Thank you and goodbye from Inspiring Change Manchester

A message from Programme Manager’s Jackie (2020- 2022) and Paul (2014- 2020)

There was a huge amount of hope and enthusiasm at play in 2013 and 2014 when the Inspiring Change Manchester (ICM) programme was designed, created and launched. Focussing on the idea of a ‘fulfilled life’ for those experiencing multiple disadvantage in Manchester was so important. Manchester is an amazing city but too many people weren’t able to benefit from what it had to offer, and significant inequalities continued despite many efforts to tackle them from charities like Shelter, as well as public services and the voluntary sector. As we brought people together with personal insight of how safety-nets in the city were often failing those most in need, common causes emerged. People with lived experience of services met and got to know the people responsible for running, steering and commissioning services in the city.

From this moment, the conversation was started, and the idea for ICM was formed

“Let’s think in terms of rights (to a job, a home, treatment, support and care at the right time and delivered in the right way). “

“Let’s remove barriers, the whole idea of conditionality and punishing failure to ‘engage’.”

“Let’s try the opposite of what we know hasn’t been working.”

The emphasis on ICM being a learning programme was meaningful, and a focus on evidence, evaluation and research helped in so many ways. It gave us permission to try lots of things, putting ideas to the test and attempting as much as we could. Throughout, we were keen to reflect on insights, respond to challenges and adapt to overcome them; developing new approaches to represent and better meet the needs of the people we were working with. This led to cornerstones of the programme emerging and becoming what are now lasting legacies of the programme.

Our learning, involvement and participation culture resulted in: the creation of our Community Hub, considerable investment in jobs for people with lived experience via our GROW programme, the introduction of a lived experience designed Housing First pilot, the creation of GMTHINK– an integrated data system (first for the city and later for projects across Greater Manchester), a membership model that offered open-ended and peer led connections. And so much more. This has been possible due to our Partners willingness to also adapt to new ways of working as we tested and learnt, the valuable insights from people who have faced inequalities and exclusion and the National Lottery Community Fund’s flexible and asset-based approaches to working with their partners.

While we are sorry to see the end of such an important programme, the informal ICM ‘Celebration Event’ we held on Friday 25th March 2022 will have a lasting impression for us. People who had been involved with the programme over the last 8 years -former Members, Volunteers, GROWs, Support Workers, managers and other colleagues from the Partnership came together to share unique insights to what ICM has meant to them personally. This demonstrated the impact ICM has had on the people involved and how it has helped to change the city permanently. Dozens of people (some who got their first career step via our GROW programme) are now working across organisations taking ICM ideas forward. The impact of people with their own experience of broken systems playing a part in creating better and fairer ones is now largely taken without question. This exemplifies the true nature of this programme; how it has touched people, empowered them and caused a ‘ripple effect’ of systems change in how individuals take the learning with them and influence in what and how they approach their future.

Although questions remain as to how to continue and build on the foundations of the Programme and our partners, we are proud that our learning has helped to inform on the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities funded Changing Futures Programme in Greater Manchester. We are encouraged that this programme is continuing the message that we shouldn’t be tolerating or managing situations like repeat homelessness, lack of continuity of care and the judgement of people on the back of behaviour they have little or no control over. The mission goes on, but everyone who has been involved can be proud that we made the best start we could in bringing about real systems change and making Manchester a fairer, better and more inclusive place.

As a final note – we would like to acknowledge the amazing contributions that each and every person who has been involved with ICM has made over the last 8 years and to also thank our Partners (Back On Track, Community Led Initiatives, Big Life and MASH) and other stakeholders across Manchester who have helped to shape the direction and successes of the programme.

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