It really doesn’t take very much to change the world. All you need is a cause, a room and a kettle and anything can happen. It’s that simple; find a way to bring folk together in common cause and things will never be the same again.
It’s certainly working for us in East Lothian where we’ve now got 3 Dementia Friendly conversations up and running and more hoping to start off too. These conversations are changing things, though as befits a complex messy world, it’s not happening in a simple linear way!
As we get more experience, a pattern is emerging and I’m starting to relax and trust the process. First find your passion, something that really matters to you and you want to do something about. Then find people who care about the same issue and also want to make things happen. Share your dreams widely and freely. Talk to people in the streets, in shops, as you go about your daily business, if they’re interested you’ll soon tell. If it looks like a go-er, start planning; bring the wider community in, talk about what each individual can do to make things change. Find your room, make a date and get that kettle on.
Those of us who truly believe that if we build it, they will come, know exactly what I’m talking about. This is about creating a community field of dreams. It starts with enthusiasm, passion, vision – they act like magnets, provide a coordinating principle, a centre of gravity – pick you imagery to suit.
At first it can seem a bit disorganised and scary. You can’t set up much of an agenda because every conversation is unique and has to go its own way. The usual ways of running meetings don’t work and there are no formal rules or procedures. But the coming together of people to change the world has an order of its own. Gatherings have to be value based – mutual respect and listening really matter. Gatherings have to have a purpose, even if that takes time to emerge. Conversations have be facilitated and structured so that everyone can contribute in some way or another, so they flow, evolve and progress into action.
Plans slowly begin to crystallise, we start talking about how to bring others into our discussions, they bring new ideas, new contacts, new resources. Conversations are rooted in our local community, our local people, our local places, our local issues. They are real and meaningful and grounded in the reality of places and people.
Someone’s on a group that’s working to improve the High Street, maybe we could integrate some dementia friendly thinking in at an early stage. And this is the perfect time because that’d help everyone and save costly mistakes. Someone else is developing a new service which would fit so well for people with dementia with just a small tweak or two, with a bit of training they think they could make a big difference here. What if the Youth Project and the Day Centre got together to organise a music event, that would be really special and would help build understanding and friendships across the community.
We start to talk about how to take things a bit further, we get ambitious. A chat with someone who works with the schools so we can reach more young people and hear what they think about getting older in their community. A group passionate about physical activity gets together to look at how we can remove barriers. Local organisations and services offer us rooms we can use for meetings and help with printing. We organise a community event to bring everyone together and involve the Business Association. We work out the big things that we can’t do ourselves and find someone to help us.
Several years ago a wise friend said that if we wanted to make the vision of the Christie Commission a reality we had to find out what makes change happen. It’s oh so clear to me now. People make change happen. I make change happen. You make change happen. We make change happen. Changing the world doesn’t start with systems and processes; you can’t change the world just by putting the word in a job description, If it was that easy. we’d all have done it years ago.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating and Dementia Friendly East Lothian is making change happen. Small changes will make big differences, but we need to address the big things too if we are to ensure we get the services and communities that we want and need.
How far can we get? We don’t know yet, we’re not even thinking about limitations, we’re being positive. In the words of another wise friend, we’ll proceed until apprehended.
And all made by people with just a kettle and a room. #GODO