Communities Driving Change was commissioned by Tower Hamlets Public Health to improve the health and wellbeing of communities in the Borough of Tower Hamlets by empowering communities to take control over their immediate environment and facilitate positive change in their health and wellbeing. Public health money in the region of 4 million pounds was diverted from frontline services and placed in the hands of local residents to design their own services.
Four providers were commissioned, each working in one of the localities in the borough (North West- The Young Foundation, South West- My Time Active, South East- Poplar and Limehouse Network CIC, North East Locality- Bromley by Bow). The programme structure is based on the Well Communities model and consists of three phases: scoping (identifying three areas of focus within each locality with vulnerable communities), engagement and action planning (identifying the priority issues for each area of focus and devise action plans based on these priorities) and delivery (delivering the programme and facilitating communities to take ownership over organising and designing activities, continuously engage new members and help the sustained delivery of the activities).
UEL IHHD (now ICC) was commissioned to fulfil two roles:
1) Professor Gail Findlay and Bridget Imeson support delivery by providing asset based community development training and individualised support for each providers throughout the programme; and
2) Dr Darren Sharpe, Nora Morocza and Ruby Farr are evaluating the programme delivery and outcomes and provide data collection and local evaluation support for each provider.
The aim of the programme is to empower communities to take action over their immediate environment and their health and wellbeing; address capacity building within the community, and facilitate 1) engagement in local services, 2) partnership working between local services and voluntary sector and 3) community led initiative and cooperation with stakeholders.
Furthermore, the programme aims to achieve a system change that responds better to the local communities' needs and reduces the burden on health services (especially on the NHS), reduces health inequalities and facilitates the shift towards culturally appropriate healthcare.
The programme principles are based on 'co-production' and 'engagement', which is conceptualised as a method, approach and mindset to modelling effective ways to stimulate communities to drive change. At a micro level, much of the Communities Driving Change programme input to date has centred on co-produced activities to stimulate reach, and to engage and accelerate community decision-making to produce community-defined health and wellbeing activities.
The programme aims and objectives alongside the fidelity factors have been co-produced with the provider and commissioner teams, and are reviewed on a yearly basis. The overall evaluation framework adopts a realist evaluation approach and uses action research methods focusing on four domains: community engagement, capacity building and co-production; the effects on the individual and community; whole system change; and fidelity, as early, mid and end outcomes/impact for the participating teams and residents.
Furthermore, the team works closely together with commissioners and the four locality providers to collect and integrate various types of data such as grey literature (documentary analysis), quantitative and qualitative surveys, individual and group interviews, focus groups and video methods (e.g. vox pops). Our data analysis combines the salutogenesis framework, which comprises an asset- and a strengths-based approach, with implementation theory.
To date, over 300 different activities with approximately 1,600 sessions have been running by, for and with residents, which have involved over 15000 registered residents and 15,000 attendances across the four localities.
Our team has been working closely with Tower Hamlets' partners and has supported the delivery through bimonthly Action Learning Sets, Asset Based Community Development trainings, team coaching sessions, evaluation trainings and workshops, on-site and virtual evaluation support.
The four locality provider teams have supported local communities during the COVID-19 pandemic by referrals to additional services, food and medicine delivery, providing activity and home learning packs for children and adults, wellbeing calls, and supporting GP practices in helping vulnerable residents.
The programme won the UEL Public and Community Engagement Award in the 'Partnership' category.