Blog: Hilda Campbell from COPE- Working together to make a difference 

Community led initiative, co design, co-production, user led, participatory budgeting, and more.

I personally think these are varied terms to discuss one thing:  Working together to make a difference considering all parties agendas, skills, experiences and points of view. This makes sense to me, so how can we really find solutions to the current challenges we all face if we don’t involve all stakeholders in the process?

At COPE Scotland involving people has always been at the core of what we do. When we started in 1991 we worked with the local Drumming Up Health Volunteers to survey, well…….. everyone! The main question of the survey was:

‘’Hello, we have £42,000 to create a community led mental health service, how do you think we should spend the money?’’

The results were two fold, people who had experience of ill health wanted community led services and other people’s responses highlighted some work needed to be done to challenge stigma and people’s perception of mental ill health and mental wellbeing in general.

Working with a group of local people in the unemployed workers centre who had experience of mental distress, we invited them to become our steering group to see if the direction of travel was what people had really asked for. Our funding came from the Urban Aid Programme and we were fortunate to be overseen by Glasgow City Council Social Work department. They got what we were trying to achieve with the local community and supported that.

This Is My Choice from COPE Scotland on Vimeo.

In our first year we had a chair, which transformed to a room in a community flat, which became a whole flat, then two flats then thanks to local business man John Oliver 4,000 square feet of purpose built premises. Back in that first year we offered support to 21 people! Our steering group went on to become a management committee and are now a Board. We began by listening to people and working with people to find solutions and this remains core to our purpose.  

Our running costs now are around £250,000 a year, we are fortunate to receive around 75% of that as core funding from Glasgow City Council Integrated Grant Fund. The rest we secure from other grant sources e.g. the Self-Management Impact fund as well as income generation we do ourselves. Interestingly there are some funding sources we do not go for, not because we don’t need the resources, but because the tune you dance to would be that of the funder as opposed to the community and people with lived experience. So in looking for funding, it’s important we have funders who respect our values and commitments to involving communities and we are fortunate that we have funders who support this. Now we offer support in excess of 2000 people a year.

Wellbeing Video from COPE Scotland on Vimeo.

So what are the benefits of this participatory budgeting , co design and production? Well for us this has included working with communities and people with lived experience to develop systems which:

  • Help us manage our waiting lists to zero,

  • Our paperwork does what it needs to without getting in the way of what we need to do,

  • We have a team of volunteers who work with us to co deliver and sometimes deliver interventions e.g. older adults wellbeing groups supported by volunteers,

  • We have a flexible menu of services which adapts to changing needs,

  • We work out together what our plans are, how we are going to get there, how we will know we have made a difference and if things don’t go to plan we look for solutions not blame.

  • People who have been involved with the service have went onto become paid members of the team,

  • We offer services in other locations to promote wellbeing e.g. Yoker resource centre as people told us they often couldn’t easily get to our centre in Drumchapel,

  • We also created 3 chill out zones around the West of Glasgow where people could access a relaxation chair and materials aimed at promoting wellbeing through local community facilities: Community Centre, Nursery and Older adults Centre.

  • We deliver on time and within budget as the community and people with lived experience decide what is important for us to spend money on and what our direction of travel should be

  • People with lived experience recruit who is to provide paid services for COPE Scotland

  • We share our learning and are open and transparent, we don’t compete with others, we co-operate

  • We share what we know with others seeking to start their own services or perhaps making funding applications or really just being good colleagues when that is what another service needs

  • People involved with COPE Scotland have shared their experiences and views at local and National events

  • We provide a platform for people to get together and discuss latest consultations and decide what they want to feedback, as well as people deciding what they want us to do locally e.g. community connection events

  • We offer a heap of training and advice services free

Really though, if you want to get a flavour of why it’s not only desirable but essential we work with people and communities to find solutions then please we invite you to watch these videos; made by people involved with COPE Scotland. For us, to work any other way would simply not make sense. Only by working together can we achieve the transformational change which is so badly needed to see people as assets and not problems, and to find ways to solve some of the real challenges of inequality and poor health which is of concern to us all.

Cope Scotland Self Management from COPE Scotland on Vimeo.

Involving people doesn’t just mean having them in a room and paying lip service to what the people say, its listening and acting on what they say not what you think they said which fits with what you want. Participatory budgeting, co design and production can be scary as the balance of power and control shifts  - but when we stop thinking about control and start thinking about co-operation then something magical can happen