Hello! I’m Angharad, one of the new collective advocacy workers for Edinburgh, alongside Irene. Over the years this place has become my home, so I’m enthusiastic about giving Edinburgh the best collective advocacy I can! Since starting my role at CAPS in August, Irene and I have been doing lots of exciting work on this project. We’ve been focusing on getting to know local communities in Edinburgh and the lived experiences of people with mental health issues that live here. I’m looking forward to finding what unites people in their diverse and unique experiences, and doing what we can to amplify under-represented voices in Edinburgh.
So, what’s specific about Edinburgh Collective Advocacy?
What makes it different from some of the other groups we run at CAPS?
Well, Edinburgh has a diverse population, facing a variety of specific issues in areas that vary from densely populated to sparse and rural. Collective Advocacy can be a great way of bringing people together. To recognise common threads that run through these challenges and stand together to change them. We can use differences as a powerful insight.
Edinburgh has a concentration of numerous mental health organisations and projects, each with their own functions and focuses. People’s experiences of accessing or using these services could vary, for many different reasons.
The area we’re covering within this project is very broad, stretching from Portobello to South Queensferry, Balerno to Liberton, and everything in between. There are already conversations happening about mental health in these communities. But collective advocacy has the potential to link these conversations together, making people’s voices louder. Hopefully we can improve that network with this project.
Edinburgh has a rich history (and hopefully future) of mad activism! CAPS grew from its roots in Edinburgh, and in my short time here I have already had the enriching opportunity to visit the Lothian Health Services Archive with the Oor Mad History group. I connected with the century-old stories of Edinburgh locals who fought for their right to a voice. I feel incredibly privileged to play a part in creating a platform for people today to make change. And to continue the decades of progress that has been made by people with lived experience of mental health issues in Edinburgh.
Localities – where are we all?
The four localities of Edinburgh – North East, South East, South West and North West. Hopefully by running a sub-group in each, we can still have plenty of people involved, while making the representation of different communities in such a big area more achievable. There’s a couple of handy images below, that show which parts of Edinburgh fall into which locality. Thrive Edinburgh, the city’s mental health and wellbeing strategy, and Edinburgh Council, are arranged into these four localities, so they are relevant to the mental health infrastructure and service provision in each area.
In gathering information from each locality and visiting local communities, we got some insight into the barriers many people experience throughout Edinburgh. And the impact this can have on their mental health, and how they might access collective advocacy. Each locality faces a variety of socio-economic circumstances, which are important to familiarise ourselves with when thinking about Edinburgh as a whole. This is important to consider when ensuring the group is as welcoming and accessible as possible. So that someone’s life circumstances do not prevent them from taking part in collective advocacy.
With all this in mind, lets ask:
What could Edinburgh Collective Advocacy do?
How about …
- Be a consistent, welcoming presence within communities throughout the four localities of Edinburgh.
- Establish solid foundations within local communities, doing whatever we can to help people feel comfortable and confident enough to participate. Ensuring we take the time to get to know people and places, not ‘brushing through’ or ‘helicoptering in’.
- Have the potential to be a well-engaged and effective network for communities that often don’t come together. Focusing on the innately human, universal factor of lived experience of mental health issues to unite people in making change they can see and feel.
- Creating connectedness that will be instrumental in people feeling empowered enough to deliver change, allowing them to ‘size up’ to issues that could otherwise be too intimidating.
- Be a collective advocacy group for ALL of Edinburgh – including underrepresented, marginalised communities that are disproportionately affected by mental health issues.
But how can we do this?
- Beginning with drop-in welcome sessions and introductions within pre-existing groups, as a low-pressure way for people to meet me as their collective advocacy worker and connect with the collective advocacy project to create the group.
- Once we have a good base of potential members, we can propose holding a regular meeting in each of the four localities to suit the needs of group members.
- Edinburgh-wide meetings quarterly, potentially in the form of the pre-existing Community Voices group.
- Between the Edinburgh-wide meetings, I will act as a contact point between sub-groups, and they will be kept in the loop with each other’s activities. This will be part of ensuring a good scope of opportunity to connect between localities.
- Clearly communicating what independent advocacy is, making sure people know that this is THEIR collective advocacy group, and it is answerable to them as members.
To make a start on this project, I’ve been visiting local communities around Edinburgh over the past few weeks. There have been lots of conversations about what collective advocacy is and how it works. I’ve shared the projects other groups at CAPS have created and the impact they’ve had. I’ve found it so meaningful to meet new people who have talked to me about their lives and experiences, and what changes they want to create here in Edinburgh. I am sincerely looking forward to working with people to make that change happen.
Below are the upcoming Welcome Drop-In Sessions for Edinburgh Collective Advocacy. We will also be speaking to pre-existing community groups at their meetings and events. These are an opportunity for people to get to know Irene and I as advocacy workers for the group, and have an introduction to this project and collective advocacy in general. We will be adding more dates over the coming months on the Edinburgh Collective Advocacy webpage. Please feel free to share the dates, come along, or email me at email@example.com with any questions!
Sandy’s Communtiy Centre (Craigmillar) – Monday 11th, 10am to 12pm
Corstophine Community Centre – Monday 11th, 4 to 6 pm
Gilmerton Community Centre – Thursday 14th, 4 to 6 pm
Norton Park Conference Centre (Leith) – Tuesday 9th, 2 to 4 pm
Hub 531 (Juniper Green) – Tuesday 16th, 4 to 6 pm
Oxgangs Neighbourhood Centre – Monday 22nd, 4 to 6 pm