” not “what’s your diagnosis?” and best of all it says “why have a meeting when you can have a party?”
Our aim became to inspire communities across South Norfolk to be more caring, welcoming places where neighbours looked out for one another during tough times – just like the old days. We gave out eight £250 We Can Wellbeing Awards to people who wanted to promote wellbeing where they lived. We travelled to community events – Wayland Agricultural Show, Mulbarton Fireworks, Diss Christmas Lights Switch-On – and we sat in cafes and support groups talking to people. We asked “what keeps you well?” and we wrote everything down on a giant map. We worked with artist Allison Bradnock to draw a map of all the things we discovered. Here it is:
Wendy Hick from South Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group said:
“We wanted to do this project because it gave the opportunity to look wider than the services we commission to support people with their mental health. It is really important hospitals and community services are there for the times people need them but we must remember that services are only a small part of people’s lives. There is such good evidence to show that having social connections, knowing people and having friends where you live is a really important part of good mental health and that is what our ABCD project was about. It has helped us and will carry on helping us to think and do differently in how we plan support for people to live their lives.”
One of the great resources we discovered is the Norfolk Directory – a website where you can find out about all the clubs, services and support in your area. The idea is that people upload the information themselves and make sure they keep it fresh – in this way it should always be up-to-date. The website address is www.norfolk.gov.uk/directory
The ABCD Project was funded by NHS East of England Strategic Clinical Network and the Project Partners are South Norfolk CCG, Together for Mental WellBeing, Healthwatch and Norfolk County Council. Kevin James was our Service User Representative from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust. The ABCD Project was a co-production – this meant people with lived experience of mental health issues helped to steer the project at every level – and we all worked together as equals.