Have A Go Heroes: rising to the challenge


“There is an estimated 50,000 informal carers in the United Kingdom as of last year (a study in the British Medical Journal). These informal carers are usually family members or close friends of the person being cared for. According to Cass Business School, a community based approach to caring for people can save up to £100 million per year… Have a go heroes is all about creating community support.”

Tymon Kalesbasiak, Have a Go Heroes founder

I’ve been doing some quick thinking since my recent visit to an older people’s reference group in North Birmingham. Given some of the things I heard at that session around both formal and informal care and support networks more widely, here are some of the challenges which I think Have a Go Heroes needs to overcome to bring something nifty, new and truly useful to this space:

Some of the challenges

We’ve been looking at similar work both within social care and tackling exclusion, particularly around recognising important challenges that need to be overcome.

How to effectively provide an online | offline solution: we all know of the digital divide and some pretty remarkable work going on to bridge the gap. But it’s also clear that true inclusion is probably still some way off. Would it be possible to develop an approach that can act as an exemplar as to how to close this divide, staying as low tech as is useful, supporting offline actions? One of the key problems we have come across when examining issues within support groups is, perhaps unsurprisingly, loneliness. It can be easy to become isolated due to various life changes, such as a death of a partner, or retirement. Pet shares, local meet ups and co housing, which the NESTA’s Age Unlimited programme have championed try to tackle support in a practical, community based way. Perhaps Have A Go Heroes could draw some inspiration from such ideas to become as effective as possible, using online to bring people together offline.

Making the most of existing information: one FutureGov led project, Safeguarding 2.0, is looking to address the complex communication needs of government and communities in safeguarding children. The first phase of the project examined how the data recorded across the social care sector could be brought more effectively to free up social care workers’ time and support them to better protect the lives of children in their care. Working with Westminster Council, the project demonstrated some remarkable findings and is now planning to develop a tool that can help create a “social safety net” to support all involved. Perhaps in the same way, Have A Go Heroes could look to create a tool to better bring together personal information to highlight what support is available in communities, who could help out, when and help make better connections on and offline between people involved in individuals’ “trusted network”.

The all important opportunities…

Despite the tricky nature of what we’re trying to achieve we’re starting to see paths that might just work – and we’re now looking forward to exploring further and starting to take actions to bring Tymon’s idea into reality.

Apps for good: although it looks as though we’ll always have some form of digital exclusion for time yet while, it doesn’t mean we can’t try and still use technology as a way to help people especially when there are projects such as Send with Peggy, that take these divides into consideration and try to bridge the gap. We need to rise to the challenge and create a tool that is effective both off and online, being sufficiently personalisable to serve the needs of large and diverse groups of people, as well as avoiding assumptions and trying and keep things simple. It’s a tough ask – could there be an app for different levels and kinds of support, that could collect information on all the different programmes going on in the area and the support available in the community from book circles, days out or collecting the weekly shop? A service that collected all information, that you could personalise for your own needs? There is a lot of thinking going on in this area around the Big Society agenda. Is this something we could connect into to support this specific user group?

Universities as a pool of support: one specific idea that was raised during initial conversation relates to the work of universities and their students, who often run well charitable volunteering programmes where students can become involved in work in their local communities. Volunteer fairs and support services are often a popular and well used resource to help students make the most of their spare time as well as boost their cv’s and experience something new. There may be an opportunity for Have A Go Heroes to be a skills swap service between students and older people in their local community, both parties trading their own unique skills, be it cooking, gardening or simply sharing stories. Win win all round!

Next steps

“Unless you have a defined need, you don’t really know where to go. I don’t really need much help at all – but I would still like to be able to have more cups and teas and chats.”

Participant, North Birmingham’s Older People Reference Group

With both the challenges and opportunities in mind our first priority is to talk to as many people as possible who fit the mould of Tymon’s gran – a support network of sorts but with a lot of potential for improvement. Based on people we have spoken to so far, we would love to develop an approach (online, offline, whatever) that identifies and then better coordinates people’s existing support network or plug the gaps with new kinds of formal and informal support.

We’ve already begun conversations with many people who would benefit from this kind of idea, as well as reflect on our previous experiences of work in similar areas. We’re hoping our continued conversations with service users will help push the Have A Go Heroes project forward as well as sharpen our on the ideas we already are beginning to have. Let us know what you think – or (even better!) how you might be able to help!


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