Posted by The Cares Family on
I was delighted to join The Cares Family’s 30-strong team 18 months ago with the exciting job of working with them to find new ways to build connection and community in an age where so much seems to be disconnecting people, communities and society.
Stepping inside a Desert Island Discs social club or listening in on a conversation between two neighbours on the Love Your Neighbour one-to-one friendship programme, I quickly discovered The Cares Family already did much more than just bringing different generations together.
At any one time, conversations will be shared between neighbours of different classes, races, ethnicities, political persuasions, faiths, backgrounds and much more. They're conversations about what the industrial area of Ancoats in Manchester once looked like; how Burgess Park in south London was, until relatively recently, not in fact a park; or where the best local spot is for a takeaway on a hangover in Liverpool. Chats about different views on Brexit aren’t uncommon. And conversations about love and loss abound. It turns out a heartbroken 25-year-old and a bereaved 75-year-old have in fact got much wisdom and comfort to offer one another.
The Cares Family’s experience demonstrates that relationships lift people up. They give people meaning and help us to share stories of heritage and hope, love and loss, mischief and misadventure. Those relationships also help forge shared identity, belonging, purpose and power. At this time of division and rapid change, those relationships and the fostering of a national sense of togetherness are even more important.
So finding ideas from inside The Cares Family to build on existing work was easy. 18 months later the vision is becoming a reality and the charity is starting new projects. These projects will seek to drive wider systems and culture change to harness the power of connection and community, and to ward off loneliness and disconnection wherever it’s found.
The first of these new projects is the ‘3G’ social club. Inspired by a pilot project we ran in 2019 which bought school students and their older neighbours together to play table tennis and build relationships, The Cares Family will apply its proven model bringing together two generations through group activities to test a new club bringing together three generations: older neighbours (over 65), new parents, and their young children (0-5 years) – to share time, laughter and new experiences. These clubs will take place in Haringey and Waltham Forest in London, in partnership with local groups and funded by the Greater London Authority’s London Family Fund. Longtime North London Cares volunteer Fiona and new Haringey mum Shula will lead this work.
The second project, inspired in part by CEO Alex Smith’s Obama Fellowship and in part by our work with community organisations over many years, is ‘The Multiplier’. Through this work, in partnership with UnLtd, The Cares Family will support 10 people bringing neighbours together in their own communities in their own ways to expand their ideas to build local connection. Rooted in the experiences of brilliant relationship-makers across the UK, this work will build on the stories we compiled in 2019 in the Finding Connection pamphlet published in partnership with Nesta.
All of that new work is inspired by the connection shared by 17,000 older and younger neighbours who have participated in The Cares Family over the past eight years. Those connections have meant so much to so many. Now, The Cares Family wants to amplify and enable the power of relationships even further. As I move on after 18 months working with this amazing organisation, I’m excited to see what they achieve next.