Creating change

 

Connect+Co takes our co very seriously. It represents collaboration, co-design, and community – the elements crucial to creating change.

We work with NGOs, philanthropic organisations, government and communities, putting the people most affected at the centre of what we do. We spend time out in communities listening, and we co-design solutions, processes, tools and strategies with people.

We’ve worked with parents of children with disabilities and people living in poverty. We’ve co-designed positive parenting approaches in Kiribati and we’ve reviewed and co-designed government tools to address child poverty. We pull together teams that suit each project and work in partnership to achieve outcomes.

We’re happy to spend time exploring possibilities, please contact us.

Lots of changes

In the world of social innovation, we talk about iteration and emergence. We refer to things being organic and living with ambiguity. We’re often not sure what’s going to happen next, and we see that as a positive thing.

That’s happens in our work, and now its happening within Connect+Co. Over the past few weeks we’ve seen really big changes. Sarah has decided to return to her passion – supporting families and communities to keep children safe from abuse and neglect. Her knowledge and experience in this area is incredible and the Office of the Children’s Commissioner is lucky to have her. Connect+Co wish her all the very best and thank her for her tireless work over the past year.

Connect+Co will continue to exist and, in a way, is growing. Josi Wilson is working with us on a couple of projects, one involving parents of young children with chronic conditions and one supporting innovative ways to support financial resilience in communities. Josi has lots of experience in the disability sector and in parent centred design.

We also have Jenny Bornholdt helping with projects that require the services of one of New Zealand’s best writers. Jenny is currently writing poetry in the mornings and working on comms projects for us in the afternoon.

And in other news, we’ve moved to a new space with two other small businesses. What It Takes is run by Megan Ellis, who works to inspire practitioners to put empathy at the centre of what they do. She’s currently working with groups of people from health, child protection, disability and education to grow collaboration and understanding across teams and sectors – so people are supported and connected and using empathy-centred approaches with the people they’re helping.

Geoff Stone is part of the Ripple Collective, a group of evaluators and researchers. He is a magician at creating ways to measure social impact and has created some ingenious frameworks for this – including a system currently being used by SKIP at the Ministry of Social Development.

Our office is in the Trades Hall, an iconic building in Wellington full of people with purpose like us. We have a big window which, today, looks out on a blue sky. That’s the perfect view for little businesses working away to create social impact.

Year two

New businesses start all the time. And they set up blogs and Facebook pages and Twitter accounts and it’s exciting and new. Then things go quiet – because running a business is all about priorities. Do we go through the GST or write a blog? Do we write that report or do a blog?

Unfortunately, we’ve fallen into that trap and have been slow at telling people what we’re up to. Our apologies – it’s not good enough really. Our excuse is that we’ve been busy and we’ve been learning so much sometimes our priorities get a bit out of kilter.

We officially became Connect+Co on 1 April last year, and now it’s almost that time of year again. It’s gone incredibly quickly. Time for a look back.

We started thinking we’d work together on some projects and also do our own work. We quickly realised that it wasn’t that simple. The projects we have done need two heads. We’ve had to work out how to do things as well as we can, and that takes lots of working out, particularly when it’s just us.

So what have we done?

We’ve worked with a group of NGOs to help them understand how the Partners for Change Outcome Management System [PCOMS] can be embedded in practice. This tool helps clients and their helpers to track and monitor progress. It encourages reflective practice, guides staff development and training and gives the organisation as a whole data that can be used to build practice that results in better outcomes for clients.

The findings from this project were presented, in March, at the launch of Partnering for Outcomes Aotearoa, an organisation that is working to build PCOMS in New Zealand.

Elizabeth spent a week in Kiribati working with the New Zealand UNICEF team and the SKIP team from the Ministry of Social Development. This project is based on a series of interviews with mums, dads and grandparents, in villages, to build an understanding of parenting in the islands. We then used this information to design a project that aims to help parents better understand child development and the things they can do to support their children to be happy and confident adults.

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We’ve also worked with the Ministry of Social Development to develop a strategy to move people off benefits into caregiving roles. This involved talking to older people living in aged care facilities and with staff to explore the attributes of great caregivers. We then ran a workshop with the aged care sector to develop an approach that met their needs, the needs of the people they care for, and potential caregivers. This work led to a successful caregiver expo at Coastlands Mall in Paraparaumu in February.

We’re currently working on a large project to support the Disability Strategy. This is a cross-sector project and we will be reporting on this in the next month or so.

We’ve also had the privilege of working with Plunket and ACC on a project to reduce the number of non-intentional injuries in children under five.  We’ve worked hard to make this a collaborative process and have included the voices of parents, and the staff of both organisations, in developing an approach that we hope will be really impactful. Again its early days and we’ll be able to report more as it develops.

We’d like to say a big thank you to all the people who have supported us – our families, our friends and the people we’ve worked with. It hasn’t always been easy, and your trust and support has been amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

People centred approaches

 

I’ve just filled out my registration form for the Alzheimers New Zealand conference. It’s an area Connect+Co has been exploring, and this year’s event is packed with great speakers.

As we live longer, diseases like dementia get more and more common. And despite all the cure-of-the week headlines, they’re not about to disappear.

We have a choice. Sit on our hands and wait for medical solutions or focus on things that can make a real difference now, like helping to prevent dementia by avoiding sport–related concussion. Or exploring ways to support people to enjoy their lives despite the challenges of memory loss and other cognitive impairments.

This conference addresses these issues upfront, with presentations about advances in treatment, prevention and cure – everything from developing a caregiver workforce to support people with dementia living in their own homes, to new treatments that are reversing cognitive decline by focusing on enhanced metabolic functioning. Best of all, this year’s conference has a people-centred theme, featuring a range of advocates like the inspirational Kate Swaffer, Australian writer, educator and blogger who is living with younger-onset dementia.

Here at Connect and Co we’ve also been looking at a fascinating study, presented at the New Zealand Association of Gerontology conference in September, by Christine Stephens and her team at Massey University. The presentation – Identity and Housing – is about the factors influencing older people’s housing decisions. Four distinct categories emerged from interviews, with a range of older people, around New Zealand.

There’s the Practical Planner who thinks ahead, plans carefully and takes action early and the Rugged Pioneer who soldiers on in difficult circumstances despite increasing challenges. Then there’s the Where I Belong person who chooses to move toward or stay near to family and friends because being close is their number one priority. And the Rooted in Place type who stays put as the result of strong connections to the land, the place they’re from.kate-swaffer-front-cover

It’s useful to look at research like this, as we build our understanding of what works for different people at various life stages. The key message is that where plans for aging are concerned there’s no one-size fits all. Single solutions aren’t going to work for housing older people. We need to be looking more widely, at innovative approaches that include a diverse range of supports, and reflect what really matters to us, as individuals and communities.

Image by Meg Hansen Photography and copyright Aged Care Insite

 

Transition for older people

Earlier this year we did a series of interviews with older people and their families about the transition from independence to dependence. We decided to start this project because we realised that as the number of older people grows, there are pressures on them, their families and the system to manage this time as well as possible.

We found that people don’t really plan ahead. There is lots of information about getting money in order, but not so much about sorting legal issues such as enduring power of attorney. Or finding a home that is accessible and close to family and important places like shops and libraries. Older people told us they found making decisions difficult, so sorting things early, or asking for help from family is important.

The follow-on from this is that it often takes a crisis for things to happen. The problem with that is that big decisions have to be made quickly and things can go downhill fast. Understandably, many people default to the easiest option, which is moving a care facility. For some people, this might work out perfectly well. For others, the urgency means that choices are limited and there’s no time to look at alternatives. With a bit of pre-planning, things can happen more slowly.

Many people commented that old age is hard – and were frustrated at the air-brushed photos of people with very lovely hair, walking down the beach in the sunshine holding hands. Although lots of older people do that, there’s something about us all needing to understand the reality of getting older. In a way that’s the challenge – how might we treat older people with the respect they deserve, be open to talking about the hard stuff and support them when the going gets tough.

It was clear from the interviews that there’s lots to think about – the wellbeing of older people, housing options, how families respectfully support, what the system is doing to prepare for a huge increase in an older population and how older people are seen as important contributors to our world.

img_0898We’re currently working on a project related to this work, which is looking at carers. That is also interesting – early stages so we’ll report on that soon.

 

 

Changing how we live

I live in the house where I bought up my two girls. It’s got three bedrooms, lots of living space and is in a suburb with good schools and transport. My daughter, her partner and their two children live in a small rented flat. It’s got two bedrooms, a tiny living area and is down three flights of Wellington steps.

I think there’s something wrong with this picture. Why should I own a three bedroom house and my daughter rent a shoe box? When we think about the different issues collectively there seems to be more room to find a solution that works for all of us.

I’ve been talking about this with different people over the past two or three years, and there seems to be an increasing wish for change. People talk to me about wanting to have private and more communal spaces, or to create neighbourhoods that nurture, or alternatives to retirement villages.

We’d like to develop a Connect+Co project about this. We don’t have answers, but we would like to gather together people who would like to explore and experiment.

You can email us at elizabeth@connectandco.nz

 

Who are we?

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Connect+Co is a small business which works collaboratively to create social change.

Elizabeth Goodwin is the sole director. Elizabeth had a background in journalism and communications when she joined MSD almost 14 years ago to work on SKIP, an innovative initiative which worked to prevent the physical punishment of children.

This experience introduced Elizabeth to community development, social marketing, co-design (although it didn’t have a name at that stage) and behaviour change. Over six million resources later she moved on worked on the It’s Not OK campaign.

Elizabeth went back to the SKIP as manager five years ago and worked to put user centred design at the centre of the team’s approach. This led to SKIP’s parent-centred design approach which worked to co-create innovative solutions to keeping children safe and happy with parents and communities.

She set up Connect+Co with co-director Sarah Scott in 2016. Sarah left the company in June this year.

Elizabeth has spent the past year building connections and collaborations that can work together.  Connect+Co collaborators include Josi Wilson, community co-designer and facilitator;  Jenny Bornholdt, writer and comms; Geoff Stone, researcher and evaluator; and Megan Ellis, empathy and partnership facilitator.