A case study focusing on Aberdeen Foyer's IMPACT project funded through the Transforming Self Management in Scotland Fund.
The Foyer is a successful social enterprise working to support individuals in communities in the northeast of Scotland.
The IMPACT project reaches out and encourages individuals to find their strengths, build confidence and find time to flourish with a programme of support for adults living with long term mental health conditions.
Aberdeen Foyer first submitted a project idea to the Self Management IMPACT Fund in 2012, but following an initial meeting with the Grants Team, they realised they needed to go back to the drawing board. The feedback was eye-opening for the Foyer team and made them question everything about their application, and their approach to involving people in the design of a new, exciting, meaningful self management service. “The question the ALLIANCE team asked us – ‘how do you know that’s what people want?’ – now defines what we are all about.” Brenda McGinlay.
Brenda, who led on the project development, knew to get it right she needed to speak to as many people living with long term mental health conditions as possible. People responded well, feeling respected to be asked and truly involved by having their say. The insights gained from this engagement helped the Foyer secure funding and set up some initial groups which attracted people who traditionally had difficulty, or reluctance, in accessing existing services. “We believe that the ALLIANCE are genuinely interested in our learning, which has meant we’ve had the ability to be experimental to try things out.”
The Foyer, although always forward thinking, has embraced this way of working as a result of the successful project being so ‘visible’, not just physically with sessions being held in their on-site café instead of the usual training room, but also with the strong voice of experience at the fore. “It’s been a challenge to encourage folk to find other things in the community – we’ve been clear that this isn’t their ‘forever place’, so we have a clear pathway to support people to turnaround.”
The project has embraced the focus that the IMPACT Fund has given the Foyer on making a difference for the people they are supporting. Being able to report back in interesting and fresh ways, without solely concentrating on traditional outcomes and numbers, has meant that the real impact of the project has been clearer for them, and the people involved. “I tell everyone to apply to the ALLIANCE – we’re now using our creative evaluation approaches with other funders too.” It’s not all been plain sailing, but the Foyer have used the experience within the group to influence changes and overcome challenges. People have looked for support to ‘come through the door’, to be involved and to influence improved interactions with professionals, which became the main aims of the project as it developed, and the target for the future.