Who are Sheffield Flourish with Robyn Fletcher.
To gain further insight into what Sheffield Flourish gets up to, we recently had the opportunity to catch up with Robyn, deputy managing director at Sheffield Flourish.
- Robyn Fletcher
- 18 mins
Tom: Hello and welcome to Episode 17 of and Make Things Better podcast. Today I have Robyn Fletcher on the show to talk to us a little bit about Sheffield Flourish. So thank you for coming on today.
Do you want to start off by telling us a little bit about how you got into working for Sheffield Flourish and what they do?
Robyn: Yeah. So thanks for having me. How did I get into working for Sheffield Flourish?
Could be a long story.
Tom: Go on, we've got time.
Robyn: I guess for me, I've always been interested in, like the wider issues that society faces.
So I grew up in Sheffield, so Sheffield born and bred, and grew up kind of in an area where I was overlooking Sharrow and also Nether Edge.
So on one side, it's very interesting you have like lower economic backgrounds. And then on the other side, they had quite wealthy, kind of big houses and assumingly bigger opportunities and stuff.
And amongst all that, family wise, we have gone through quite a few difficult times what you'd call actual traumas and stuff. So I always knew I wanted to do something that was helping people, but I didn't know how that looked. So I'd gone through like my teenage years. And then studies health and social care, social policy and sociology and became really interested in stuff that I've already mentioned like the wider society issues that we face and how they impact us.
But also, I guess on the other side is like how individually we, depending on something simple like where we're born, can affect our opportunities and therefore stuff like our mental health. So after studying those things I got involved with charities in Zambia and fell in love with charities and you know charities generally have to be very flexible and kind of adapt to what's going on around them, fast-Paced, creative and they are the kind of things that I enjoy and thrive being around.
And then my career kind of took me around working in addictions and then for Sheffield Flourish which I'll say a little bit more about what Sheffield Flourish do.
Tom: Yeah, go ahead.
Robyn: So we work collaboratively on innovative digital and community-based projects. So a lot of it is, I guess, our values are around like tapping into people's strengths and skills and understanding that a lot of people have mental health difficulties and challenges.
So we do that with the blended model of community-based things and digital based things. So community wise, we run the different groups. So they are anything from like art group, creative writing, loads of different music groups like music production, a jamming group, music lessons, improvization, gardening, drama, football and a women's team as well, which I go to, which I think I am getting all right at now.
Tom: So do you play?
Robyn: Yeah, I play. And they're all mental health friendly spaces.
So like, anyone can go with any skills and you don't need a diagnosis as well to go to them.
So some of it is about prevention and just building up people's skills and like kind of building that community network and preventing like isolation as well, which is quite important, obviously, and then digitally, as you know, because we work on Hive IT with these.
So w've got 4 different websites. So we've got Sheffield Flouirsh which is the blend of real life and digital, because there's nearly 400 different stories on there from people with lived experience, so it's people sharing their experiences and generally people get a lot out of that because you can easily read them to relate to it or to understand things.
And it's like breaking down the stigma as well. And you can see all the groups that are available on that website. And then we've got the Sheffield Mental Health Guide, which is the signposting website.
So it's like a one stop kind of shop to see where any mental health friendly activities and support is. And then we've got Sheffield suicide prevention website.
So the the Sheffield suicide prevention one is kind of what it says. It's kind of for anyone who's experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings or looking for someone else or someone who's bereaved through suicide. And then there's the MyToolkit, which is like your online digital wellbeing toolkit, which launched just before the pandemic.
Tom: And that's like a freeing space where people can just like journal and write about how things are going, maybe put their goals and so on right.
Robyn: Yeah asbolutely. And it links to the mental health guide as well which is quite nice because it can pull through the support from that as well if you went to Yoga or something like that.
And they all co-produced as well with people who have lived experience of mental health which I think is a really nice thing.
Tom: Yeah because then it makes it more inclusive and it's like, you know, that's going to help people because it is going to be more relatable if it's like starting off with the user first. That's the best way to help people. Right?
Robyn: Exactly. I think that's why we really love working with you guys as well, because like we can tell from all the work that you do that, you know, everything that you do is based around like what the user needs from that website. And you guys do that really well with like all the workshops that you do and user research and design and personas and stuff like that. And it's like, I feel like Sheffield Flourish and Hive share like a lot of the same values and that, of how we can use digital to improve things and make things better, which is something like I think I've always been interested in as well throughout like studying social policy and sociology.
Like amongst all that that digital and communications for me is really interesting and how we can use it in a really positive way to reach people or do good somehow.
Tom: I think today as well often digital can be used in the wrong way as well, and that definetely contributes to a lot of people's mental health issues, like just talking from my experiences and the amount of friends I have nowadays who are suffering in one way or another.
I do think a large contributor to that is social media and digital. So to have like an alternative to that with Sheffield Flourish, the mental health guide, MyToolkit and suicide support is really nice.
And I think we're very grateful to be a part of that also, I think we're very grateful for not just our collaboration with Sheffield Flourish, but also like all of the users that actually get involved and help out and put their ideas forward because it is like a community built website and a lot of the stuff we're doing is built by the actual users.
So I think that is really special.
Robyn: Yeah and it makes it feel more meaningful, doesn't it? And inclusive?
Tom: Yeah, absolutely.
Robyn: And I guess we're constantly, always trying to get more feedback and develop them as well.
Tom: So what sort of work do you get up to then at Sheffield Flourish?
Robyn: All sorts. So I'm deputy managing director there, but I mostly work on the digital and communication things. So every day is completely different. And I think especially because we have so many different great partnerships around Sheffield, including with yourselves.
So it completely depends on what projects I'm working on but a lot of it is about partnerships and working on the websites, developing them. And also just day to day running of things. So like, I have quite a lot of kind of leadership on the cast art group.
Although it is led by volunteers, it needs staff overseeing certain groups and stuff. So, yeah, I love how it's different every day.
Tom: Do you think the way in which you were brought up in Sheffield, where there is quite a lot of inequality, you know you mentioned seeing some areas in Sharrow and then you've got the big houses in Nether Edge, do you think that has contributed to you doing what you do now? Like I think you mentioned it already but in your job, do you see how inequality could impact mental health as well?
Robyn: Yeah it's interesting that I started by talking about where I grew up because I don't think it ever really dawned on me that that might have had some sort of impact.
And I think, you know, my own lived experiences definitely made me go into the job that I'm doing, and I think has made me more understanding of the fact that everyone's individual and has gone through different things.
But I think there's something massive about and I'm really interested in about like inequalities and how we can help overcome them in some ways, like just being able to... So if you think about digital communications, something that I think we can do positively with them is even use them for things like messaging or education somehow.
I know not everyone can reach digital. But communications can be used in different ways to help with things like clear mental health messaging or where to go. And so not everyone has the same access to things like educational health and I think something that I love about Sheffield Flourish and working with Hive is that we think about those things when we think about the audience of the website and we continue to develop them. So something I really enjoyed working on recently was developing part of the MyToolkit.
So reaching out to disability Sheffield to discuss how we could make that website more inclusive for people with learning disabilities who, you know, disproportionately haven't had as much opportunities as the rest of us and stuff. So I think it's kind of like how we build on those things and how can we do things to help inequalities.
Tom: Yeah. And I think another thing that kind of ties into this is with sort of mental health and just thinking about MyToolkit, for example, you know, having the kind of luxury to even like buy a therapist or buy a coach, you need money for those things. So with Sheffield Flourish, it's free support.
I feel like that kind of helps to bridge that gap because your average person is not really going to have the time or money to spend on things to support their mental health necessarily.
Robyn: Yeah, and I think it's like that stuff like what's happening in the community, that's a massive thing.
I know when we're talking about mental health not everyone is well enough to go to things in the community, but there's not many mental health friendly places in Sheffield to go to. You know, our cast group for example, which is the art group is quite over capacity because there aren't many other places to go to which are free.
Tom: So there's a high demand?
Robyn: Yeah, there's a high demand, definitely. And I think there is something there about, you know, if we think about mental health support, a lot of it, we probably think about more clinical support and unless you are on a waiting list, you have to pay for it. Which as you said is quite a luxury.
Definetely not everyone can access that. But what we forget when we think about mental health sometimes is like actually like just doing things like just being able to be in a safe place to do creative things, that's not clinical and it isn't like, you know, going into it like...
Tom: Like it's not for your mental health, it's just something that you do and you're getting involved in your community. That makes sense to me. So what's your vision for Sheffield Flourish? I don't know if this is something that you've even thought about much, but how do you see Sheffield Flourish impacting people more in the future?
Robyn: I think. There's a few ways I could probably go with this question, I think the impact is something that I see already and want to see more of.
So I think if we think about the pandemic, one thing I think I've struggled with and I think obviously a lot of people probably, especially maybe in similar kind of charities to Sheffield Flourish and stuff is that it's felt quite stagnant.
I really enjoy thinking about strategy and where we can go forward and the vision stuff that you are talking about, but like the strategy was more about how do we deal with the pandemic and not how do we grow as a charity.
It was like, how do we survive and how do we keep open? And how do we keep thinking about the community and the groups that we work with? And and we've managed to keep the groups open when we've been able to do so safely, and when we've been allowed.
And the impact that I see is something that unfortunately we can't put down on paper or to commissioners and to people out there. So obviously, we do our reports and say we've seen people increase their well-being or they've got new skills from coming to Sheffield Flourish or we've got people signposted from Sheffield Mental Health Guide into the correct support and stuff like that.
So we see all that. But then it's like, it's that community feel that I see that impact of, like how we've got our culture right.
So our activity where most of the activities run is in the office, so we see people walking in and out. So I'll go in the office tomorrow on a Friday and there's a music group and it's loud, it's buzzing and people are like just beaming that they're involved in something or learning new skills or they're coming up to me and telling me that they've done guitar today or singing.
And that's something that you can't put down on paper to describe. And that's what I want to see more of moving forward. But I guess the other thing is, and it's quite a nice story, actually.
We did a reach out because we want to up our game on social media because why wouldn't we want to try and up our game.
Tom: You're already doing quite well. I think you've got like five or six times as many followers as us which you love to see.
Robyn: We're doing good, but again and I don't know if you'd agree with this but stuff like social media, working from home didn't really feel that collaboraitve.
And you're not really getting across what you are doing that well.
Tom: Yeah, it sounds like you're so active and busy like there'd be so much to share. Like you could have videos of people and interviews, there's a lot of scope there.
Robyn: Yeah. So we did that reach out and I was trying to find some like social media training, and it was really hard to find some, like there doesn't seem to be much out there. You know like readily available to be like bespoke.
And then this organization called Little Mesters, who I think started it in the pandemic, who are like a social media agency got in touch with us and they want to give their free time to us, so instead of like donating money, to come and do some work with us around like how we can do more things on social media and stuff and TikTok did get mentioned.
Tom: Your going to get on TikTok then?
Robyn: I don't know, I think so.
Tom: Whenever TikTok gets mentioned at Hive, I'm like I'm out of here.
Robyn It looks like hard work but it would be great to show all of the groups and stuff.
SoI guess that's like a bit of a vision moving forward.
Tom: Yeah that sounds great and I love that story of you kind of there actually getting to witness firsthand all of the great stuff that Sheffield Flourish are doing.
Yeah, so I think they were all my questions so we will wrap it up there. Thank you so much for coming on the podcast Robyn, I appreciate your time.
Where can people find Sheffield Flourish on social media? We will try and get that follower account even more.
Website - Sheffield Flourish
Sheffield Flourish Twitter - @ShefFlourish
Sheffield Mental Health Guide Twitter - @SheffMHG
Tom: Wonderful. Thank you so much for coming on, thank you for watching or listening or reading. And I do hope you have an amazing rest of your day.
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