Boingboing blogs from…Blackpool
Reflections on Blackpool HeadStart 2017 Learning Week – July/August 2017
From the end of July to the first week of August 2017, Boingboing staff and volunteers got stuck in to something new. The first Blackpool HeadStart Learning Week. As part of the Blackpool HeadStart Project, Boingboing is in a strong partnership with Blackpool HeadStart, funded by the Big Lottery. In other blogs you can read about Blackpool’s Resilience Revolution:
We’re on a town-wide mission. That is to change the way that adversity and particularly mental health issues amongst 10 to 16-year olds are perceived, avoided and responded to. Even some taxi drivers know about it; take a cab in Blackpool and test us on that. We’re working co-productively, which means anybody who wants to can get involved and this includes young people. If we pull that off we can better facilitate an environment and culture where people facing adversity are increasingly able to be resilient.
Blackpool HeadStart has been up and running for over a year now. Learning Week 2017 gave the opportunity to reflect on the work we’ve all done on the project. It gave us time to think about: what we’ve done well, what we could improve on, what we’ve learned and how we can embed that learning into our work for next year. Some people were really grumpy about the idea of Learning Week, but by the end of it they joined in with the dancing, the theatre performances, the commitment to change the world as they know it……..
These few days saw lots of people involved in HeadStart presenting their take on learning over the past year. It was great to hear about all the different parts that make up the HeadStart whole. For Josh Kania, an apprentice Resilience Coach, the Learning Week would serve as an opportunity to ‘work with the HeadStart team and hear how we work together, like jigsaw pieces that can fit with anything, all working together towards a united goal.’
In the spirit of co-production, we thought that everyone should get an opportunity to give their thoughts on the Blackpool HeadStart Learning Week 2017. As such, this is a co-produced blog. These are the words, thoughts and feelings of everyone who came along pulled together by Angie Hart and Simon Duncan who don’t get any direct quotes themselves coz they’ve influenced the overall flow of the piece. And what a mix of people there was – practitioners, administrators, apprentices, school pupils, social media gurus, younger people, people who didn’t like being defined by their ages and yet looked very young, people who some people reading this would think were passed it, students, policy makers. A right fabulous cocktail of joy.
As the week began at Moreside school, Pauline Wigglesworth, HeadStart Programme Lead was anxious to help facilitate a ‘shared learning space where the most magical things can happen.’ Pauline was certain that this week would be a flurry of activity where people would be able to ‘have fun, work hard, be creative, be brave, be silly, be serious, be studious.’
Let’s see what people said about it…And if you want to organise something like this yourself, we’ve got lots of tips to share so get in contact with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Of course with such a mix of people, there were some stumbling blocks that could have tripped us up over the week. One of these obstacles was a dislike of academic language. Speaking on behalf of a lot of people there no doubt, Joanne Donnelly who is a Resilience Coach pitched in on this. At the beginning of the week she said she was ‘resistant to academic language’, but after the week a change of heart as she, ‘now respects it.’ She explained that through powerful use of her ‘inequalities imagination she was able to get a strong grasp on how an academic might think.’ This Joanne enthused, is how she began the process of becoming more accepting of academic language.
Despite the potential for complications, it was clear from the outset of this event that everyone recognised that HeadStart is an approach that works co-productively alongside young people. To kick things off in the afternoon of Day 1, we had specific discussions about co-production within HeadStart. Oliver Gibbs who is a Peer and Sessional Worker for Youth Engagement, who has been with HeadStart ‘since the beginning’ wanted to make the point that ‘young people are at the heart of HeadStart’ and that ‘everyone has worked collaboratively in the interest of young people.’ This sentiment was echoed by Kirsty Pemberton, a Resilience Coach who really came across as enthusiastic as she sounds here:
‘Young people are the heart and soul of HeadStart and we all play such an important role in the success of the Resilience Revolution.’
She approached this event with an eager outlook and at the end of the Learning Week she says that she feels ‘even more passionate’ about her work now Learning Week has finished. Similarly, Lorna Harkins, a Wellbeing Coach felt ‘lucky to be involved with such amazing, passionate and inspiring young people and practitioners.’
The passion that HeadStart and Boingboing have to assist the young people of Blackpool to be more resilient and directly involve the young people has had a powerful emotional impact on Kieron Pech, a member of the Young People’s Executive Group (YPEG):
‘Boingboing rely on young people and that touches me knowing that HeadStart want me.’
A co-productive space like HeadStart means we all get the opportunity to learn from each other. Another Resilience Coach, Kim White mentioned that she ‘learnt from the young people how to get up, talk and be brave’, which are all key resilient moves.
Seeing the way that Boingboing and HeadStart work co-productively had a marked impact on Blackpool Council’s new Evaluation Lead Adam who truly came to understand ‘the value of co-production.’ Sartorial elegance also got a mention. Adam is pleased that he ‘doesn’t have to wear a tie or use big words to make a difference.’
In much the same way, Naz Biggs, a Boingboing Trainer and Project Worker felt ‘touched, moved and inspired by the co-production we have been doing in Blackpool.’
Clearly a lot was achieved on the first day alone, many more fabulous moments were to follow! On the second day people learned about another key element of Blackpool’s Resilience Revolution; digital technology. Some attendees such as Irene Evans, a Resilience Coach, took this opportunity to find out that ‘digital takes many forms and can be an integral part of our work.’
Using technology is something that can be unnerving for some, exploring digital technology turned out to be an empowering experience for all. Joanne, a Qualified Monitoring Officer who is a self-proclaimed ‘digital dinosaur’ said ‘this section of the Learning Week has taught me more about the current digital world which I am afraid of and it has given me the encouragement to explore and learn more’. She may even be gutsy enough to ‘attempt Twitter’ as a result of the digital day. Resilience Coach Angela Chadwick loved the digital technology portion of the Learning Week and wanted to incorporate it as part of her practice with young people in future. She happily said:
‘The best part of HeadStart Learning Week was learning more about digital technology, in particular vlogging. The possibilities now seem endless in how we can use vlogging with children, young people and families I work with. This has opened up a whole new ‘world’ for me.’
Resilience Coaches, Kelly Stephenson and Gina Kitchin, really started to apply this new knowledge into their practice with young people:
‘I have learnt that I have the most amazing colleagues in the world who are using some fantastic resources, both digital and otherwise to improve the lives of young people’, by ‘using digital media to enhance their practice.’
In light of the abundant passion from people who went to the digital portion of Learning Week, James Wollaston, a Digital Apprentice, showcased his passion for embedding digital technology into the future of Blackpool HeadStart:
‘I have learnt that a lot of the team want to become more digitally engaged. I have learnt that if there is something I want, I can make it happen.’ This ‘positive outlook’ was shared by Andrew Ray, our Digital Lead.
On the Wednesday, we resilience revolutionaries travelled to Blackpool Zoo to speak about the impact of equine therapy and the ‘walk and talk’ programme. Many people appreciated the week as a whole for the opportunity to network with new people. For Josh Thompson, an Apprentice Youth Engagement Worker, this week served as an opportunity to understand ‘that the HeadStart team is a lot bigger than I imagined as is the amount of work that goes into implementing pieces of work/projects.’ There’s always strength in numbers when you’re starting a revolution! Joanne Danson, a Resilience Coach, utilised the networking time as a way to: ‘share good practice with others, because it is so important.’ Furthermore, Caroline Preston, HeadStart Project Manager espoused the benefits of networking for co-operation and utilising each other’s unique skills:
‘Learning Week was a great opportunity to network and to get to know colleagues of all ages better. As a team we have a wide range of skills, experience and abilities which are invaluable in assisting us to deliver resilience training in Blackpool. The HeadStart team is one of the best I have ever worked with during my long career.’ And this from a woman who’s also written thirty one books, including one on collecting men’s neckties.
For some Learning Week attendees including Mirika Flegg, a HeadStart PhD student, the networking extended to beyond that of colleagues:
‘I’ve learned that there is an amazing team/family in Blackpool all working towards a social movement together. I had heard they were amazing up here, but words can never describe just how amazing this collective/ inspiring/ hard working/ committed group is – you would have to meet them to fully understand and I am honoured that I have.’ As you can see, Mirika really likes the word ‘amazing’.
Being able to network with such a variety of people also enabled some attendees including a YPEG members who chooses to remain anonymous to boost their ‘self-confidence’ and ‘really enjoy the experience.’ Boingboing Administration Apprentice, Paige Spencer confronted a big fear of hers during Learning Week:
‘I have learnt to be brave and I faced my fear of public speaking for the first time with the help of our amazing Boingboing and HeadStart team. I have loved this week and discovered the ability everyone has within or out of their role, everyone’s ideas towards HeadStart and Boingboing to create a Resilient Revolution and the amount of enthusiasm/ potential we all have – I am so proud to be part of this amazing team.’
Confronting fear was a common experience during Learning Week. Ellie Toth, a member of the YPEG said: ‘I have learnt that I am more confident than I actually think. Bravery will be an essential quality to continue the resilience revolution in the coming years.’ Danielle Aoslin, a fellow YPEG member also learned the importance of ‘not worrying about things, because they always turn out ok.’ We all have something to learn about not sweating the small stuff! It wasn’t only people from the YPEG who experienced a confidence boost as a result of the Learning Week. Sharon Butler, HeadStart Advanced Practitioner shared:
‘Every day within this team I feel more and more confident myself and more confident it’s okay to get things wrong. This is being resilient in itself.’
Alongside confronting fears, Learning Week also provided a space for people to affirm and learn new skills. Jessica Thomas, HeadStart Finance and Administration Officer learned more about herself:
‘I know way more than I thought I did about HeadStart and resilience and that if I apply myself, I’m pretty creative.’
Joanne Donnelly, a Resilience Coach ‘learnt that HeadStart elicits, nurtures and showcases my strengths to become a better practitioner and person and that the Boingboingers really know their stuff.’ Thanks a lot, Joanne!
Claire Walsh, the Friends for Life Supervisor was really struck by ‘how talented the HeadStart team are singing, dancing, acting, drawing, writing and she could ‘go on and on.’ Well, at HeadStart we all love fostering our talents.
On the final day of the Learning Week, the focus was on how we can continue to learn in the coming years and help the world to learn about HeadStart. Daniel Straine-Francies, a YPEG member is keen to push our work onto an international audience:
‘We’ve made leaps forward furthering the HeadStart name in Blackpool and pushing our ideas nationally (and eventually globally).’
It’s very clear that passion underpins all of the work that is done at HeadStart. Emily Kirby, a Senior Resilience Coach ‘witnessed first-hand that when people with a passion come together there is the potential to change the world. Within that I am learning the potential of myself, my colleagues and the young people of Blackpool.’ Brett Whitehead, a Community Development Officer overcame ‘injury’ to attend and his ‘love for HeadStart’ sustained him and ‘allowed him to fight through the pain.’
The Resilience Revolution Blackpool is staging is, and will continue to be, as inclusive as possible. Helen Hardacre, a Youth Therapist, initially thought that she might be ‘too old’ to be resilient. But by the end of the week, she realised that ‘you are never too young or too old to come out of your comfort zone and learn.’
The enthusiasm of newer recruits to our movement is astounding. Hannah Gorman, A Wellbeing Coach for Lancashire Mind had this to say about her first week in role:
‘Learning Week for HeadStart has been invaluable for an induction into this fantastic Resilience Revolution. I have met so many wonderful and interesting people and I now know many of the interventions/ programmes being done in Blackpool that help to build resilience in the young people of Blackpool. Thank you so much for the warm welcome.’
Alice, a Research Assistant, who joined us in September said:
‘I really enjoyed meeting people, learning more about the work in Blackpool and getting a bit more understanding of the Resilience Framework that underpins everything. One of my biggest learning points was going through the Theory of Change and thinking strategically about how HeadStart will build resilience across the whole town.’
As Learning Week drew to a close, it was clear that people felt that they had developed and been pushed out of their comfort zone, Nathan Parker, the Youth Engagement Lead was one of those people:
‘Learning Week has been a whirlwind of positive development, both individually and collectively as a programme. I have learnt about how our creative and innovative ideas about Resilient Therapy in practice are actually having a massive impact on the young people of Blackpool. It’s been fantastic to have our young people involved and guiding our learning whilst experiencing huge visible development themselves.’
Lynda Harvey, Wellbeing Coach Lead for Lancashire Mind was ‘absolutely amazed by the commitment from everyone involved to make a positive difference to children and young people’s lives in Blackpool.’ In much the same way to Lynda, Tom Molyneux leaves Learning Week with his ‘heart warmed by seeing how many gifted, talented and inspiring people have come together to share their wealth of knowledge.’
For Karen Sweet, HeadStart Project Officer the Learning Week has left her invigorated with ‘a million ideas running around in her head.’ This event was so interesting and rejuvenating that Hilary Wood, HeadStart Executive Board Member and Head of Business Support and Resources (Children and Adult Services), ‘already has ideas for next year!’ I can’t wait to see how far the Resilience Revolution can progress in a year!
It wouldn’t be a truly co-produced blog without including a few words from Felicity Bennet, Big Lottery Fund Relationship Manager, who had this to say about HeadStart’s first year as whole:
‘I’ve seen the start of the Revolution really happening. All made possible by empowering people to use their skills, experiences, personalities and contacts to drive HeadStart forward with enthusiasm and boundless energy. Well done Blackpool.’
I think we can all agree with Rachael Slater – HeadStart’s Partnership Officer that ‘HeadStart Learning Week has been a fantastic opportunity to showcase the wonderful work that has been undertaken during our 1st year of delivery.’
Let’s end with some galvanising words to blast us into Blackpool HeadStart’s second year:
‘Vive la Revolution!’ – Anne Rathbone, Boingboing Senior Training and Consultancy Manager
Co-authored by Josh Kania, Pauline Wigglesworth, Joanne Donnelly, Oliver Gibbs, Lorna Harkins, Kirsty Pemberton, Kieron Pech, Kim White, Blackpool Council’s new Evaluations Lead – Adam, Naz Biggs, Irene Evans, Joanne, Angela Chadwick, Kelly Stephenson, Gina Kitchin, James Wollaston, Andrew Ray, Mirika Flegg, Josh Thompson, Joanne Danson, Caroline Preston, Anonymous YPEG member, Paige Spencer, Ellie Toth, Danielle Aoslin, Sharon Butler, Jessica Thomas, Joanne Donnelly, Claire Walsh, Daniel Straine-Francis, Emily Kirby, Brett Whitehead, Helen Hardacre, Hannah Gorman, Alice, Nathan Parker, Lynda Harvey, Tom Molyneux, Karen Sweet, Hilary Wood, Felicity Bennett, Rachael Slater, Anne Rathbone, Simon Duncan and Angie Hart.
We are back in South Africa, but, unfortunately for the final time regarding our Resilience project. I cannot believe that our project has actually come to an end.
One of our PhD students, David Glynne-Percy, is speaking at the Resilience Forum today. Astonishing that he actually wanted me to come along. Normally students beg me not be at anything they are speaking at… Can’t think why…
This blog is a collective effort; Leandran co-researchers give their perspectives on the co-productive approach we used to research drought in South Africa.