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January 25, 2024

Good Practice Mentors: a year of collaboration

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Good Practice Mentor

Jessica Duffy explores a year of impactful collaboration between the Good Practice Mentor (GPM) team and the Tackling Loneliness Hub in their mission to address loneliness among older people. From securing funding to addressing challenges in organisational memory, Jessica recounts experiences, shares successful collaborations, and underscores the importance of peer networks in the ongoing efforts to address loneliness.

The Good Practice Mentors

This time last year, the Good Practice Mentor (GPM) team was working together to secure new funding to ensure we could carry on with our mission to reduce loneliness for older people. I was already an Ambassador for the Tackling Loneliness Hub, and was watching as it grew by increments (in the way these things do). I knew if we were to carry on sharing learning from the National Lottery Community Fund’s Ageing Better programme, one of our allies would be the Hub community.

Insights from the Ageing Better programme

At the end of the main Ageing Better programme, I think I was in a little loneliness bubble here in Leeds. I thought that by the end of the Time to Shine programme, everyone would know what we had learned about effective ways of counteracting loneliness – but after the first year of Good Practice Mentors, I knew this wasn’t true. I realised that, of course, staff move on, new people engage, and they come into a situation where they have no idea of what we have done. I suppose, sadly, organisational memory in both the Voluntary & Community Sector and local government can be short these days, and training budgets tight.

The importance of peer networks

This short organisational memory seems to me something that peer networks like the Tackling Loneliness Hub can help to address. It’s a place where new recruits can ask their colleagues how they can tackle things, or where they can find more information about a topic.

The Hub was a place we knew people who wanted to find out more about loneliness would gravitate to. We hoped we could work with it to communicate with people who wanted to know about how to work with older people to reduce that loneliness.

Sharing learning and making connections

We’ve all been able to work with the Hub in a number of ways. For example, I’ve used the News Feed to share information about what Good Practice Mentors can offer, both briefly and through blogs. We all love being able to post our open courses on the Events Calendar, and it’s brilliant that the Community Manager is able to tag people she knows might be interested in specific topics.

My GPM colleague Jo Stapleton has facilitated and shared learning with the special interest Outreach and Engagement co-working group to explore practical approaches to overcome barriers to engagement via comms. As a result of a connection made with Action with Communities in Cumbria in one of the sessions, she went on to deliver a bespoke training session to support members of the Cumbria Village Hall network to find and engage harder to reach older people.

Learning from and collaborating with members

As well as sharing the learning we have already gathered as part of Ageing Better, it’s also invaluable to keep up to date with what others are doing. I popped on to the Hub to see what’s going on at the moment. There seems to be a lot as the New Year starts. I found someone who wants to share ideas around facilitating friendships, which is something I am already interested in as a preventative measure. They are doing this in a library – and I met a lovely librarian doing the same sort of thing just before the break – so it makes me hope I can learn some more, share some information and put some people together.

It’s also been great to refer people who have come to us to join the Tackling Loneliness Hub as members so they can find the information they need from the great resource bank.

As Good Practice Mentors, we were really sad to hear that the Campaign to End Loneliness and What Works Centre for Wellbeing (who currently run the Hub together on behalf of the DCMS) will both come to an end in April 2024. We are pleased to know the Tackling Loneliness Hub will continue. We hope to be able to continue to work together.

Jessica Duffy
Good Practice Mentor