Building Financially Healthy Communities in the North West

14 Jun 2016 By Rebecca Simpson, Matthew Flatman - Financial Health Exchange

On 27th May we held our second event in our ‘Building Financially Healthy Communities’ series.  Hosted at the Friends Meeting House in Manchester, the aim of the event was to facilitate an effective conversation about how we can build the financial health of our communities, really challenge our thinking about what works, and tease out examples of effective practice from the people in the room.

We invited three guest speakers to talk to us about the ways they are working to solve complex problems which are having an impact on the financial health of their communities. We were fortunate to hear from Real Food Wythenshawe, Red Ninja, and Credit Kudos – who have developed products and services that offer pragmatic, yet creative solutions to long entrenched problems. There were four things in particular we took away from the day:

Food can build a sense of community.

The first presentation was led by Jacqueline and Pam from Read Food Wythenshawe, which is an ambitious five-year programme to engage and excite the people of Whytehnshawe in growing and cooking fresh, sustainable food.  One thing that really came through from Jacqueline and Pam’s presentation was the way in which the project has created opportunities for sustainable enterprises and fostered community ownership.  Through food the project is not just tackling food poverty, but is also improving the environment, increasing community activity, and also providing training and education.  Despite having only 5 staff, the team’s energy and enthusiasm have enabled them to engage a range of local groups through school projects, growing and cooking clubs, outreach programmes and public cooking demonstrations. This project is working to tackle some big problems, such as the prevalence of food poverty and cardiovascular disease in Manchester. But it may have achieved other outcomes, which are less heralded and less quantifiable, but important nonetheless. It seems to have brought local people together and built a genuine sense of community and pride in the area.

Download Real Food. Whythenshawe’s presentation here.

To solve complex problems we need to Listen. Think. Do.

This is Red Ninja’s approach to collaborative problem solving and product design. Red Ninja are a technology company that are helping communities tackle complex problems. Using a co-production method, they have created products that help tackle isolation and digital exclusion among older people, reduce emergency ambulance journey times, and help young people with mental health issues. One valuable lesson from this presentation was the value of really listening to people and creating space for people to talk. Part of Red Ninja’s development strategy for new products includes making the time and effort to learn about peoples’ needs.  For example, CEO Lee Omar told the audience that whilst working with a local hospital his colleagues had spent several months shadowing on-duty ambulance crews to see first-hand the obstacles they face in getting patients to emergency care as quick as possible. The method is intensive but means that the technology they create truly makes a difference in people’s lives.

Read more about Red Ninja here.

We need a credit scoring system that creates a dialogue between lenders and borrowers.

Credit Kudos shed some light on the seemingly opaque process of obtaining a credit score, and the damaging effect this has had on the relationship between financial services and consumers. The numbers are clear, consumers today have less trust and faith in the system than they did before 2008. It turns out that our credit score is actually based on a number of factors such as payment history, debt burden, length of credit history, type of credit used and credit appetite. This is the calculation that goes on behind the scenes between, for example, you applying for a loan and your bank deciding whether or not to approve it. Only one of these factors is actually related to our overall financial health.  Credit Kudos believe that our credit score should be a reflection of our financial health and our ability to repay – and this requires more dialogue between lenders and borrowers than currently exists.  This is something they hope to change.

To learn more, read the guest blog from Fred Kelly at Credit Kudos.  You can also download their presentation here.

Sometimes we can use unofficial solutions

This lesson is based on a story relayed by Sian during one of the workshops. She told the story of a housing association employee who decided to do something about the recurring problem of new tenants moving into unfurnished properties. When properties were vacated, instead of throwing away the furniture, as protocol suggested, he stored it in his own garden. This meant that when new tenants moved into unfurnished properties without the means to buy their own furniture, he was able to select items from his garden to provide them with what they needed. This story illustrated that when we lack official solutions, with some determination, creativity and resourcefulness, we can still find ways to overcome problems.

Thank you to all those who attended and participated – it was a fantastic event with a lot of stimulating discussion and activity.

See photos from the event on our Facebook page.

 Upcoming events

Our ‘Building Financially Healthy Communities’ will continue with our next event in Mansfield.

  • Mansfield –  28th June, 2016.  Registration is now open and you can RSVP here.