Regeneration has a concern for both community and individual capacity building. This question was about personal change and aspiration, or a goal that an individual might have in life and was posed to participants in several ways; It’s about something that you want to achieve; or it could be about something that you want to change; or it could be about how you want to grow, in the sense of self development or self esteem
The first thing people were asked to do was to decide on a destination. Getting there could be quite a short term thing; or it could be a long term goal. It was okay to think about this very pragmatically; or to have a BIG idea. People were encouraged to identify something that is a genuine wish and encouraged not to get stuck initially on what might be a block to change.
We wanted people to talk about the journey that needs to happen to get to their destination. People were asked to record those things that are likely to happen on the way and in doing so record what can undermine or block progress and what can be a strength or support on that journey.
This is a pictorial representation of what people told us. You can right click and save this image to your desktop as an A4 poster here.
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Participants’ destinations were very varied. They included:
To lose weight
To a slimmer and healthier me
To live to be 100
To be more mobile and independent
A more relaxed person
A better standard of living
To move to a better area
Be a foster mother
To accept things I can’t change and have some level of contentment with self and life
To live long enough to see things get better for vulnerable people.
Several people identified their personal journey was toward “a happier healthier me”. While one person saw their journey as being “into the unknown!”
There were barriers encountered on the journeys described. These include:
The past and its impact on the present:
Negative personal experiences such as experiences of abuse and violence can lead to feelings that one person described as “guilt, self blame and self destruction”.
Such experiences and associated feelings were seen as blocks to building the relationships that were part of any successful journey.
One person talked about “dealing with things from the past without the pressure of having to justify myself. I need to put stuff in packing boxes and store it”.
One person identified the need to “bite the bullet and ask for help”.
Another identified the problems associated with a disruptive and unhelpful ex partner.
Not believing in yourself; and not feeling able to take control:
Self belief and reflection were seen as important in the journeys described, but was missing for some people. There was recognition in one journey that it was good to “sit and take stock and realise what I have achieved in the past year”.
People recognised that their self confidence can take a knock on the journey, that when they are feeling strong and resilient they can cope with this, but that sometimes it can feel like a knock out blow.
Some people report being help back by feeling under pressure to always put other interests and needs before theirs – that a balance is hard to find.
As one contributor said: “I need the freedom to be me. To be my own person again. I can’t remember that”.
And as another person said: “It’s like not knowing if I’m going to be capable of anything”.
Not having the control over specific things that you would like to change affected some people. The issue of food was raised as an example by several people. One person talked about wanting to eat healthier food but not having a say on what is eaten at home. Another example about food was the way in which it is used for ‘comfort’ or when people feel stressed. For another person advertising and supermarket layout conspired to undermine good intentions.
Mental ill health
Mental ill health and the stigma associated with mental illness got in the way of some journeys. One person asked for “more awareness for the public”.
Physical ill health
Physical ill health can undermine any journey. People worry about a lack of stamina, their confidence to start the journey is undermined and there is a worry that things just might get worse.
Pain gets in the way of progress on some journeys.
A lack of sleep saps energy and commitment to the journey, leaving people feeling tired and unwell.
Inadequate money and housing
A lack of money can mean not being able to travel or take part in leisure or recreational pursuits such as joining a gym.
Some journeys need to start, or be helped along the way, by a change in location or housing. This isn’t always easy to find.
A lack of qualifications and experience
Some journeys don’t start, or are undermined, by what is perceived to be a lack of work experience in a particular area or a lack of qualifications to get going. One person identified a feeling that “I’m too old to train. I don’t have enough experience or confidence anyway”.
A lack of support
Participants with limited mobility identified a lack of support to do more exercise, and an embarrassment about requiring mobility aids.
Isolation leaves people feeling powerless and unable to start their journey.
There can also be a lack of support about what journey, or what direction to go on. Some people are left wondering who on earth can give you the right advice?
Family commitments and demands:
While family were identified as good support by some they are also identified as sources of stress. Some people report a great burden of expectation; managing children can feel overwhelming; it can be difficult to take up work when childcare seems to be such a problem and local provision is limited.
Participants who bring up children on their own can feel particularly pressured and unable to progress on their journey.
When you are caring for a family member with physical or learning disabilities any personal journey, hopes and ambitions must also take account of the needs of that family member.
Being a carer can be 24/7 and can be all consuming of energy.
For some carers there are worries about setting of on a journey that might leave the other person without adequate care and support.
For participants who themselves need care and support from their family there are anxieties about making more demands by undertaking any new journey.
Even as adults our parents can undermine what can be achieved through a lack of belief and encouragement and a feeling that we still need their approval.
One person identified that personal development and change “isn’t always a happy road to travel”.
In thinking about their personal journeys participants were asked to think about what they could take in their personal toolkit. The resources which people could draw on included:
Success breeds success:
A little bit of success in something was seen as a good motivator to achieve more.
For some people breaking the journey down into manageable bits made reaching the destination less daunting and more realistic: “I take it like a week at a time”.
Having a motivator and someone who listens:
Individuals were also identified as key motivators – whether a friend or a facilitator in a group or class.
Help from partners and family is recognised as a great asset. This can include time to talk, being motivated to change, or could be very practical help such as sharing plans to eat healthy or take exercise.
Empathy was identified as a key helpful characteristic.
For some people demands on friends or family are low key: one person asked for “just a wee bit more understanding”.
Some people have a personal faith.
Daily contact with other people was seen as fundamental to the individual’s quality of life and the setting and realisation of personal goals.
As one person said: “On of the things in my toolkit is going to the day centre. I get a laugh and enjoy myself”.
Tackling isolation was identified by one person who saw the need to “cultivate some pals”.
Taking your family with you:
For many people the journey is only possible and most satisfying when it is taken with family or in the context of support from family.
Despite the challenges of parenting and managing childcare the feelings of parents were summed up by one contributor who identified “my bairns keep me going!”
Participants identified the need for them to develop strength within themselves. Determination, self awareness, honesty, loyalty and a sense of humour were all identified.
Resilience was identified, in recognition of what’s needed to negotiate the bumps along the way.
Some travellers remembered that they were always “hard workers”.
Feeling fitter and healthier and eating well was associated with feeling good about self and the personal ambitions that were laid out in the journeys.
Whether facilitated by an agency or with the help of family or friends time away from caring or other responsibilities was a great help to building energy for the journey ahead.
Several people said they would appreciate a bit of a break, a holiday.
Quality time with partners, during which it is possible to make plans, is part of a successful journey.
Volunteering and self help:
For some travellers the experience of volunteering has been a way to develop strengths and a clearer idea about the journey they want to embark on. For one person it helped identify that they had good people skills and a key resource, their “kind heart”.
Self help groups are a resource for some people.
Professionals and agencies:
Individual support from professional people (participants identified counsellors and health visitors) who had the time and skills to listen, was identified as fundamental to success in some journeys.
When caring for someone with physical or learning disabilities the professional people around that person can be a real support to the carer too as long as they work with the person in the context of their family and social situation.
Further education providers were identified in some journeys as providers that can help with new opportunities.
The provision of grants to enable people to get involved in learning or training was crucial.
Where learning and training was available in local, welcoming and supportive centres or projects this was most appreciated. One contributor said of such a service: “It built my confidence and made me feel like a human being again”.
Help with income maximization was appreciated; as was signposting to employment opportunities.
People with particular needs for aids and adaptations to their homes appreciated when this was done.
Supportive employers help; one person identified the time that was given for sessions with a counsellor.
One person identified that they were “resigned to the fact that my goal is unachievable” whilst also recognising “so my toolkit is very important to me”. Finally, one person identified the need for support they described as “holistic”. They thought everyone needs support that is “individual” and support that “tries to get the balance for the individual; that finds alternative solutions not conventional ones”.
What implications are there for regeneration activity, either in terms of policy or practice of service providers from our conversations about personal aspiration, change or achieving goals?
To what extent does regeneration activity build the capacity of the individual to do things which enhance their own health and happiness and that of others?
The information from the responses to this question leads to these questions for the agencies managing regeneration activity:
Does regeneration activity:
Ensure services respond to individuals when they need support or help?
Seek to impact on day to day experiences of mental ill health, low self confidence, and poor self esteem?
Enhance access to therapeutic/counselling services which can address past and present life experiences which are blocks to the building of personal capacity for change.
Help build services which are person centred and personalised? In particular do services support individuals to access learning and training?
Promote awareness and understanding and so positive attitudes towards disability and mental ill health in the community?
Address the role volunteering can have in building individual capacity?
Address the social isolation people can experience? Is everyone connected?
Increase access to free leisure and recreation provision; particularly for people with physical disabilities and poor mobility?
Improve access to affordable childcare?
Provide for income maximization and support for debt management?
Build individual and community capacity in areas such as parenting and healthy living? Support healthier eating? Support and enhance family life?
Enhance the support available to those with caring responsibilities; so supporting the carer on their chosen journey? How is access to respite care enhanced by the activities of regeneration?
Engage local employers in the regeneration process, and in particular their understanding of their potential role in the building of individual capacity?
Engage local churches in the regeneration process, in recognition of the role and potential of faith in some people’s personal journeys.
Engage service providers (both strategically and at the level of the individual practitioner) in consideration of the role they play in building individual capacity?