ALC has developed a day of work and co-creation with regional agents of Euskadi around the figure of the community connector, coming from Matia Fundazioa, Argia Foundation, SSI Group, Gaude Association, Osakidetza - Uribe Kosta health department, EDE Foundation, Bizkaia Gara, Adinberri and Double Smile Foundation.
For the past two years, ALC has participated in the co-creation of this role, within the project Mi casa: Una vida en comunidad. This initiative is part of the network of deinstitutionalization experimentation projects promoted by the Ministry of Social Affairs and Agenda 2030 since January 2023. As part of the experimentation process, ALC leads the process of co-creation of new community roles to address the challenges of deinstitutionalization and its prevention.
The objective of the co-creation session in Bilbao was to contrast with specialized agents the main key ideas obtained in the process of listening and experimentation in the framework of the Mi Casa project. Based on the innovative solutions that are already being promoted in the Basque Country in the field of care, the participants reflected on how to bring the key elements to the local context and complement the analysis carried out by ALC and Plena Inclusión. In this session, the diversity of scenarios and references could be shared, generating a space for joint learning on new community roles to address complex challenges.
Narrative analysis of new community roles
Within the framework of the project Mi casa: una vida en comunidad, ALC has accompanied community connectors from 6 different territories in Spain, where multiple tools have been tested through the mapping and community listening exercise.
This process has allowed the identification of initial perceptions about the figure that have been contrasted and validated in collaborative spaces of collective interpretation.
Throughout this process, numerous possibilities have opened up for the figure, reflecting the importance of the figure as an agent of change in social inclusion. These initial stages have resulted in four key ideas that have emerged through joint collaboration and territorial assessment:
- It is necessary to value the process itself, not just the actions. And we must bear in mind that cultural changes take place over the long term.
- The community connector fulfills functions and roles that go beyond being a leisure guide.
- Community development transcends the figure of the connector.
- There is resistance to change in the sector.
Once these four patterns were identified, the objective of the session was to analyze and discuss in the group the characteristics of these narratives. And, from there, to work on a process of co-creation of this figure grounded in the local context.
Joint analysis of profiles
These are some of the issues raised by the specialized agents during the session:
The importance of interconnections
The impact that the role of the community connector can generate is sometimes questioned. And it is essential that this profile be integrated into the community. Each neighborhood and place is different and has a specific reality. The community must also be open to receive and integrate these new roles: "The change of look we are addressing is to the whole community, if the community is not willing to welcome people it is complicated".
Some agents consider it essential for the person to have a previous link with the community in which the intervention takes place. In any case, local institutions should facilitate and make available the tools and instruments to support the integration process of the connector.
The agents who are already playing this role in the Basque Country pointed out the importance of designing an effective follow-up system for the interventions that are being promoted: "The community does not sustain itself over time. Even if you empower them, you also have to follow up. It will depend on the intensity at each moment, but it has to be given".
The role of institutions
The institutions must be the main guarantors of the figure of the community connector: "This figure, apart from believing in it, must be worked on with the administration; because the processes must be approached in a different way".
The way in which projects are managed, financed and evaluated substantially limits the public sector's capacity for experimentation. This requires strategies that incorporate new tools to measure, understand and adapt to complex and rapidly changing environments. "Measuring impact is complex but user perception is essential. And also important is the assessment made by the institutions in terms of the networks that are being created."
Essential role functions: beyond a mere resource connector
The connector is beginning to be perceived as a figure that goes beyond a mere "resource connector". The new community figures play a fundamental role in the strengthening and development of the community, which goes beyond the specific issues of deinstitutionalization, mental health or aging.
Professionals in this field must be aware of the value they generate. Dissatisfaction with not being able to generate tangible change in a context marked by uncertainty must be managed: "We expect short-term answers, but this change is very long-term. For community connectors this is complicated and frustrating.".
There is a debate on whether this figure has to be built on a professional profile that already exists (as is the case of community nurses, monitors or local dynamizers), or whether it is an opportunity to co-create it jointly from scratch: "We find it interesting to try to take advantage of the unsustainable situation we are living in the health field".
Flexibility is one of the essential characteristics of the role: "The community connector needs to be on the street and have full dedication".
The information obtained in the session allowed ALC to validate the information already collected in the listening and experimentation phase:
- Many of the challenges (advanced disease and unwanted loneliness, end-of-life care, deinstitutionalization of certain services) are not easily met by the health services, and therefore the support of other sectors, social spheres and the community as a whole is of great importance.
- The new community roles emerge as a key element to ensure a greater connection between the initiatives promoted by institutions, companies and organizations in the field of care.
- The added value of these roles is to promote new capabilities to ensure that there is an ongoing connection between the perceptions of a given community and the strategies and interventions that are being developed.
-A very important difficulty has been identified when it comes to collecting qualitative information that shows us social behaviors and perceptions. In general, it is difficult to understand in depth the social dynamics and how to interact with them. For this reason, it has been agreed that in the next steps we will go deeper in observing the different existing tools to listen to the diversity of voices in a territory and to be able to work in the construction of infrastructures for change and social innovation that are connected with community perceptions.