The power of connections

31 May 2018

Jennie Coyle shares some reflections on two events and the connections that can shape lives.

In my role as GCPH Communications Manager, I regularly encourage colleagues to use blogging as a way to communicate and connect with others. However, it is not until now that I have listened to my own advice and written a blog myself. What triggered this first blog? A few weeks ago I attended two events in the one day and wanted to share a couple of reflections that I was surprised by. The first was the strong connections between the two very different events. The second was how energised, motivated and inspired I felt.

The first event in the morning was our own Glasgow’s Healthier Future Forum which explored Glasgow’s resilience journey so far and where next for the city. We heard: how a focus on people and communities is crucial in building resilience; whether this can help tackle inequalities and; through a series of workshops, where resilient responses are being put into practice. The main message that stood out for me was that in building resilience at whatever level (individual, community or city) there is a need to enable and support people, communities and organisations to connect. You can have as many impressive, ambitious and well-intended strategies as you want, but unless people are able to connect their practice and daily realities to them and each other, they will be ineffective.

The second event in the afternoon was the MCR Pathways young person’s national conference ‘Respectful Disruption: Inspired Decisions’. I had several reasons for attending. Last year we ran some talent taster sessions with young people and I was interested to hear more about the work of MCR Pathways. I was also interested because the event had been designed, planned and run by young people themselves. We will be holding an event later this year with a focus on young people, related to Year of Young People, so I thought this could give me some ideas or helpful networking opportunities.

MCR Pathways event photo

Photograph courtesy of MCR Pathways

The afternoon commenced with a welcome from four very impressive young people: Sairah; Fabio; Chloe; and Dylan. Confidently addressing the audience of 400, these young people talked with passion, humility and humour – setting the tone for the rest of the afternoon.

A powerful drama performance from a group of equally impressive young people followed which highlighted some of the barriers and challenges young people face on a daily basis. Having a mentor has helped many overcome these challenges.

Also particularly powerful for me was a young girl Shannon’s very personal account of how the support and encouragement of her mentor helped her develop the confidence to achieve things she had never imagined – including becoming Head Girl for her school, captain of the basketball team, basketball coach for younger students and an aspiration to become a teacher. In her own words “Marie helped me find my wings and now I’m flying”.

I was also struck by John, a 15-year old boy who is the carer for his two younger brothers. Last year GCPH did some work that explored the prevalence, health and future expectations of young carers in Glasgow. As well as highlighting that there may be more young carers in Glasgow than previously thought – almost 1-in-8 secondary pupils surveyed said they provided care and a third of those providing care said no one knew about it – the study also found that alongside some of the poorer health outcomes and other challenges they face, young carers were less likely to see themselves entering further or higher education. Through the support of his mentor, John shared how he had realised the importance and relevance of school for him and the belief that he could aspire to go on to further education.

MCR Pathways event second photo

Photograph courtesy of MCR Pathways

The second half of the afternoon focussed on the ingredients of MCR Pathways’ successes. Three main things were highlighted: first and foremost the young people and their willingness and openness to trust; secondly, the adults involved – the mentors, school staff, partner organisations and the MCR team; and thirdly, never losing sight of who they were and sticking to their core values while learning and evolving.

We also heard about the dual benefits of mentoring – the more obvious ones for the mentees but also the reflective and leadership skills that mentors tend to develop – which of course are beneficial for them as individuals but also for the organisations that allow and support staff to participate.

The penultimate presentation shared some very positive findings in relation to the impact the MCR Pathways mentoring programme is having on achievement, attainment/staying on rates and positive destinations. The GCPH recently responded to an inquiry into poverty and attainment which highlighted the detrimental impact that poverty has on attainment and from an early age. Its seems that mentoring is one way to help reduce the attainment gap.

There was a strong message from our Healthier Future Forum event in the morning of the transformational power of connections for resilience. At the afternoon event I saw this happening in practice. I saw how resilient the young people want to be, can be and indeed are, given the right support. And I saw just how transformational the support and connections they gained through mentoring could be in helping them realise their potential and enabling them to flourish.

One of the young people had stated that they wanted to help us to inspire them. However, it seems to me that it’s a two-way process and mentoring brings out the potential in both the young people being mentored and the adult mentors. I certainly gained a lot from listening to the young people and have never been so moved, impressed or inspired by a conference. So much so it has inspired another first for me and I’ve signed-up to become a mentor. 

Access further information on MCR Pathways and their mentoring programme.

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About the author

Jennie Coyle Communications Manager

Contact
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Jennie is the GCPH Communications Manager with responsibility for planning, developing, monitoring and leading the implementation of the communication activities of the centre. This includes publications, e-communications, events and media relations. She also leads the communications component of the GoWell programme. She is the main point of contact for all communication enquiries. 

Read all articles by Jennie Coyle