‘If you want to be part of a radical movement for change and reform, sign up here!’ reads our flyer, as we announce recruitment for the seventh cohort of the Leadership for Empowered and Healthy Communities (LEHC) programme.
I have always been passionate about the importance of community in people’s lives and the need for people to have a voice in the design and delivery of local services.
I was an elected councillor in Reading for eight years, representing a ward that contained areas of significant deprivation. During these years I became acutely conscious of the stark difference in health outcomes between people living in my ward and those just a few miles up the road, with some residents living on average eight years less than in wealthier parts of town.
I saw the mistakes that can be made with a top-down, ‘we know best’ attitude and of the waste and pointlessness of silo working between different agencies. I saw the magic that can happen when organisations come together with local people to imagine and create solutions together – through community development and whole systems approaches and by ensuring that what matters to people is at the centre. And I also realised that we needed a new type of local leadership to enable more of this to happen – for senior leaders, politicians, and those who provide services to be able to be flexible, genuine, open to new ideas and to be able to work collaboratively.
Some years later I had the opportunity to develop a new leadership programme, with backing from Thames Valley and Wessex NHS Leadership Academy, Skills for Care, the Local Government Association, Think Local, Act Personal (TLAP) and the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services (ADASS).
The LEHC programme started off as a pilot in 2012 and became part of C4CC’s core offer in 2016. It has now reached over 160 participants, drawn from towns and cities across the country.
Co-produced from the beginning, the programme aims to equip senior leaders and clinicians with the necessary skills and understanding of concepts such as co-production and community development, and then to sell the case and embed these ideas in the places in which they work.
The programme has attracted the interest and praise of leaders in health and social care, up to and including the Secretary of State, Jeremy Hunt, who came to see the programme in action for himself.
But it is the feedback that we get from participants and the change that we see them making in their local areas that inspires me to continue.
One participant told us just a few weeks ago: ‘I have been on a journey of enlightenment. My colleagues (on the course) have been inspiring and I have learnt far more skills than I thought possible.’