About Common Unity Social Enterprise
About Common Unity specialist in Mental Health, Well-being & Suicide Prevention
Background to common unity
A brief history of Common Unity
Common Unity is a Health and Social Care organisation specialising in working on mental health and well-being with ‘invisible’ communities.
It was established in 2009 by community activists from BME communities who were also mental health professionals, and who had grown up in the inner city areas of the West Midlands.
Common Unity have more than 25 years’ experience working within health and social care. They are well-respected with established roots in the community having a history of delivering a range of ground-breaking programmes that engage seldom heard sectors of society.
These programmes have included the wellbeing youth inclusion programme URBRUM, the Birmingham Barbershop Project and the management of the Community Cohesion Portfolio across the city of Birmingham.
How we work
Common Unity believes that if you want to relate across communities, then you have to start to work more effectively with communities from where they are at. During its six years of delivering innovative services in Birmingham, we have recognised that only through meaningful grassroots dialogue where the agenda is equally owned can the real issues for communities be recognised and prioritised accordingly. The top down approach of seeing challenges and difficulties being homogeneously relevant to all sectors of our community with the same solutions being deemed applicable is a mistaken one. Yet, at the same time there are many opportunities for different communities to incorporate assets that work within other communities. To ensure that this richly diverse city achieves all it is capable of achieving, there is a need for decision makers to be in a position where their decisions are based on real local intelligence including real local solutions. Common Unity have a clear and vital specialist conduit role in ensuring this happens.
No single organisation can be all things for all people. Common Unity is no exception to this rule. We recognise that to achieve the greatest impact and the highest level of knowledge in respect of our communities to best inform decision makers, partnership is key to success. Just as our city is diverse in nature, we recognise that our approach needs to be diverse incorporating the best specialist associates to achieve the best results. To date, Common Unity have worked with a range of local specialist associate agencies to ensure success in design and delivery has been optimised. These agencies, known as Grassroots Associates, have helped us realise much of the visioning behind this paper and implementation against this vision equally requires the continuation of this partnership arrangement into the future.
Founder and Director of Common-Unity Social Enterprise:
Caron works alongside agencies and organisations, developing and delivering a range of mental well-being projects. Management: Caron has worked in the Health and Social Care sector for Twenty years and has gained a vast knowledge and experience in working with individuals of all ages living in the care and support setting. Caron has managed housing support services and support & care staff team and contracts for Heart of Birmingham PCT NHS and Solihull Mental Health Trust.
Common Unity has developed services with Third Sector Organisation by assessing the quality of the service, the systems, structures and protocols. We also measures the current practices in line with organisational policies & procedure and government legislation. Common Unity works with organisations to develop their services to its full potential by building capacity.
Common Unity developed and project managed an award winning community film Breaking Silence (that explored the complex social and cultural issues that South Asian women faced who were experiencing mental ill health). Breaking Silence won the Mental Health and Wellbeing category for Regional Health and Social Care Award 2008.
Common Unity works to further the cause of mental health and wellbeing through:
Engagement: using elements of an Assets Based Community Development Approach to establish the most relevant forms of communication with individuals and communities, particularly BME and ‘hard to reach’ communities, then using this as a basis for working with them to address issues and fulfil potential. This will often take the form of ‘cultural brokerage’, when formal agencies are struggling to achieve effective communication.
Access: using 1:1 and group work, and utilizing an innovative range of media, so as to ensure that people from what are often termed ‘hard to reach’ communities have information about services and opportunities available to them, and about any assistance they need in gaining access to them.
Skills: working on our own skills, and those of the partners, individuals and communities we come into contact with. This is done directly by ourselves or through linking to training providers. It is about ensuring quality, and about fulfilling potential through the building of confidence and a sense of agency.
Culture: across all our projects, and every form of media in which we engage, seeking to build a positive and de-stigmatizing culture, in order to counteract the isolation and low self-esteem often experienced by people with mental health problems.
Collaboration: carrying out our work in partnership with a range of agencies in the voluntary, public and private sectors. The delivery of projects is aided by our established network of personal, professional and creative contacts.
Statement of Intent
Common Unity looks to promote mental wellbeing in disadvantaged communities through effective communication and the development of holistic services.
Introduction to Common Unity
Common Unity Social Enterprise is a Health and Social Care organisation specialising in working on mental health and wellbeing with ‘hard to reach’ communities. It was established in 2009 by community activists from BME communities who were also mental health professionals, and who had grown up in the inner city areas of the West Midlands. Our personal and professional experiences have formed our instincts about, and specific insights into, what works in communication with a wide range of audiences. We help individuals, communities and service providers to overcome barriers to communication and the fulfilment of potential, ensuring that services are both accessible and relevant. Common Unity has been commissioned by the Local Authority, NHS Primary Care Trust, and a number of Third Sector organisations in Birmingham and Sandwell, to support them in research and consultation with specific communities.
- Community Consultations and Research
- Community Communications and Workshops
- Social Impact/Social Needs Audits
- Cultural Brokerage
Standard forms of research, consultation and awareness raising do not always hit the mark. Conventional methods may alienate communities, and those who have difficulties with literacy.
Common Unity believes that if you want to relate to different cultures, and understand their needs, you have to keep consultation as local to the community as possible, so that they are in familiar surroundings and a relaxed environment. You have to take care to find the languages, formats/technologies, conventions, stories, values and other cultural indicators which resonate with that particular community, matching their interests and learning styles. In the process the consulter/researcher/service provider becomes the learner, and imbalances of power are addressed. This activity, as carried out by Common Unity, can be described as cultural brokerage, and contributes to operating in a culturally competent way e.g. when assessing community strengths, providing information about services, or evaluating service impacts.
The Common Unity Team, itself made up of members of local BME communities, will assist agencies and communities to overcome barriers to communication, and to ensure a rich dialogue about strengths, needs, services and impacts. In order to achieve this we will employ an ever-expanding range of media and formats depending on the requirements of the situation. Recent examples have been: film/DVD, performance poetry, drama, interactive workshops, radio interviews, quiz shows, and a range of social media.
Service Set-Up – Development – Redesign
Common Unity has extensive experience in setting up new services, and in developing or redesigning existing provisions in order to accommodate the changing needs of the people using them. Common Unity conducts service audits to test the quality of a service in terms of its systems, structures and protocols, and measures current practices against organisational policies and procedures and legislative requirements. We can provide a ‘health check’ for your organisation at both the strategic and operational levels, and most critically, on how effectively service users are being engaged and their needs met.
We organize celebratory and awareness events for wider communities, particular groups within a community, and particular organisations. The awareness sessions focus on health promotion and other public health agendas. The celebrations focus on cultural festivals and social celebrations.