Common Unity is a health and social care social enterprise which delivers a proactive approach to service co-ordination and development, writes founder and managing director, Caron Thompson.
Common Unity was established in 2009 by community engagement activists who were born, lived and educated in the inner city parts of the West Midlands.The organisation offers a range of holistic services that promote mental wellbeing to disadvantaged communities, delivering activities in the urban areas of the WestMidlands. Engagement activitiesmainly take place in the heart of thecommunity, which means we arecompletely integrated within thecommunities with which we work.Common Unity lends itsknowledge and specialism to otherorganisations to achieve bettercommunity engagement and accessto health and social care. We’vebeen commissioned by variousorganisations – including the localauthority, NHS primary care trustsand third sector organisations– to support them in researchand consultation with specificcommunities. We have extensive networks with community leaders from diverse ethnic backgrounds, as well as excellent working relations with current community development workers and other health care professionals.There are many communities that have pertinent issues but are
not able to communicate or engage using the generic routes, meaning they do not access the service they require.
These communities areclassed as ‘hard to reach’, but it’s notthat they are hard to reach, we justneed to know how to reach them.Our multicultural focus provides a personalised approach to community engagement, to support the mental well-being of all communities.Barbershop Birmingham Barbershop is a ground-breaking programme in Birmingham that has a holistic, social-based approach to engaging our communities – especially youth – on the issues around mental health and well-being. Its main products are a citywide magazine and a website, but these are just a small part of the whole venture. Barbershop is a programme that offers opportunities – through education in IT, website development, report writing, journalism, volunteering opportunities and payments for work undertaken towards the magazine and web-site. It engages young men on the subject of mental health and well-being in a way that is meaningful and relevant to those individuals. Barbershop develops cohesion between and within communities and promotes individual self-esteem and resilience through active engagement, effectively challenging the stigma that exists around mental health problems. All of the key partners in Barbershop Birmingham are Birmingham-based, not-forprofit social enterprises and third sector organisations. The BeautyShop magazine Common Unity, as the lead organisation for the Barbershop programme, has supported the development of Barbershop magazine. We have developed a female version of the magazine with support from Preston, the founders of the Barbershop brand. The magazines have contributed to effective community cohesion.
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