The Happy Connections workshop brought together an exciting, diverse group, from education, law, community banks, social work, health care and transport, all of whom want to help connect people to their communities. It was attended by professionals who may encounter those vulnerable to loneliness and isolation as they go through significant life changes. Members of the community who are actively involved with different groups in the local area and have existing social networks that people could join also came along. There was a great energy amongst the group and a willingness to share, learn and do things differently.
We know that at different points in our lives, particularly around big life changes, we can be more vulnerable to becoming lonely or isolated. Whether it’s recovering from addiction, the death of a loved one, moving to a new town, leaving work or any change that overhauls our status quo, we can find ourselves in an unfamiliar environment where the support network we once knew has shifted drastically. During the workshop, we explored together the real life experiences of these changes using empathy maps. Considering what people may be thinking, seeing, doing, hearing and saying throughout a significant life change, we were able to paint a fuller picture of what the experience of loneliness can be like. We found that despite each situation being unique, the emotional experiences were remarkably similar across all these transitions.
Through our conversations, together we were able to identify problems and opportunities. We talked about what we can all do now to help connect people to their community as well as how we could do things differently in the future. While we know there is plenty going on in Ayr North, many events and activities are advertised through the same channels every time and via established networks. This means these activities often fail to reach everyone within the community and rarely bring along new faces.
Moving forward, we will explore how we can better share what’s going on locally and how we might make these events as inclusive as possible. We know even the smallest personal gestures can hold a special value when someone may be feeling low, and these can be used to encourage people to take part and connect.
The group have now become part of a shared network through a shared address book. The workshop has given us all an opportunity to extend our own networks and make new connections.