A Difficult Meeting

1st September 2019

At our Stakeholder Seminar in June we were - as we always are and always have been - entirely open, straightforward and honest with the important and influential people that we chose to invite. We discussed our Help and Kindness project at some length, and shared a great many details of it with the people in the room. During a meeting this week (initiated by us) with one of those invited guests, we discovered that some of the key ideas we presented have been subsequently incorporated into a new system that they are launching this autumn. The admission included the comment; “sorry, it will look quite like your site”!

We were devastated. Our work on Help and Kindness has been entirely funded privately by us for the past 16 months and more, and we have spent hundreds of hours engaging extensively with many wonderful people and organisations across Dorset, to create a project that will serve their needs. We presented the fruits of our labour at our June Stakeholder Seminar, and asked for people to step forward and help us to get the project live. At the seminar we also offered to work with anyone else who was already engaged in developing (or needed) similar services, and to contribute our experience, expertise and observations, and work together to maximise the benefit of that project. We were overwhelmed by the support and encouragement and have continued to develop the ideas towards a launch this autumn. To hear that one of that group has pursued an agenda that partly overlaps with ours, without telling us at any point, is deeply upsetting. We have continued to invest our own time and money throughout this period, and may have taken a different path, or even abandoned the Help and Kindness project entirely if we knew it was no longer needed.

However, the meeting also revealed the key and essential difference that lies at the heart of our approach to Help and Kindness, and makes it so radically different from this other work. We care passionately about the organisations we want to serve through Help and Kindness. This is in stark distinction to a comment that was made in the meeting, in which they said that taking care of their project’s support providers “isn’t [their] concern”.

We don’t want Help and Kindness to be a leech that just takes everyone else’s good work and uses it for our ends. We have said, from day one, that we want to help and sustain the brilliant people and organisations that provide Help and Kindness across the county, and support and celebrate their work through our efforts. This service to the providers is central to everything we’ve designed and built into this project. We want to give more than we take, and help to empower the support providers and make their work more resilient and far-reaching as a result.

We have thought long and hard about how we should respond to this meeting, and whether we should abandon Help and Kindness or carry on. We have read back over our notes and the comments we’ve compiled from everyone we’ve met over the past 16 months and more. We have returned to the root of our motivation to start the Help and Kindness project. We have asked ourselves if we can move beyond this disappointment or whether we’re going to be beaten off course by it. It’s been a tough time addressing these challenges and we’re now clear about our response.

We have concluded that we will continue with the Help and Kindness project.

We will launch the first version of the project, as planned, this autumn. We will work on the new developments and services that make it so different from the one we heard about in this week’s meeting. We will proceed as before, with open eyes and hands, and continue in good faith to deliver what we have promised to the people we’ve worked with over the past year. We will continue to fund this ourselves while we find people who would like to support the project. We will launch the project as planned, focussing on helping those that help others, and providing a way for people to find help when they need it, or offer help where they can.

If you would like to get involved with Help and Kindness and share in this journey, we’d love to hear from you.

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