Sharing our learning

Helen Walker

At TimeBank one of our fundamental beliefs is sharing our learning – both good and bad so that wheels aren’t reinvented or things tried again that we know haven’t worked before.

We do this by ensuring all our projects are externally evaluated following an open tender process and that when those reports are written we share them (warts and all!) as widely as possible.

These last two weeks have seen the launch of a report we are really proud of, for our Shoulder to Shoulder Erskine project which supports veterans with mental health issues in Scotland.

As the project was based in Scotland we decided we really needed to share our learning there first which we did last week in Edinburgh, bringing together key decision makers, military charities and other stakeholders to hear what we and our evaluator, Lorraine Simpson for the Lines Between research consultancy had to say.

I love events like this because of the interaction with others and really enjoying the questions that come from the audience at the end. Of course it’s very satisfying to talk about the project when the evaluation reports that on the whole it was hugely successful. But what we really wanted to do by talking about it was to find a way to fund this fantastic project to continue.

A week later in the fabulous Thames Pavilion room in the House of Commons we held round two of our evaluation launch, this  time hosted by long term TimeBank supporter, Sir Kevin Barron MP (pictured above) alongside our funder the Forces in Mind Trust. Here we were speaking to the military charities again but also MPs and other funders and stakeholders that TimeBank works with. The report on our project which supports ex-service men, women and their families with mental health problems transition to civilian life with the help and support of a volunteer mentor came up with 12 key recommendations which can be found here.

Of particular importance for me to highlight was the fact that volunteers being involved in the project made such a massive difference to beneficiaries as pretty much the only person in their life who didn’t have to be there but wantedto be there – and for people who were dealing with profound physical, domestic and psychological problems it was isolation and loneliness that were the biggest source of distress for many.

The other issue I felt was important to underline was the need for better partnership between military charities and their colleagues in civilian charities. At TimeBank partnership is in our DNA – we always work closely with other organisations with all our projects and we found it particularly challenging at the outset of this project to break down barriers with military charities who were suspicious of a civilian charity working in their space. We were lucky to partner with the Scottish veterans’ charity Erskine on this project which gave us credibility and support but nevertheless challenges remained and being able to speak directly to the military charities about this was really important in moving forward together to the benefit of our beneficiaries.

Having shared our learning, Ray Lock, Chief Executive of the Forces in Mind Trust – an organisation set up by the Big Lottery to fund research into veterans with mental health issues – spoke out on the importance of funding proven successes like Shoulder to Shoulder to roll them out UK wide. He also talked about  the vital need to work together in collaboration and to share our learning as widely as we could.

It was a fabulous event made better still be by having most of the TimeBank team and our trustees there who are always our greatest ambassadors and I am hopeful that we will be able to get funding to continue this great project in Scotland and hopefully beyond.


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