Significant People With Significant Stories
Regular readers will know that I’ve been connected with the campaign 7 Days of Action. Over the past three days there have been some major developments in the direction of the campaign. I’ve been struggling to get my head around the changes and what has taken up a lot of my head space; where do I fit (if anywhere) in the new direction.
The big problem for me, and I hope this isn’t seen arrogantly, is that many people see 7 Days of Action as my campaign. It isn’t and never was. One day, I was minding my Facebook business & found I’d been invited to join a private messanger group. The group had been started by several mothers who had family members held in ATUs and we’re starting a national campaign to raise the profile of their situation and ultimately, to get their children out. The group invited several people to join in the hope that the more creative heads the better would bring about a successful outcome. It was my idea to write the 7 daily blogs focusing on one detained dude each day. I volunteered to edit the stories and publish them each day over the first campaign week. I think a big mistake we made was not to set up a Twitter account for the campaign so all the blog stories were tweeted initially from my account and once published, others retweeted and shared across social media. But that was my job within the campaign: it was the families’ campaign. I can see how the misapprehension happened but I tried consistently to put people straight when they assumed I was the leader.
Over the year, lots more people become involved which was great for the scope of ideas that went into the melting pot. A steering group developed and the personnel has changed over time. A second campaign, similar to the first, was run last autumn. Again, I took on the same role of editing the stories but there were many others working just as hard, or harder, on other areas of the campaign. It felt very much like a team effort to me and even though the subject matter of the campaign was harrowing, the creative energy was very invigorating.
A few months ago, something happened that I feared threatened the integrity of the campaign. I’m not going into details because I’m not going to break the confidentiality of the people involved. Lots of discussions took place and I think my reaction may have been over dramatic but I felt uneasy about what could be a compromising position. Others disagreed and the group took the decision to lay low for a while and relaunch the campaign this spring, possibly with a new name. Collectively, the name My Own Front Door was agreed as a way forward and ideas started to come together for the new campaign.
Then Dispatches aired their programme about St Andrews and the group started to see the way forward needed a new tone, a new way of operating. I posted an article about the hospital and my language offended some people. As the group clarified it’s direction, it decided a more collaborative approach was needed and that the angry energy that had fuelled the first year needed to be more considered, if the idea of establishing partnership relationship with providers, commissioners, professional stakeholders was to evolve. This made sense to me but knew it is not my style and that I’d inadvertently stitch things up in the future. So, I resigned from the steering group as that felt the best thing for the campaign. It still does.
Then yesterday, the group announced the decision taken by the steering group which is to run two things with the collaborative project, My Own Front Door running as well as the 7 Days of Action campaign. I must admit, it took a while for the penny to drop for me that that was what was happening. My gut instinct was that the two things aren’t compatible because the approaches and styles are so different. To be honest, I wanted the new group to be brave and run with their original idea as it may lose some people but it might bring a lot of new people on board too.
I couldn’t clarify my thinking though.
Until this morning. I was telling the Get Steven Home story at a conference in Scunthorpe. The other speaker was the wonderfully inspirational Luke Rodgers. Luke spent much of his childhood in foster care but has now set up an organisation called Foster Focus and one of its aims is to encourage care leavers’ creativity to create new and meaningful lives for themselves. Luke spoke about his care experiences from the heart, was witty, humble and didn’t pull any punches considering the audience was made up of social care professionals. His theme was the significant people in his life. It was very real and profoundly inspiring. We chatted afterwards and I realised we both shared a pragmatic view of telling our stories. We didn’t see what we were doing as partnership working. We don’t speak that language. We were telling real stories and what the listeners do with those stories is entirely down to them. It may change someone’s practice; it may not. That is not our responsibility.
It did help me understand that I tell stories. Whether it is mine & Steven’s story, one of the seven dudes’ story or a fictional story from Committee Room Five, that is what I do. That is my contribution to what we originally termed the ATU scandal. And I’m happy with that. I don’t lead campaigns because I have neither the skills nor the energy to do that. I don’t do collaborative working because I don’t have the language or the temperament to do that. I write stuff.
Walt Whitman – Oh Me, Oh Life
“That you are here. That life exists and identity.
That the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse”.
Today, I remembered my verse.
From → Social Care