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The benefits of communities taking responsibility for their health and wellbeing
26 Apr, 2018

Power to Change has partnered with Nesta for The Future of People Powered Health 2018 conference. Our Chief Executive, Vidhya Alakeson will be chairing a session at the event on ‘Putting health in community hands’ featuring Brendan Rooney, Executive Director of Healthy n Happy Development Community Trust.  In anticipation of the event on 2 May, Brendan shares his initial thoughts on people powered health on our blog.


History and experience tell us bad things can happen to people when others make choices about what is right and good for them. What is ‘right and good’, who decides and for whom, and, critically, how do they decide?

If power is the ability or capacity to direct or influence the behaviour of others to do something or act in a particular way, or to alter the course of events, then leaders need to take note and stand up to be counted.

What is leadership in the public sector and third sectors and how do you find it? Are all these leaders working together or in respective silos and what if their leadership styles and visions clash? If so, what is the reality of poor leadership and what impact does this have on our communities and their health, wellbeing and care needs?

Something happened in Scotland in 2014. Regardless of the views or the outcome of the independence referendum there was a strong and collective appetite for change. The recent Community Empowerment Act, Land Reform Act and the current review of local democracy could be fundamental in shifting approaches towards community-led leadership or at best they might only set the conditions. It is too early to say.

What they have done is turn the spotlight on listening to and supporting individuals, groups and whole communities to play a key and active role in improving the world and community that they live in and this requires personal, professional and collective leadership. This clearly is no longer solely the domain of only those employed in public or third sectors and requires leadership in communities.

Individuals, families and communities actively taking responsibility for their own health and wellbeing and care needs. Does this seem familiar to those of us of a certain age? Does it seem impossible while we delude and tell ourselves how complex and busy our worlds are?

Healthy n Happy Community Development Trust believes that local people are the experts in their communities. We work with and support local people to build skills and knowledge and empower them so they can spearhead and implement positive change within their communities and take responsibility for their own health and care. Building individual and community capacity helps to increase confidence, improves personal and professional relationships and creates a resilience and strength in our communities, through developing leaders and self-sufficient individuals.

We deliver our services and build relationships in the neighbourhoods that need it most and by listening, really listening, and responding to community identified needs, we can build meaningful and lasting relationships and reach parts of the community that statutory agencies can only write about.

Our future is already emerging and so are the challenges for change makers. Addressing power and relationships are important ingredients of leadership within and across sectors and communities. Our largest ‘army’ is those working and volunteering throughout the public and third sectors. How can we unite to make good things happen to people? How will each of us contribute to the societal and systems shifts that will genuinely transform our economy and society and how can our leaders facilitate this and when?

Add your name to the waiting list, view the livestream (on the 2 May) or find out more about Nesta’s The Future of People Powered Health 2018 event here.