About Common Unity Social Enterprise
Background to Common Unity
We are a Health and Social Care organisation working in mental health and well-being with communities traditionally seen as ‘hard to reach.’ However, we don’t necessarily feel that communities are hard to reach, but we do believe that to engage with all communities we have to work smarter and in places where the communities are. Through this approach, we have developed excellent partnerships with a range of communities across Birmingham and wider and continue to work tirelessly to make a real difference at a grassroots level with communities.
Having recognised the urgent need to provide health and wellbeing programmes that have communities at heart, we have delivered a wide range of social media and face to face wellbeing programmes which focus on upstream approaches to the health and social care landscape. By “upstream,” we mean programmes of work that helps people help themselves before life gets too difficult to cope with.
We help individuals, communities and service providers overcome perceived barriers to communication and the fulfilment of potential, ensuring that services are both accessible and relevant.
Our portfolio to date has included The Waiting Room, The Birmingham Barbershop Project, the Urbrum social media community platform, the Community Cohesion Programme, Suicide Prevention Training, Peer Support Programmes and the Connecting Community Networks Programme.
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. Since the start of us 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.
Caron has worked in the Health and Social Care sector for over twenty years and has gained knowledge and experience in working with individuals of all ages living in a range of care and support setting.
Caron has managed housing support services, support & care staff teams and contracts on behalf of the NHS and Local Authorities across the West Midlands.
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 1to1 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.
“Too often strategic documents seem to bombard people with facts and figures – these are important but I think too much emphasis on facts and figures misses the key point of how people feel about issues. If things or situations make emotional sense, we’re far more inclined to carry them out. We tend to communicate and respond emotionally far more than we’re aware of.” Caron Thompson
Common Unity Social Enterprise is a Health and Social Care organisation specialising in health and wellbeing
prevention and intervention programmes within ‘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.
For more information on common unity please download our brochure : CU Brochure Web Version