Thriving Communities in Derbyshire

Thriving Communities is a project in partnership with Derbyshire County Council looking at new ways to support families by strengthening local service and community networks.

We have been working in partnership with Derbyshire since 2013, beginning with a research programme, Thriving Families, which used ethnographic research and co-design to gain a deep understanding of what is important to families in four localities in Derbyshire - their hopes, dreams, goals and worries.

Since 2015 the Thriving Communities programme has taken this further, to design and prototype the practices, services and partnerships that help families and communities to thrive.

Complex problems require complex solutions

Almost 17% of children and young people under 20 in Derbyshire live in poverty. Families with multiple needs face many underlying difficulties including poor literacy, domestic violence, a lack of secure accommodation, isolation, mental and physical ill-health and drug or alcohol abuse. The cost of families with complex needs is around £75,000 per family per year, most of which is spent in reaction to crisis. For many families this is simply too little, too late.

Building a talented and diverse team

Thriving Communities is an ambitious, multi-agency programme to significantly improve outcomes for families and communities with complex needs. We brought together teams from across public services, including housing, family support, police and fire teams, health, youth offending and education to create local Thriving Communities teams in five districts in the county. These teams work with families to really understand their lives and to develop new ideas for support in ways that made sense for them.

Valuing the strengths and assets of families

At the heart of Thriving Communities is a commitment to designing and developing services with ‘real’ people, and respecting the wealth of knowledge and experience of families, communities and front-line staff about what works. Families often rely on intensive support from friends and extended family., and Thriving Communities seeks to strengthen and support these networks where they exist, and help create them where they don’t. This means moving away from services that ‘do to’ families, towards those that ‘do with’.

New relationships, new ways of working

Three new models of support were developed with frontline professionals and with 45 families, leading to:

  • integrated working between council and partnership agencies, including joint commissioning and whole-family support;
  • local services helping the community to design and implement new ideas; and 
  • structured, family-led support using a design-led coaching model.

In 2016 these ideas were tested through a 12-week prototype with six families in Cotmanhay, an area of high need and high service cost, to generate learning about the system and service changes required to suport new practice on the ground.