Useful skillsCommunicationPerspective takingListeningAssessing our motivesThe U teaches communications skills in a wide range of contexts, like dealing with problems with your neighbours, building a strong network, and addressing a medical emergency. The teaching of communications skills is seriously lacking, yet they are key to sustaining positive relationships in communities. We know from our work in Sutton and Northumberland that Guests recognise and value these skills in all aspects of their relationships with others. New approach to learningFriendlySocialCollaborativeWe have invested a great deal of energy into crafting a truly unique approach to learning. Our sessions are collaborative, asking Guests to take the lead on their own learning. Skills are learned through interaction and the sharing of experiences. Based on this approach, Guests quickly look to put their communication skills into practice with their fellow Guests, sustaining the connections created within each session. More familiarity‘Weak Ties’Dependant on neighbourliness and goodwillLow demand, high impactThe U champions low level relationships of hospitable neighbours. These loose relationships allow for the occasional good turn – feeding a neighbours cat, accepting a parcel – but don’t carry the weight of a long term commitment. While these ties are undemanding, they are extremely powerful in times of adversity, as we have seen during the 2011 post riot clean-up. Our research shows that these are the kinds of relationships most people want.WEAK TIE RESEARCH:There is a direct correlation between the number of weak tie connections and civic engagement (De Zuniga, 2011)Workers are more likely to get jobs through weak tie connections (Yakubovich, 2005)Weak ties are a key mediator of differences in race, ethnicity, and background (Granovetter, 1983)More capable, engaged and connected citizens
Led by volunteers, who we call hosts.Insight one - we learned that putting hosts in the position of having to be expert created an awkward dynamic, and did not promote sharing between guests, itʼs more about how you relate to the ʻteacher.ʻ We emphasized the facilitation component of our Host training on creating guest-to-guest interaction, and found that we began to see more social connections (many-to-many), but also greater retention of the key skills in question.
Insight one - no matter what the session (lifesaving, conflict resolution), no matter if we were in a London commuter suburb or a rural village - people ended up with a warm, fuzzy feeling - what we have on our hands is a mechanism for turning strangers into neighbours, and our research tells us this is what a large percentage of people in an community want, they want acquiantances, they want weak ties
To measure our social impact, we have chosen a reliable, automated online data system that can track our findings over time. Our tracking is Comprehensive TargetedSimpleIn order to enable us to gauge our progress on two target points: 1. Weak ties:Our feedback reporting assesses the development of familiarity and relationships through session participation by asking Guests about the number of people they expect to see at the session and the number of new connections made. 2. Communication SkillsWe gather evidence on the effectiveness of our training in communications skills both through session content (confidence and willingness posters in Be a Lifesaver sessions) and individual reporting (“Do you feel more confident to address a conflict without escalating it?” in Give & Take). This is a kind of arbitrary scale weʼve been using in customer research/insights - but the point really is that weʼre just moving people to the right... We have built bespoke community management software for The U - which tracks participation, relationships/acquaintances and information (skills & opportunities) through the network - we can easily get to concrete measurement framework that we believe will demonstrate an increase in social capital (acquainances, weak ties) and in community resiliency (capabilities, skills and a sense of security that the weak ties bring).Guests might move towards becoming acquaintances and that is powerful, and we measure it...but we did notice another meaningfulopportunity for behaviour change. The host proposition appeals to people who are looking for the confidence to act and take on more responsibility and the facilitation training is proving a really simple, compelling way to do that – we grow the network and strengthen our delivery model at the same time.
Of those 88%, 20% also said it was a way to get involved in their community and a way to meet peopleData from Sutton and Northumberland suggests that those who enjoy the sessions most are the ones who make the most contacts.
We will continue using The U’s CRM which allows for live and long-term impact measurement – especially by tracking the formation of networks between residents as well as the increase in the confidence to use the learned skills.
“Sutton is fortunate to haveThe U in Sutton & The U delivering its useful learning sessions for everybody in the area”Northumberland Sutton Jobcentre Plus• Over 1,000 people engaged since June 2011• Over 50 volunteer Hosts from diverse backgrounds trained• Around 10% of Guests become hosts• 100% of Guests at the sessions have reported greater confidence and willingness to act in first aid situations• Strong partnership networks have been crucial wherever we work 9
The theory testedDid you enjoy the session? 0% 10% Thought it was OK Yes, really enjoyed it Didnt enjoy it 90% “I didn’t think it would be that much fun.” “Very useful for a basic understanding and for improving confidence.” “Fantastic experience.” “Sutton needs more initiatives like this. Especially at the moment.” 10
The theory tested II Did you meet anyone you know?60%50%40%30%20%10% Where our guests come from No response0% No, I met a lot of new people First session Second session Yes, I met people I know 11
How will wedemonstratesuccess?• Number of residents engaged directly• Number of weak ties created amongst Hosts and Guests• Effective upskilling in first aid, defusing conflict and networking• Increased positive perception of the local area by residents 13