Boingboing blogs from… Blackpool

Boingboing and HeadStart in Blackpool – January to June 2017

by Boingboing

Phew, where did that time go? Boingboing and HeadStart really hit the ground running with this programme of work together and quickly developed into a rhythm of co-working. Take a glance back at this blog for our musings on our first few months together working across the town to support HeadStart. This involves young people aged from 10 to 16 years and their supporters getting their heads around resilience-based approaches that we have already developed, particularly around mental health. Since then, it’s all been going very well. Highlights include Blackpool Central Library using their Brunswick or Talbot rooms for most of our training, and this means we can have food made and delivered by Camerados (a charity set up to combat isolation). They have been making delicious lunches for our workshops. If the library wasn’t available then we have used the City Learning Centre or the Solaris Centre, which are all great venues.

Beginning in January Boingboing and HeadStart jointly delivered a Bouncing Forward two-hour workshop every month. These are aimed at anyone in the town who wants to know about HeadStart and who wants to join in with Blackpool’s resilience revolution. Boingboing trainers also give a brief introduction to how we see resilience as the ability of people who are going through tough times to bounce forward, and even change aspects of the adversity they are facing. We introduce the Resilience Framework as a handy toolkit of ideas which can be used by individuals or families to do things to support their own resilience, but also by organisations to improve the odds for those having a particularly tough time of it. When people come to the Bouncing Forward sessions they can see how and why HeadStart has adopted Boingboing’s approach to resilience across the town.

We have experimented with booking different time slots, in the daytime and evening, to see which ones are more convenient for people. I was surprised that the lunchtime slot in June 2017 was very popular with people booking on, but the most popular was in January 2017 from 10am–12pm, when 28 people booked and 23 attended. We also ran sessions in the evening. The sessions are all free for people who live or work in Blackpool, so we weren’t sure if this would affect how many people came along to training after they had booked on. We found that on average 6 people would end up not attending after booking on, and the usual attendance was around 11 people, from all walks of life including the police, schools or play projects, foster carers, and people working in housing, hospices or the NHS, plus lots of people from Blackpool council. We developed a system on Eventbrite to send emails reminding people about their session and also asking them to tell us if they would not be able to come, and this has meant we are usually told if people can’t come.

We have run a range of full-day workshops in Blackpool so that people can book onto the ones which best meet their needs, and all of them have continuing professional development (CPD) certification. This basically means you get a certificate which you can put on your CV (and your wall!). Since January 2017 we have run five Introduction to Resilient Therapy (IRT) workshops with either Claire or Mary and co-delivered by a young person – Simon, Lisa or Naz. These workshops give some of the background and research evidence which has led us to develop Resilient Therapy (RT) as an approach which can be applied in lots of different circumstances to support resilience in the town. Attendance at these workshops has ranged from 18 to 39 with lots of people coming from Blackpool Council and local schools, but also from organisations like the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS), the NHS and some voluntary organisations. We decided after that to limit numbers to 30 people because we felt it was easier to respond to people’s individual contexts if there were not too many in the room.

We ran two Academic Resilience Approach (ARA) workshops in February and May 2017. These workshops are aimed specifically at schools because the ARA is an approach which includes the whole staff in making plans to support resilience for everyone, but especially vulnerable children. School staff came from lots of different local primary and secondary schools. The May workshop was attended by 26 people, including the new Resilience Coaches who are going to be working in schools delivering Angie and collaborators’ Resilient Therapy approach. At this workshop it was interesting to see that some adults in Blackpool did not have a positive experience when they were at school, and this can make it harder for them to imagine the positive impact a school can have on a child’s future resilience. However, it helps to see evidence about how easy it is to make a positive ‘resilient move’ for a young person, often in small steps which are really easy to do. That’s why Ann Masten calls Resilience ‘Ordinary Magic’.

From January to June 2017 we also ran four Practitioner Resilience Workshops, which use evidence about resilience to support people whose jobs can be stressful and who need to look after themselves in order to support others. We limit the numbers on these workshops so that people can have time and space to reflect on their own situations. These have been getting more popular over time and the workshop in June was attended by 18 people.

We have also run one parenting course, but decided this course would benefit from being developed by staff in Blackpool who know the families well and what they need. Anne Rathbone has been supporting Lisa Mills from HeadStart to develop a new parenting course. Once it is ready we hope it will be well advertised though Blackpool Comms and the Boingboing website to ensure as many people as possible can access parenting support.

Anne has also been supporting Nathan Parker, Blackpool’s participation officer, who is working with the Young People’s Executive Group and some new apprentices to prepare them to co-train at some of the workshops from September 2017 onwards, and develop a resilience approach which fits the context of Blackpool. Two Blackpool young people, Ollie and Josh, even went to a Pathways to Resilience IV conference in South Africa with a group from Boingboing and Blackpool Council. As well as giving their own fabulous talk about HeadStart they heard some of the best known academics and practitioners talk about resilience. They also made a video blog about their experiences which is coming to the Boingboing website soon.

Apart from setting up workshops there have been lots of other things happening in Blackpool. Laura, who was appointed for Boingboing North, has really settled in quickly and she’s been helping to train our new administrator apprentice, Paige. Laura has been coordinating our work with HeadStart as well as planning exciting new ways to spread the word about Resilient Therapy and writing funding bids. She has also been supporting HeadStart and Big Lottery with their monitoring and evaluating of the first year of this exciting 5 year project to embed Resilient Therapy and support young people and families in Blackpool. Paige has also been picking things up quickly and supporting the training with lots of logistics work. She’s got a brilliant sense of humour too and the best laugh in Boingboing.

Paige: “I am really enjoying working with Boingboing, going on all the training courses, helping to make events for the public happen, receiving feedback on Boingboing training, and working together with the fabulous Boingboing team. I have picked up so much since starting in late April. Learning more in depth about resilience, the resilience framework, the Bouncing Forward, IRT, PR and ARA courses has given me a great understanding of what we do. And even though I’m an administrator it has helped a lot to build a better knowledge of my work and how to respond to people who don’t understand as much, for instance on our training courses. I am so glad that I have had the opportunity to join the Boingboing team as they are all so supportive, hardworking, kind hearted and always open to suggestions and opinions.”

We have been really impressed by the work going on in schools and Mary facilitated a successful Community of Practice (CoP) in May 2017, which brought together people who are involved in schools to plan how to implement resilient moves. There have been three CoPs altogether, so far. In May Mary introduced SARA to Blackpool, and staff from Aspire Academy, Park Special School, Mereside Primary, Thames Primary and Unity Academy are already sharing some excellent ideas about how they build resilience systemically in their schools. SARA is a training course which will equip people who attend with the skills and knowledge to train others in the Academic Resilience Approach and support schools through the process. We had a lot of trouble coming up with a name for that course because we wanted to show that it was not just about training people, but it was about ongoing guidance and support. We decided that Supported Academic Resilience Approach was a good name and it caught on quickly with everyone referring to SARA like she’s an old friend.

Trainees do practical and academic work in between the six sessions and they will get credits from the University of Brighton when they have finished. Mary came back from Blackpool very excited because the ten people on the course were so inspiring, and they even managed to convey the principles of resilience through the medium of dance, which was supposed to be a joke. SARA is an important part of the Boingboing-HeadStart partnership because it will allow people in Blackpool to feel confident about their independent delivery of the ARA when Boingboing moves on to support other regions. Claire is working with the University of Brighton to develop the same type of training for trainers of the Introduction to Resilient Therapy course, and for people who support others to implement Resilient Therapy. We still haven’t got a name for that one but we hope to start delivering in October 2017 so we need to put our creative thinking caps on.

Another exciting development is that a fully-funded PhD student, Mirika, will be beginning her work in Blackpool through the University of Brighton to help to research some of the work which is being done there.

Resilience coaches have also been appointed and they had three days of Boingboing training, beginning with Therapeutic Work and looking at co-produced resilience resources and games, as well as How to Work in Schools and an Introduction to Resilience session. They are beginning to embark on some work in the community and will also be available to support four new Resilience coaches who have been appointed and will have their training in July 2017.

Claire has also provided individual Resilient Therapy supervisions with people from Blackpool, via Skype or in person, and two group supervisions. Angie, Mary and Anne have given several hours of support over the phone or when they are visiting. We are just loving the passion and enthusiasm of HeadStart. Boingboingers are feeling that they are working well with the Blackpool team to spread the message, language and approach of RT across the town.

Now we’re looking towards year 2 and have been planning with HeadStart how they want to take the project forward. Plans are afoot to develop the parent and youth aspect of our workshops, and also to have some more targeted workshops which meet the particular needs of practitioners in specific settings. We’re excited about training and supporting more people in Blackpool so that they can take over the delivery and support of the ARA and IRT. We also want to continue to spread the word about resilience with more short Bouncing Forward workshops, so that even more people will learn about the HeadStart vision for Blackpool. Blackpool schools are going to start implementing ARA and it will be exciting to see how they apply it to their own contexts.

We are really getting to know Blackpool well and the word about HeadStart certainly seems to be getting around. Boingboingers saw this for themselves, when Angie and Scott just happened to connect with Davina who was cutting their hair in Blackpool the other day. Davina already knew about HeadStart and they had a great conversation about how Davina could get involved too. We are really looking forward to meeting more people from Blackpool, both in hairdressers and beyond. In particular, as we start to learn about all the different ways people are using the RT approach in Blackpool, we will be able to share these in our training sessions. This should help to keep the conversation about a resilient Blackpool both vibrant and energetic.