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impact report June 2016

This report was researched and written by Dr Barbara Brayshay

What matters to me is that there is a place such as Our Camden... and all are made to feel welcome. I have been made to feel so welcome, it is lovely� “

Dr Barbara Brayshay is an independent researcher, specialising in participatory action research, with a particular interest in social inclusion and community engagement. She is currently one of the directors of the Living Maps Network, a group of academics, artists and activists who use maps as tools for community consultation. She is also a section editor for the Living Maps On line Journal. Barbara has just returned from a visit to Bangladesh where she travelled to the Sundarbans World Heritage site, home of the Bengal tiger and one of the world s most fragile ecosystems. Summertime finds her with the Guerrilla Archaeology Collective, delivering innovative public engagement workshops at music festivals throughout the UK “




Our Camden is an innovative social network for Camden residents, providing opportunities for people to meet, share their skills and to enhance their sense of wellbeing. The project aims to act as an early intervention to decrease social isolation, increase resilience and to enable members to have more engaged and connected lives. Our Camden offers members social networking opportunities via a varied calendar of events, together with information about practical services and lifestyle deals that contribute to members’ health, financial sustainability and enjoyment of life. Central to the Our Camden approach is a commitment to participation and co-design, the idea that things should be done with people, not to them, and that people and communities have assets that can help them realise their own needs and aspirations. For this reason, the Our Camden offer aims to be flexible and evolving; adapting and responding to changing and the emerging needs, desires and opportunities of participants. With this in mind the 2016 Members Impact Study sets out to gather feedback from members: their experience of participating in the project so far and their ideas for new activities and opportunities for the future. As a guide to assessing the impact of the project the initial aims and objectives as detailed in the Our Camden Tender provide focus:

Making a Difference Will this activity, event or decision make a positive difference to someone’s life?”

Having a Heart for Camden

Will this activity, event or decision make a positive difference to the life of Camden?”

Building on Strengths

What do you have to offer Our Camden?”

Listening and Responding

What do we need to hear and respond to in this interaction?”

Belonging Will this activity, event or decision help increase a sense of belonging and community?� “

The impact of the project on individual well-being and community engagement provides the framework for the survey and criteria for the impact assessment. The focus for the survey is principally on the social networking element of the project.


Well-being is a phrase and concept that has come to the fore in debates about how to improve society and the quality of people’s lives. The phrase has become very widely used by different agencies, to the point where some might say it has become all things to all people. But much of what well-being is about at its’ most clearly-defined is also what Our Camden is about – how people can improve their lives through positive action. Central Government, local government and many of the agencies that Our Camden work with use ‘well-being’ as a focus for their programmes, and if Our Camden is to build links in those sectors then a clear understanding of the issues, and how to show how Our Camden improves well-being would be very valuable. Equally, as funding agencies are also exploring this concept, it would make good sense to draw together some of this emerging experience and look at how Our Camden maximises benefits from engagement with this work. New research published by BMJ Open suggests that membership of social groups after retirement is linked with improved health and well-being. The research supports recent NICE guidelines recommending that local councils to do more to offer group activities to older people in order to tackle loneliness and improve well-being, maintaining the independence and mental well-being of older people. The guidelines advise offering a range of group activities for older people to help them avoid loneliness, dementia and other symptoms of ill health. Findings from a recent comprehensive study (RSA, 2015) also emphasizes the potential benefits of a social network approach to delivering social value. The authors argue that social relationships have a value, and that through working with communities this value can be grown by connecting people to one another in their local areas. investing in interventions which build and strengthen networks of social relationships will generate four kinds of social value or ‘dividend’ shared by people in the community:

A well-being dividend. Social connectedness correlates more strongly with well-being than social or economic characteristics such as long term illness, unemployment or

being a single parent.

A citizenship dividend. There is latent power within local communities that lies in the relationships between people, and it can be activated through the methods that we advocate in this paper.

A capacity dividend. Concentrating resources on networks and relationships, rather

than on the ‘troubled’ individual as an end-user can have beneficial effects which ripple out through social networks, having positive effects on people’s children, partners, friends and others.

An economic dividend. There is evidence that investing in interventions which build social relationships can improve employability, improve health (which has positive economic impacts) and create savings in health and welfare expenditure.

Being part of a connected community, one in which people are embedded in local networks of social support and social isolation is reduced can have very positive impact in building individual and community resilience. People experience greater well-being and other benefits from the better understanding, mobilisation and growth of ‘community capital’ in their neighbourhoods.

There are various approaches to defining ‘well-being’ (see for example Wassle and Dodge 2015) and summarised in Appendix 2.

The New Economics Foundation suggests that a ‘successful society is one where

economic activity delivers high levels of sustainable wellbeing for all its citizens’. As they point out, since 1970, the UK's GDP has doubled, but people's satisfaction with life has hardly changed. 81% of citizens believe that the Government should prioritise creating the greatest happiness, not the greatest wealth.

A key outcome of this work was the framework of Five Ways to Well-being

The framework fits well with Our Camden’ offer focusing as it does on connecting, active lifestyles, learning and giving. The New Economics Foundation's Five Ways of Well-Being

• Connect – Our Camden calendar of events and activities • Be Active – Our Camden events and activities with a healthy lifestyles focus • Keep Learning – Our Camden day trips, visits to museums and art exhibitions, skills sharing workshops • Take Notice – Local events, festivals and music, faith services, mindfulness • Give – Our Camden volunteering opportunities - skills sharing and events

For this report, we have adopted this as a framework for the questionnaire survey to ask members about how participation in Our Camden has impacted on their sense of wellbeing and to introduce them to the type of actions which improve well-being


A combination of on-line survey and semi-structured and informal interviews were used to gather feedback from Our Camden members. The aim of this approach was to ensure that all members were given the opportunity to participate via the survey and indepth interviews were undertaken to provide greater insight into the survey results.

Online and postal survey This was made available to all members via the internet for those with internet access and by post to those without.

Survey Profile – Gender 95% of respondents were female, 15% male. Survey Profile Age 4% were aged 34-44 22% were aged 45-54 26% were aged 55-64 24% were aged 65-74 24% were aged 75+ Gender and age profiles fit well with the demographic of the total Our Camden Membership

Employment status 58% of respondents were retired 23% were not employed 12% were self employed 4% were employed Semi-Structured interviews 32 members; 28 female and 4 male with an age range of 35 – 82 years and included four members from ethnic minority communities were interviewed at informal “Brew and “Banter and Sunday lunch events.

Informal Interviews – Informal conversations with members were conducted at The Our Camden Birthday Party and Brew and Banter Events to gather further feedback about members’ experience of joining and participating in our Camden.

DISCOVERING OURCAMDEN Information about the Our Camden offer is delivered via a social network portal and through promotion via local newspaper advertising, local events and through the work of a dedicated project team. We asked members to tell us about how they found out about Our Camden and how they accessed information about activities and events.

Many members found out about Our Camden by word of mouth from other members. This was the most cited pathway to joining Our Camden. I joined via friends; they were going on a day trip to Bath and asked me if I would like to come along. I had such a good time I've been coming ever since! (F, 77) I joined after hearing about Our Camden from friends who were members (F, 87) I joined when I got a job and moved to London, my friend told me about Our Camden and I came along with her on the trip to the London Eye. It was such an easy going crowd; I have been coming ever since. (F, 62) Other members discovered Our Camden from the local press and publicity:

I read about it in the newspaper and saw the list of events and liked everything on it, so I thought this must be for me, days out, boat trips - getting away from London for a day is really relaxing In terms of information networks, publicity and reaching target audiences it is worth noting here that Our Camden branding is important. Social isolation is not just the preserve of older people, there is a significant cohort of people aged between 40 and 50 years old who participate in Our Camden and members from the “baby boomer” generation have different perceptions of being ‘older’ than previous generations. .

Both groups would be deterred by branding targeted at ‘older people’

The best thing about Our Camden is the variation of all ages and activities, that’s what attracted me, it’s not promoted as something for 'lonely older people' I wouldn’t come if it was. (F, 62) Honestly I wouldn’t go to anything that was for “silver surfers” or similar - that’s what I like about Our Camden it’s for everyone. (F, 49) .

What’s On? Seventy percent of member use the internet to find out the latest information about what’s on the Our Camden Calendar of Events either directly from the website, social media (twitter and facebook postings) or via the email newsletter. However there is a digital divide. Access to the internet and a lack of ICT skills are limiting factors for some members either because they are unable to afford a computer (or tablet) or home broadband and mobile phone charges for internet packages are prohibitive.

I am on a pension so I can’t afford to have a computer or the internet at home, and just have a mobile phone for texting and making calls – a smart phone is outside my budget (F, 62) A small minority say that they don’t have the skills to use digital media and for these members alternatives such as by post, at the library, local press and by text are popular For others on-line and conventional publicity appear to also work well in combination:

I saw a leaflet about Our Camden and joined. I looked at all the things on the calendar and wanted to do all of them! I thought this is for me! (F, 49)

Results from the members’ survey and interviews shows that having a diverse information network is essential for attracting a diverse membership; publicising the offer and increasing awareness of the project in the borough. The breadth of information channels employed by the project is reaching hard to reach groups such as those Camden residents without internet access.

THE NEED FOR OURCAMDEN Our Camden offers members social networking opportunities via a varied calendar of events, together with information about practical services and lifestyle deals that contribute to members’ health, financial sustainability and enjoyment of life.

In order to assess the benefit and needs of members in response to the different elements of the offer we asked members what was their main reason for joining Our Camden? Ninety two percent of respondents to the survey said that meeting new people and trying new things to do were their main reasons for joining, and for a small percent connecting more with the borough was also important.

Isolation and Life Changes Loneliness is part of the web of ‘social exclusion’: that combination of linked problems which together bode ill. We have known for some time from the work of Professor Alan Walker and others that our most vulnerable citizens often experience a pernicious cocktail of disadvantage: living alone and/or without children, poor health, no access to transport, not owning your home, low income, no phone, and older old age. Loneliness is of course something we can all face, and there is some evidence that young adults experience similar levels of loneliness to much older people. Social and community policies must grapple with these complex interlocking problems wherever they appear in the life course The semi-structured interviews provide greater insight into identifying the factors that motivated members to join Our Camden. Life course changes such as bereavement, separation from a partner, families leaving home, illness and unemployment together with the dispersal of established communities and neighbourhoods were cited by members as factors that contribute to the breakdown of established social networks, and increased isolation. .

The loss of a partner through bereavement or separation is most commonly cited by members as a factor in increased social isolation

Everything changed when I was widowed. What people don’t understand is the long legacy of grief; the loneliness of living alone and all that goes with it. All my friends are still married and have a social life with their partner - it isn't easy to be part of that when you are widowed. Nothing prepares you for the loneliness. (F. 62) Grief is a great huge black hole. Rebuilding a new life on your own is very hard. (F.68) For many the member the loss of a partner together with children growing up and leaving home further compounds their sense of isolation:

I came along to Our Camden because I want to make friends, I can easily go for 3 or 4 days without speaking to anyone. I am single and my children have grown up and left home . (F. 76) Being independent and not wanting to rely on their family is also important:

My family are very good, but they have their own lives to lead and I don’t want to live in their pockets I want my own life. (F.72) The majority of Our Camden members are single, many female members say that trying to make new friends and having a social life is difficult. Going out alone as a single woman is daunting:

it’s really hard, especially for an older, single woman like me. It isn't easy going out alone especially at nighttime and having no-one to share things with. That’s where Our Camden is so good, it’s all about meeting people and doing things together. (F.62) Single male members say that finding opportunities to enjoy mixed company and to meet women is a particular issue for them. They can more easily go out alone, traditionally going to the pub for a drink and to watch sport on TV where there is company and the chance to chat to other men – but they rarely have the chance to meet women, who typically don’t go out drinking on their own. Going to the pub every night also puts them at risk of alcohol-related health issues. .

Some men and women would like to meet members of the opposite sex and suggested an on-line dating agency would be something they would like to try as an additional Our Camden service. Unemployment and retirement frequently resulting in the loss of work-based social networks also significantly contributes to some members’ experience of isolation. A majority of Our Camden members are either retired or unemployed, and members say that their employment / retirement status has economic as well as social impacts on their ability to access active social connections. One member described her situation as ‘time rich but income poor’ and this is especially true for those living on state pension and benefits.

When I was at work I didn’t mind so much, you are with people all day and there was always a bit of a social circle going out for a drink on a Friday at the end of the week. That’s all gone now – a few folks stay in touch but it’s not the same (M, 68) Disability and ill health are also cited as barrier to participation in social and community life, poor accessibility and access to public transport also create major barriers:

I became very isolated after becoming a wheelchair user and being in accommodation with poor accessibility. I was only spending time with my care workers and had no social life. I didn’t know anyone after getting rehoused and moving back to Camden. (F. 35)

Changes in the Community Camden’s changing demography; the flux of people moving in and out of the area and the gentrification of some parts of the Borough have resulted in the breakdown of old established communities and neighbourhoods and feelings of disconnection and isolation.:

I don’t feel connected in my community anymore. It’s a moving environment, people come and go. So many of the flats have been bought and sold, we have lost the community in the flats. Different people have moved in, there are a lot of foreigners so I don't know my neighbours anymore (F. 82)

Everything has changed in Highgate where I live, the community doesn’t feel connected anymore. There are new people moving in and everything is changing, its very mixed, the old community has gone. A development to turn the shops into flats fell through and now they are derelict (F.62) The community in Bloomsbury has become ‘pocketed’ it used to be different but has changed over the years going all the way back to the war. There are people in the block who will stop and say hello - but nothing social so it can be very lonely once I close my door. (F.85) Community severance caused by the impact of busy roads also affects some members’ sense of social connectedness:

I feel disconnected I my local area -I live by a busy main road and that has a big impact on the local community. The traffic is like a barrier, makes it hard to get out and about and meet people on the street, having a chat with a neighbour is impossible with heavy traffic rushing past. It cuts the community in half so it’s difficult to get to know anyone on the other side of the road. (F.55) Not all Our Camden members are single, couples also participate, motivated by the opportunity to try new things, meet new people and take part in sociable group activities. Special discounts and deals are also added attractions for those with limited budgets. Establishing good social networks is also important for them as it increases resilience should their circumstances change in the future. Loneliness and social isolation frequently resulting from life changes and the changing nature of Camden communities, is identified across all age and gender groups as the main driver for joining and participating in Our Camden.

Members experience of the breakdown of their established social networks and changing sense of place making clearly demonstrates the need for a mechanism that facilitates the re-building of new social networks and community based on mutual needs and interests rather than a the traditional locale of neighbourhood and place. There is need for Our Camden !

WELL-BEING Meeting the Need Having asked members about how they joined and what brought them to Our Camden we then went on to ask about user satisfaction - how the project was helping to meet the social needs members have identified. In the survey we asked members to rate their enjoyment on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 not very much – 5 very much).

Results show that satisfaction amongst members is extremely high with 100% survey respondents’ ranking their enjoyment as either 5 (60%) and 4 (40%). We then went on to explore in greater detail how members satisfaction – how do they benefit (or not) through participation in Our Camden?

Evidence shows that good relationships – with family, friends and our wider communities – are important for our mental wellbeing. Mental wellbeing means feeling good – about ourselves and the world around us – and functioning well. Building stronger, wider social connections can help us feel happier and more secure, and give us a greater sense of purpose. In the survey we asked members about how taking part in Our Camden has helped with their experience of connecting with other people: In a multiple choice question: • 86% enjoy a better social life • 80% had

met other people • 53% feel part of a group 60% feel more connected with their community

The survey results show that members find participation in Our Camden has resulted in having a better social life, given them the chance to meet new people and feel more connected with a community. Feedback from interviews gave greater insight into the benefits, with members stressing the value of being part of a group and meeting

different people:

What I really like about Our Camden is the chance to meet new people, it’s very diverse and I have met people that I would never meet where I live - that’s what makes it so interesting. (F, 77) Doing things in a group is what makes Our Camden so good, it’s about enjoying a meal together, being sociable and talking. You do new things that you wouldn’t do on your own. (F, 74) Members also find that the diversity of the activities and events on offer is attractive, both in term of their interests and ability to pay. The range of free activities and those with discounted costs help to facilitates inclusion; there is something for everyone whatever their budget:

With Our Camden there are so many choices, a really good range of activities and mix of free things like the Brew and Banter as well as things you have to pay for like days out and dinners. (F, 72) Individual member’s experience of social isolation varies considerably, with some members actively engaged in local community activism, book clubs, choirs and Friends of Parks Groups as well as Our Camden. The Interplay of demography, health and economic factor’s impact on levels of engagement. As might be anticipated ill health and disability emerges as the most limiting factor - however there are no clear patterns correlating isolation with a particular demography (age, gender and ethnicity) or economic factors i.e. there are both affluent and less wealthy members who are very active and conversely , both affluent and less wealthy people who are isolated and disconnected. Rather, each individual’s situation is characterised by a suite of contributing factors, highlighting the need for a flexible, responsive services.

Importantly members who are thriving and happy account for their satisfaction with life as a result of being active in the community and having a good social life through Our Camden. If I didn’t have Our Camden I would feel lonely and isolated, it’s a chance to go to go out and meet people and make new friends. (F, 40’s) One thing leads to another – once engaged with Our Camden people report that they frequently find out about other opportunities in the borough and begin to extend their activity through social and developing friendship networks. Many members identified loneliness and social isolation as the most negative experience in their lives. As well as gauging overall satisfaction with Our Camden, we also wanted to look more closely at the impact of the project specifically on loneliness and isolation – has membership helped overcome these difficulties? What are the gaps? And how could the project be improved to greater effect? Members are very positive about the impact the project has had on providing opportunities to become socially engaged and less isolated.

I have made friends and if I am feeling a bit low I go and have a look at the Our Camden website and see what’s going on - now I don’t have to sit at home feeling lonely - there are places to go and things to do with friends. It gives me options (F, 55) The role of the project coordinator in the process of engagement was highlighted by many members. Some had tried joining other activities and classes but failed to make friends:

I have joined classes to try and get out and about and meet people. But I haven't got to know anyone, people come to the class then they are off again. There isn't a chance to make friends. Going to a class isn't enough, people need the chance to talk and get to know each other in a social setting. (F,55)

Creating a welcoming atmosphere and having someone to broker initial contact and introductions in a sociable setting gives member’s initial confidence: It’s not that there aren’t things to do - it's having the confidence to go to something new where you don’t know anyone, Dee is so great, she makes you welcome and introduces you to the group so you don’t have to break the ice by yourself. Then before you know it you are off chatting away. (M, 62)

This is my first time coming here today, there is such a warm and welcoming atmosphere. As a younger person I was worried it would be all older people but there is such a mix of people, great energy and a positive feeling. I will definitely come again. (F, 35) Members highlight long winter nights as a time of greatest vulnerability – and emphasized the need for evening actives:

When its dark by four o’clock and there is the whole evening ahead on my own you can end up wanting to scream and throw the TV out of the window. That’s the worst time of all – you feel like you’ve got no life. (F, 68) Going out with a group is really important especially in the evening;

I don’t like to go out on my own to say the cinema or the theatre. I wouldn’t go on my own to a show. It’s not the same if you've not got anyone to talk to and share your popcorn with. (F, 62)

Evidence from the research shows that participating in Our Camden enables members to cultivate friendships; build social connections and have greater enjoyment of life. In turn this is having a positive impact on their mental wellbeing.

We think that the mind and body are separate. But what you do with your body can have a powerful effect on your mental wellbeing. Mental wellbeing means feeling good – both about yourself and about the world around you. It means being able to get on with life in the way you want. Evidence shows that there is a link between being physically active and good mental wellbeing. Being active doesn’t mean you need to spend hours in the gym, if that doesn't appeal to you. Find physical activities that you enjoy and think about how to fit more of them into your daily life Keeping fit and maintaining an active lifestyle contributes to better health and wellbeing. We asked members if participating in Our Camden has helped them to be more active. The results from the survey are encouraging

with 64% of respondents saying that it has, and 64% saying that they would like Our Camden to help them become more active.

Member’s engagement with keeping fit and active is variable, to some extent dependent on their health and ability; however there are other factors at play other than baseline health, there are social as well as physical barriers to participation:

I would like to be more active - but again I don’t like doing things on my own. Something like a walking group would be good (F,62) I would like to be more active and get a bit fitter. Especially in the winter I can get very low and don’t want to go out in the rain and cold. I joined a gym but I don’t like going on my own, it’s boring – it’s much more fun if you can go with someone else -and have a laugh - a buddy system would be good where people could give a shout out to see if anyone else would like to meet up for a walk or a swim. (F, 72)

We asked members if there were any activities that they would like to try to help them keep fit, the results were interesting. As well as more conventional activities such as walking, swimming and cycling groups, proposals included dancing, go-carting, Nordic walking and dry slope skiing – people are obviously not afraid to be adventurous. Opportunities to link up with wheelchair sports were mentioned by a wheelchair user.

Adding a social dimension to keeping fit and active would encourage more members to participate in fitness-related activities.

It can be easy to rush through life without stopping to notice much. Paying more attention to the present moment – to your own thoughts and feelings, and to the world around you – can improve your mental wellbeing. Our Camden offers members opportunities to take part in social meetings that fit well with the theme of ‘Taking Notice’ – the opportunity to share experience and talk with other members gives them a space to reflect and feel more connected. Going for walks, days out, seeing something new and being in the countryside are relaxing and the chance to talk with others:

I love the outings and the chance to chat one to one. Talking to people makes you realise that you are not the only one. (F, 74) Sessions such as mindfulness are popular with some members who said they would like to try other alternative therapies to help with stress, anxiety and depression:

If you are all ‘strung up’ something like a massage for relaxation or reflexology would be very good and in a group would be fun (F, 76) Information about other local community events such as festivals and music and faith services is posted regularly to the partner members’ page of the Our Camden website, here people can find out about Camden local issues and events to get involved with.

Research shows that learning throughout life is associated with greater satisfaction and optimism, and improved ability to get the most from life. People who carry on learning after childhood report higher wellbeing and a greater ability to cope with stress. They also report more feelings of self-esteem, hope and purpose. Setting targets and hitting them can create positive feelings of achievement. Learning often involves interacting with other people. This can also increase our wellbeing by helping us build and strengthen social relationships. Our Camden offers members activities to encourage learning, these range from informal days out to places of interest, visits to museums and art galleries as well as craft skills, art and ICT workshops. Feedback from the survey shows that these activities are very popular with members. Going in a group encourages people to learn about new things and move outside their comfort zone: I have been to all sorts of things with Our Camden - things that I wouldn’t normally go to on my own. Like the visits to the Museum to see the Chinese exhibition - I would never have gone to that by myself - but it was fascinating and that encouraged me to get out and try new things. (F, 62) Members are keen to learn new things:

I like learning new things, like Arts and Crafts and using my iPad (F,77)

I love going to museums and exhibitions especially with the group, I have been to things I wouldn’t do on my own and learned about all sorts of new things. (F70)

Providing opportunities to learn ICT skills is important for members who are keen to access the benefits of the internet and connect with family and friends:

My son bought me a tablet for Christmas and I didn’t have a clue where to start – so I came along to one of the sessions and that got me going – and I can come back and ask for help if I get stuck. (F, 82) Now I can do Skype calls and emails to my friends and family and find out all sorts of useful things on the internet (F, 74)

Fun activities such as crafts and art are also popular and members are beginning to discuss possibilities for sharing their skills and running workshops and events for other members.

Small acts of kindness towards other people, or larger ones – such as volunteering in your local community – can give you a sense of purpose. It can make you feel happier and more satisfied with life. Sometimes, we think of wellbeing in terms of what we have: our income, our home or car, or our job. But evidence shows that what we do and the way we think have the biggest impact on mental wellbeing. Positive mental wellbeing means feeling good – about yourself and the world around you – and being able to get on with life in the way you want. Helping and supporting other people, and working with others towards a shared goal, is good for our mental wellbeing. Many Our Camden members are active volunteers involved in projects such as Friends of Parks Groups, supporting Camden community projects such as Neighbourhood Watch schemes and helping at Community Centres. Asked about volunteering with Our Camden, feedback shows that there is a potential pool of enthusiasm, knowledge and skills that the project can draw on to further develop active participation and codesign in the development of the project. and:

where possible, share knowledge if the opportunity lends itself, if I am asked, I will consider to do so (F, 75)

There are members who are interested in helping to host events, help out in the office and share skills by running events such as crafts, drawing and foreign languages.


Finally we asked about what matters most to members. The majority say that having sociable places to go and things to do with others and getting out meeting people matters more than anything to them: I have been made to feel so welcome, it is lovely. Meeting new like-minded people and trying new things Members also say that feeling included, purposeful and involved also matters to them:

Not being left out because of my age. I feel I can contribute a lot. (F, 64) Everybody feeling good and feeling like they matter (F, 50)


Our Camden members are very satisfied with the range of activities and events on offer. Feedback from members about new things they would like to try cover a range of ideas for afternoon, evening, and daytime activities and events:


• music club afternoon • board games afternoon • bingo afternoons • afternoon tea in a nice hotel • book club afternoons • arts and crafts afternoons


• more theatre trips • film nights • restaurants • dancing • quiz nights • games nights • debates


• outings to unusual places • more day trips


• education classes • Language sessions (French , Italian)


The vision of ‘Connected Communities’ is one in which people are embedded within local networks of social support; in which social isolation is reduced and people experience greater wellbeing and other benefits from the better understanding, mobilisation and growth of ‘community capital’ in their neighbourhoods. Assessing the impact of Our Camden on delivering the initial aims and objectives of the project:

Making a Difference “Will this activity, event or decision make a positive difference to someone’s life?”

The research presented in this report reiterates an already familiar picture of loneliness and social isolation found in previous studies citing life course events and changing local neighbourhood and communities that result in people becoming dislocated from their established social networks. Feedback from members demonstrates that participation in our Camden is making a positive difference to the negative impacts these experiences have on their lives. The intervention is positively building and strengthening networks of social inclusion and relationships that in turn is delivering social value shared by people in the Our Camden community. Members who were experiencing social isolation and loneliness say that the project has given them a sense of connection and belonging. They particularly appreciate the welcoming atmosphere and support of the project workers in brokering initial engagement helping them to overcome barriers that may prevent them rebuilding their social networks. Importantly it has given them options which empower them as individuals to make a positive difference to their own lives. There are places to go and things to do, the opportunity to choose not to stay ‘home alone’ irrespective of their economic and social circumstances. Our Camden is not just a place of sanctuary, rather

a gateway to opportunity and increased wellbeing.

Having a Heart for Camden “Will this activity, event or decision make a positive difference to the life of Camden?”

The Our Camden approach to building community capital by supporting social relationships has the potential to deliver social value for Camden residents and in turn Camden service providers with participants experiencing improved wellbeing and better quality of life. Feeling part of a connected community creates empowerment, and with growing self-confidence, people begin to experience enhanced self-reliance and become more actively involved in the life of the borough. These findings support those of the RSA (20150) Connected Communities study which found that people who lack certain kinds of social relationships – such as knowing somebody in a position to change things locally, or having somebody who can offer practical help – were more likely to report low subjective wellbeing than people who have a long-term illness, are unemployed, or are a single parent. Better wellbeing improves mental health, as a result this has the potential for savings in public service expenditure.

Building on Strengths “What do you have to offer Our Camden?”

Results from the Our Camden research suggest that the project is at an interesting transitional stage with regard to members actively participating in co-production and the delivery of the service. While the initial stages of the project have established it as a successful social network, feedback from members interested in volunteering their skills and experience suggests that with growing capacity now is the time for members themselves to begin to take a more active part in the design and delivery of activities and running the project.

. Increasing the engagement of members in this way has the potential to successfully facilitate the growth of community capital and extend the network.

Listening and Responding “What do we need to hear and respond to in this interaction?”

Awareness and sensitivity to members needs emerges from the research as one of the strengths of Our Camden. This is reflected in the diversity of activities and events on offer that caters for a wide range of interests, members’ economic circumstances and social needs. For example, members are already consulted and asked to contribute ideas for ways in which to develop the calendar of events. A particular challenge for the project is to respond to the needs of men in the borough. They stubbornly remain ‘hard to reach’ and under-represented in the membership. Men participating in the project say that they would welcome a more gender balanced membership; one possibility is for male members to become more actively engaged in the promotion and recruitment of more men through their existing friends, family and social networks.

Belonging “Will this activity, event or decision help increase a sense of belonging and community?”

Although Our Camden has a geographic location in the borough it is clear from the research that a sense of belonging to a community in Camden is increasingly difficult for local residents as the area undergoes the demographic and development changes discussed previously. However, results show that the social networking approach that underpins the Our Camden model of community engagement is creating a new kind of community, not located so much in traditional locales such as neighbourhoods, streets or housing blocks but one that is building social relationships and networks based on shared needs, interests and social relationships.

Conclusion The findings from the Our Camden impact research are encouraging. It is hard to find any negative feedback from members who unanimously say that they have benefited from participation in the project. Whilst some members are more active than others, those that are more casual users said that it is their already busy lives that prevented them from taking part more – rather than any dissatisfaction with the Our Camden offer. Exploring wellbeing through the Five Ways to Wellbeing approach proved a useful way of looking at how the project is meeting the needs of users in terms of connecting, being active, learning, being aware and giving as an overall strategy for building resilience. The project now has a solid foundation on which to ‘grow’ the network and extend the benefits to more Camden residents.


. RSA. Community Capital – The Value of Connected Communities (2015) A Multidisciplinary Framework for Measuring and Improving Wellbeing k_for_Measuring_and_Improving_Wellbeing NHS Choices: Bolton, M (2012) The State We are In – A Report Compiled for The campaign to End Loneliness: Age UK Oxfordshire. NHS Choices: NHS Choices: NHS Choices: RSA. Community Capital – The Value of Connected Communities (2015)

Ourcamden impact report  

OurCamden is a membership service for the people of Camden. We seek to help reduce social isolation by giving people opportunities to meet n...

Ourcamden impact report  

OurCamden is a membership service for the people of Camden. We seek to help reduce social isolation by giving people opportunities to meet n...