How can we put relationships and associations back at the centre of how we care for each other?

Wednesday 6th July, 0915 – 1645, at ‘The Conference Centre’, Gloucester Rugby, Kingsholm Stadium, Gloucester, GL1 3AX.

£75 + vat (includes lunch and refreshments)

1. KEYNOTE: Jim Diers, Participatory Democracy expert from Seattle

2. Bob Rhodes, author of “Much More to Life than Services” and leader in strengths-based inclusive practice
3. Richard Davies, Organisational Psychologist and Consultant at Vanguard, interested in the design of public services
4. Martin Simon, author of “Your Money or Your Life – Time for Both”, Martin brought Time Banking to the UK
5. Ralph Broad, expert on Local Area Coordination in the UK and social care reform
6. Denis Rowley animates Equal Futures, a Scottish parent-led organisation

Despite the wealth of inputs, this is one of those events where the word ‘conference’ is not the best fit, it will be more about conversation and a little less about presentation, more about participation and less about consuming information. This is a genuine invitation to a conversation that really matters, to discuss questions that do not have predefined answers, and to work with around 100 leaders, thinkers and practitioners from across the UK to identify possibilities for actionable change towards a more caring society.


Over many decades our society has become ever more dependent upon public services. Politicians have become increasingly single-minded in prescribing more and better programmes and services as the antidote to all our needs and professionals have assumed roles and responsibilities from families and communities – almost unnoticed.

However, we are coming to understand that no amount of money and services will create and support a cohesive, interdependent and humane society and that the inevitable consequences of such a ‘one-club’ strategy are rationing and exclusion, and dependence upon rules and systems rather than creativity and professional judgement. Contemporary public expenditure cuts have merely exacerbated a fast deteriorating situation that is well-evidenced in the hand-wringing associated with the debate surrounding “care” for older people.

So, not before time, we are waking up to the need to get to grips with developing a more valuing and sustainable relationship between our institutions and their services and citizens and their associations. Proven thinking and practice in these relationships are at the heart of this event.


Jim Diers is our keynote contributor

Participatory democracy has been Jim’s preoccupation and his career for the past 34 years. In his work with grassroots community organisations and with government and other large agencies, Jim has found ways to get more people engaged with their community and more involved in decisions that affect their lives.

In 1988, Mayor Charles Royer appointed Jim to direct the City of Seattle’s new Office of Neighbourhoods. Jim was reappointed by the subsequent mayors, Norm Rice in 1990 and Paul Schell in 1998. By the end of Jim’s 14-year tenure, the four-person Office had grown into a Department of Neighborhoods with 100 staff. The Department manages 13 Little City Halls that provide basic services to citizens and serve as meeting places for neighbourhood organisations. It supports about 400 community self-help projects each year through a $4.5 million Neighborhood Matching Fund that was recognized by the Ford Foundation and Kennedy School of Government as one of the most innovative local government programmes in the United States.

Currently, Jim teaches courses on community organising and community development at the University of Washington. Jim also speaks, conducts workshops and provides technical assistance to communities and agencies around the world as a faculty member of the Asset-Based Community Development Institute and as the author of Neighbor Power: Building Community the Seattle Way which is available in English and Chinese editions.

In his book, “Much More to Life than Services”, Bob Rhodes addresses strengths-based strategies for reforming our social care culture and, as Al Etmanski puts it, on evolving an approach that “relegates the social services system to the background… (where it) and its institutions play a supplementary (he might say an enabling) role.” His work majors on the central importance of nurturing family, friendship and associational links and demonstrative practice.

Richard Davis is an Organisational Psychologist and Consultant at Vanguard. He is interested in the design of public services. Vanguard helps organisations change from command and control to a systems approach to the design and management of work

Martin Simon, author of “Your Money or Your Life – Time for Both”, brought Time Banking to the UK and spent the rest of his career ensuring that there is a Time Bank near you and demonstrating the inexhaustible resourcefulness and talents of citizens.

Ralph Broad worked with Eddie Bartnik in Western Australia prior to bringing his extensive experience to bear in supporting the implementation of Local Area Coordination in the UK, contributing especially to our practical understanding of co-production and radical social care systems reform. He will be joined during the day by leaders and practitioners engaged in LAC implementation in England.
Denis Rowley animates Equal Futures, a Scottish parent-led and PLAN-inspired organisation that succeeds in its mission to help families secure the future for their relative with a disability and to provide peace of mind – ending isolation and loneliness, creating financial security, enabling everyone to make a contribution, ensuring choice, and creating genuine homes. Equal Futures demonstrates the power of relationships, personal networks, and reinforces that it is, “who you know”.