Social Care Curry Club

Love curry? Love social care? You are in!

Calling all hosts – June 5 eat-up

It’s that time again, the stomachs have started grumbling, the distant whispers of the relative merits of bhuna or jalfrezi can be heard if you listen really carefully, and the tweets are starting to pile up asking about the next curry club. Social Care Curry Club will return on June 5 2014 and we’re now at a stage of requesting hosts so please do get in touch. As ever with curry there aren’t really any rules except no sales, and you must pass the love social care, love curry test. If you can say yes to all of those then you’re welcome.

Birmingham

We are trying to spread the hosting around a little, so if you’ve hosted more than twice before please try to pass your responsibilities onto someone new! We also would much prefer pairs of hosts, if you don’t know someone that’s fine, we’ll get you a partner in crime but inclement weather and other unforeseen circumstances have meant we’ve lost several hosts on the night/just before – we know it happens, so we’re trying to plan for it. In fact on one fateful night last year the amazing Tim stepped up to the Scottish curry club mantle after we lost not one, but two hosts, due to flooding. So, pairs it is.

If you’d like to host please add your name and location (exact venue if you know it or town if not) below in the comments section and we’ll set the eventbrite page up for bookings. Some of you have already offered publicly and privately, please add a comment here or DM again and we’ll work it out. There’s a post that goes into the role of host here, it will probably answer every hosting question you have, if it doesn’t then please send us a tweet or leave us a comment.

JuneSCCC

March 6 eat-up

I’ll start this post by apologising for not being more on the ball with the March eat-up. Social Care Curry Club, awesome as it is, is all squeezed into what spare time we have and there hasn’t been a lot of it lately, so we’re a bit behind on getting organised. That said we have 12 confirmed eat ups for March 6, which is just under a fortnight away. Confirmed eat-ups and hosts are:

Bournemouth with @RachelMason247 + Chris (?)

Bristol with @RoseHarwood1 and @jmcefalas

Exeter with @SamSly2 and @GCT1968

Guildford with @SurreyMHSW and @Andrew_Ellery

Lancaster with @HannahnagroM and @CathHill2

Leeds with @LisaJJeffery and @DaveCockayne

London with @MrDarrenGormley and @jaimeelewis

Luton with @AgeConcernLuton and @SheroneHD

St Albans with @Mwharvey and @4370Raj

Tunbridge Wells with @GrahamShaw4 and @RogerGibson9

Worcester with @robbowainiho and @natalielackenby

We’re also looking for co-hosts for the following venues:

Cheshire with @annemariePHB

Maidstone with @Jo_Frazer

We are also happy to have more eat-ups if there isn’t one near you and you fancy hosting. Just get in touch @SocialCareCurry and we’ll add you to the list. Keep an eye on our eventbrite page where the eat-ups will be added once we have confirmed venues from hosts.

What does a Social Care Curry Club host do?

This is a very common question that we’re asked when we’re arranging Social Care Curry eat-ups, so we though we’d put a post together to point people to. I wanted to start by reiterating that Social Care Curry wouldn’t exist without our volunteer hosts. While you could argue it wouldn’t exist without it’s punters, it certainly wouldn’t be more than a good idea without our lovely hosts. It is these people who encourage, coordinate, arrange, market, book, tweet, welcome, blog and generally support Social Care Curry to make sure that people can actually come together once a quarter to talk social care and eat curry. A quick question and answer for you, based on I’m thinking of volunteering to host….

Q. What would I have to do? The bare minimum is book a curry house and turn up on time to welcome people on the night. Some hosts have taken it upon themselves to market their events, some have spoken to journalists for us, and some are amongst our biggest advocates, but the minimum is enough.

Q. How much time will it require? Hmmm, how long is a piece of string? Again the least amount of time is a couple hours on the night, we try to ensure all curries start at the same time (7pm) although ideally we’d like hosts to be there a little earlier. Any more time than the evening itself is up to you. We manage all the bookings centrally so there is no need to email people or book people on – you’ll receive an email a couple weeks before with your booking numbers at that point, and then again on the day with updated numbers. Some of our larger eat-ups find it easier to negotiate a set menu, so everyone knows in advance what they are paying. This can sometimes take time to arrange, and some additional emails or phonecalls, some of our hosts take it very seriously indeed and trial a number of curry houses to check which serves the best food (this is not a requirement, they’re just curry addicts). 

Q. I don’t tweet much does that matter? Social Care Curry Club started with twitter and this blog, but there is no requirement that you tweet at all, as a host or someone attending. It’s optional, many curriers do, but not all. We’re keen to ensure that the word about Social Care Curry spreads beyond the twittersphere so not tweeting shouldn’t be a barrier to hosting.

Q. Will I get paid? Absolutely not, sorry, everything is voluntary. You are almost guaranteed a spring in your stride the next day when you remember that you helped create something so awesome, and brought so many strangers together, that’s quite special…but it doesn’t pay the bills.

Q. Can I use the opportunity to promote my business/product/vacant posts I need filling? We are incredibly strict about this, and it’s a big fat no. People have repeatedly told us that the lack of hierarchy, combined with the no sales environment, is what makes Social Care Curry Club so appealing, so you can not use it as an opportunity to promote yourself or your product, sorry.

Q. Will I enjoy it? Ummm, if you’ve got this far through the post, and are still considering it, yeh I reckon you will. It takes a certain type of person to be prepared to pitch up at a curry house and meet a bunch of strangers, but we think it’s worth it, and we’re confident you’ll enjoy it too. Feedback so far has suggested the only bit of the exercise that is not enjoyable, is working out the bill, which you can of course avoid if you negotiate a set menu.

Q. I’m not very senior/I’m a student/I don’t work in social care…can I still host? Yes, yes and yes. Our hosts come with a range of experience and identities. The only requirement is the requirement to attend Social Care Curry – that you love social care and love curry. If that’s you, then you’re welcome to volunteer to  host.

Q. Why do some eat-ups have two hosts? Since we started Social Care Curry Club last year all manner of spanners have been thrown in the works, mostly related to illness, horrendous weather and travel delays. In fact at the last eat-up neither of our Scottish hosts, Jon or Anna, could make it to the venue, leaving a gallant Tim Kelly to step into the breach with a couple of hours notice. We like to think we’re reflective learners, and therefore our preference is always to have two hosts at an eat-up, to account for some of these challenges that can’t be anticipated. We are also keen to match together hosts that don’t know each other, which has resulted in some brilliant collaborations so far.

Q. How do you decide who gets to host? This is tricky, anyone who knows us will know that my (George) geographical knowledge is completely and utterly dire, and that Matt’s obsession with curry renders him almost incapable of saying no to the idea of curry, so there isn’t an exact science. So far we’ve said yes to everyone who has volunteered to host, although last time there were some eat-ups very close together. Our plan is to get the names and locations of people willing to host now (5 Feb) and we’ll make a decision on who and where in a week to ten days (depending on how many of you volunteer). This is our third quarterly meet up so where possible we are looking to build our network of hosts, but we do have a number of very experienced hosts who have offered to partner up, or provide support to new people.

I think that’s it, any more questions just send us a tweet @SocialCareCurry or leave a comment and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. Here’s to March 6 eat-up being our best yet.

December eat-ups

British_Islands_Dec2013

So we’re back again in the final fortnight before our December eat-up. As ever we’re amazed and delighted at the support shown by curriers to arrange, promote, host and attend Social Care Curry Club. Four months ago this was just an idea and since then:

The network of curriers has also grown exponentially, from just Matt and I to over 1000 followers on twitter. We’re delighted that we have over 200 curriers booked to attend the December eat-up, and perhaps even more importantly, we have 21 UK venues and Vancouver on offer this time, which means that there’s more choice of local curry. As with last time the proof of the poppadom is in the eating but we’re quietly optimistic that a good time will be had by all.

You still have time to book your place, bookings will close a week today so that numbers can be finalised with curry houses. So, if you love social care and love curry and find yourself with a couple hours spare on Thursday 5 December, what are you waiting for. Full list of options as follows:

Baker Street with Jemima and Rich

Brighton with Lucy and Susan

Bristol with Rose and Tim

Cambridge with Dominic and Care Home Cook

Canterbury with Kimberley Care

Dawley with Pete

Derby with LACDerby

Dundee with Anna and Jon

Frome with Rachel

Hereford with Wayne and Louise

Leeds with Elly

Liverpool with Louise and Options

Luton with Age Concern Luton and Beth

Lye with Paul and Kate

Newbury with Rachael

Newcastle with Beverly

Oxford with Burcu

Preston with Amanda

Sheffield with Patient OpinionCare Opinion and Paul

Tunbridge Wells with Graham

Vancouver with Ernie

Wimbledon with Chloë and Jo

Book now 5 Dec 2013

Just a short reminder to encourage you to book now if you’re interested in coming along to the December Social Care Curry Club eat-ups. They’re all taking place on Thursday 5 December, which is just over two weeks away. Most eat-ups start at 7pm, although check your actual booking page on eventbrite or your tickets to double check as one or two are starting earlier or later.

We’re delighted that there has been a similar level of interest as September (over 200 people in the UK and Canada so far) and are even more pleased that we have more locations, meaning that it should be easier for people to access an eat-up closer to them. The criteria remain the same, everyone is welcome providing they love social care and love curry and promise not to sell anything.

You can book all the UK locations on this page. Choose between:  Baker Street, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Canterbury, Dawley, Derby, Dundee, Frome, Hereford, Leeds, Liverpool, Luton, Lye, Newbury, Newcastle, Oxford, Preston, Sheffield, Tunbridge Wells, and Wimbledon. We also have a Vancouver option available for our Canadian friends again too.

If you’re sitting there thinking ‘that’s all well and good but there’s nowhere near me’, then you have two options: one is to grab a takeout on the night and join in via the hashtag #socialcarecurry and the second is to be brave, suggest your local curry house to us, volunteer to host and we’ll see if we can drum up some company for you!! You’re welcome to do that but make sure you act quick.

Getting ready for our December eat-up

Well what do you know, you lovely curriers have surpassed our expectations yet again. Two days ago we received our 100th booking for the December eat-up which is taking place across the country on Thursday 5 December at 7pm. We now have 15 locations in the UK and one in Vancouver and it looks like the December eat-up may prove even more popular than September when we had over 200 people.

In alphabetical order, what follows are the locations, the venues and the hosts. If you click on the location it will pull up the booking page for that curry; click on the hosts names to get their twitter handles if you’d like to contact them directly about anything.

Baker Street at Cinnamon Spice with Jemima and Rich

Brighton at Chilli Pickle with Lucy and Susan

Dawley at Bengal Spice with Pete

Derby at Viceroy with LACDerby

Frome at Jhalmuri with Rachel

Leeds at Aagrah with Elly

Luton at Red Chilli with Age Concern Luton and Beth

Lye at Balti Bazaar with Paul and Kate

Newbury at Nawab with Rachael

Newcastle at Rani with Beverly

Oxford at Chutneys with Burcu

Preston at Kashti with Amanda

Sheffield at Aagrah with Patient OpinionCare Opinion and Paul

Tunbridge Wells at Turmeric Gold with Graham

Vancouver at Jambo Grill with Ernie

Wimbledon at Ahmed Tandoori with Chloë and Jo

From our perspective it’s the more the merrier when it comes to eat-ups. There are no minimum or maximum numbers, only two entry requirements – love social care and love curry, and as ever only one rule – no sales. So if you’d like to goto curry but can’t travel to any of the ones already organised then let us know where you’d like to hold it and we’ll add you to the list. More on what is involved is in our last blog post here.

We are fairly confident that we’ll open bookings to a number of eat-ups in the planning stages in the next week or so. These are likely to be in: Cambridge, Dundee and Liverpool. There is also talk of at least one in Wales, one in Canterbury, one in Hereford, one in Hertfordshire and one in Leicester – so do leave a comment or send us a tweet if you’re interested in any of these venues and we’ll do what we can to get them happening.

Here’s to a December eat-up to end the year on a high.

December 5 eat-ups

Having just about recovered from the fun and games of #NCASC13 Social Care Curry Club eat-up, we’re now moving on to organising the next curry club eat-up proper. September saw over 200 people come together across the UK and Canada, to talk social care and eat curry. NCASC eat-up brought 80 people together in one place. We can’t wait to see what December holds.

So what’s next:
Step 1: At this stage we’re asking for volunteer hosts and locations.

Step 2: What we’ll then do is get out our map (yes, in case you’ve not noticed already one of us is very geographically challenged) and identify whether we think we can have all the eat-ups that are offered. From our perspective there really is no limit, so as long as there are two or three people interested in an area then that’s a viable eat-up.

Step 3: Once hosts and locations are agreed (if we get too many hosts offering for an area we’ll just arbitrarily pick), we’ll ask hosts to pick curry houses/venues and let us have them.

Step 4: Hosts will then be asked to book the venue and identify maximum capacity. As NCASC13 shows interest does fluctuate, so hosts may need to contact venues more than once between now and December to up the booking, but hopefully they’ll be delighted with that and it’s not too onerous for hosts.

Step 5: The next step is for us to set up eventbrite pages for each event and then it’s all about spreading the word and drumming up interest.

Then there’s some back room organising stuff that goes on, we’ll try to blog about hosts and introduce you to each other. We’ll also set up twitter lists to add to the ones already here. Then on the night people come together, eat curry, talk social care, don’t sell anything including themselves, network in real life and using the #socialcarecurry hashtag and an awesome time is had by all. There is no structure, there are no presentations, powerpoints, or podcasts. There are no seating plans or big introductions.

Learning from feedback – paying the bill!
Based on the feedback received last time the biggest challenge is settling the bill, and there were some people who were concerned about whether they could afford the evening, so where possible we’d like hosts to try and arrange a set price buffet. Don’t worry if this isn’t possible, but if it is then it’s easier to collect money on arrival, and means that people have more or less an idea of what they’re spending.

Who is on the hosting list already?
We’ve received offers of hosting from a few people already, definitely confirmed are:

Brighton @SocialWkBalance and @LucyJMarsters

Cambridge @Patient_Leader and @CookCare

Dawley @Pete62Jackson and @JakeSnr

Derby @LACDerby

Dundee @AnnaFowlieSSSC and @JonBolton

Frome @RachelMason247

Hertfordshire @3SpiritUKNZ

Leeds @Elly01

Liverpool @mdfdisability and @optionsempowers

London @BPotter38 and @Rich_W

Luton @AgeConcernLuton and @HWLuton_Chair

Newbury @WardellR

Newcastle @SparkySW

Preston @AMLTaylor66

Sheffield @PatientOpinion, @CareOpinion and @PaulSheps

Tunbridge Wells @GrahamShaw4

Vancouver @ejbaatz

We also had offers for Cambridge @Patient_Leader @CookCare, Leicester @StigmaArtUK, Luton @AgeConcernLuton @HWLuton_Chair, Lye @PaulJaunzems, Newcastle @SparkySW and Tunbridge Wells @GrahamShaw4 but will wait to have them reconfirmed before turning them into definites.

NB Edit: Cambridge, Luton, Newcastle and Tunbridge Wells now confirmed; Dawley, Derby, Hertfordshire and Leeds added.

So if you’re not on the list and would like to be, or there isn’t a location near you and you’d like there to be, then please add a comment or send us a tweet and we’ll add you to the list. The success of December is up for grabs, come on people, let’s do this.

#NCASC13 #socialcarecurry eat-up write up

Last week saw our biggest ever gathering of curriers come together in Harrogate. Eighty people, some who were attending the National Children and Adult Services Conference, and others who were local to the area, some who were completely new to Social Care Curry Club, others had been before and some had hosted, all came along to Jinnah to enjoy a fantastic evening of curry, social care, banter and show stopping naans!
NCASC13_naanSomething that several hosts commented on in feedback from the September eat-ups was the challenge of arranging the bill at the end of the night. There were various approaches, formulas, numerical whizz kids and post it note uses but the thought of settling a bill for eighty was too much for us to cope with. So, keen to learn from our feedback, and despite a fear that people may not carry cash we arranged a banquet to the table for the absolute bargain price of £12 a head, and we asked for payment on arrival.

We’re all about the learning in Social Care Curry Club and it’s fair to say we hadn’t expected it to take almost an hour to collect the money upfront, but there was much banter and enjoyment and there was a great buzz in the bar area so no-one seemed to mind. If we ever have as big a gathering again though we may think of a slightly more high tech solution than a bar tray of cash, but it worked, and we were all paid up and ready to go.
RestaurantWe almost filled the restaurant with social care curriers (nearly everyone in this picture and thirty people in a raised area on the left that you can’t see) and I do feel sorry for anyone else who chose to try and have a quiet curry that night, including these two Germans and a Dutchman accosted by Pete Jackson while taking snaps, although to be fair they seemed happy with the atmosphere:
VisitorsAs for the actual conversation of the night, it appeared to be eclectic and wide ranging as ever. At least one table reported barely mentioning social care all evening, others were deep into the possibilities of mobile technology, meals on wheels, research, policy and practice. The most important thing for us is that everyone had a good time, that those who came knowing no-one were welcomed and that people were left feeling slightly rejuvenated and better about life than when they walked in. The feedback we’ve received so far seems unanimous on those counts.
Screenshot 2013-10-21 10.51.54It was relatively high risk running social care curry at conference (or so we thought), initially we only booked for 40, extending to 50, 60, 70 and eventually stopping at 80. We were also delighted to be joined by some friends and curriers who had other engagements that evening but made it along for a drink afterwards. The brilliant Jinnah staff eventually saw the back at us just before 1am as people headed home or back to their hotel rooms for some much needed shut eye before day two of conference.

Richard Humphries shared a Charles Handy quote on twitter this weekend, relating to change:

Why we cannot wait for governments and large corporations to mend our broken and breaking country

“The hope lies in the unknown, in that second curve, if we can find it. The world is up for reinvention in so many ways. Creativity is born in chaos. What we do, what we belong to, why we do it, when we do it, where we do it – these all may be different and they could be better. Our societies, however, are built on case law. Change comes from small initiatives which work, initiatives which, imitated, become the fashion. We cannot wait for great visions from people, for they are in short supply at the end of history. It is up to us to light our own small fires in the darkness”.

We hope that Social Care Curry Club provides a small fire to warm and lighten the path for people. It is not, and was not ever intended to be more than a creation of chaos. We have stuck closely to our one rule of ‘no sales’ and a simple test of eligibility ‘love social care, love curry’, really genuinely everyone is welcome. Off the back of what we’ve heard and seen we’re confident that connections are being made, that developments are happening, and we’ve heard of at least one business idea and one research collaboration in the offing after the September eat-up. We are delighted that curry can play a small part in supporting social care in what is challenging times for anyone associated with it and we thank you all for making it happen.

Next year’s #NCASC14 #socialcarecurry will take place in Manchester on Wednesday 29 October, venue to be confirmed. If you’d like to connect with other #NCAC13 curriers the twitter list is here (let us know if you were there and aren’t on it), you can also see the storify of this year click here and the full photo set is available here:

Next eat-ups are happening on December 5th and we’re looking for hosts and venues now – blog post to follow, keep your eyes peeled here or on twitter.

#NCASC13 Eat-up

In two days time the biggest one off gathering of social care curriers take place to coincide with the National Children and Adult Services Conference (variously known up until yesterday as #NCASC #NCASC13 or #NCAS13). Pedants may point out that this in itself isn’t such a hard title for us to gain, as this is only the third time the curry club has met. Originally in July we had nine curriers, September saw over 200 meet together simultaneously across twelve UK and one Canadian eat-up, and this week 70 people will come together at Jinnah in Harrogate.

When Matt and I first decided to give the conference curry a whirl we were, as ever with curry club, winging it a little, experimenting, guessing and going with our gut. Ultimately if you play it safe, if you don’t stick your neck out and risk failure, then you never know if it might work. We decided curry together would be alright if no-one wanted to join us. We originally released 40 tickets and uptake was instant, the booking was extended to 50, then 60 and now 70. We’ve left the waitlist open in case there are any last minute additions or requests – if we get cancellations we’ll redistribute and we’ll contact the venue again on the day and try to accommodate anyone still keen to come. UPDATE 15/10 We extended the booking to 80, last few tickets now available and everyone on waitlist accommodated. Same rules if it fills up again.

So where does this leave us? We’re both excited by the potential and holding our breath a little to see how it works out. We’re sticking to the same rules as before – love curry, love social care is the only requirement to join in, no experts, no hierarchies, no agenda, no presentations and absolutely no sales. We’ve also insisted that all comers are welcome and are delighted that a number of local people who won’t be at conference have booked to come along.

Who will be there in two days time?

Screenshot 2013-10-14 21.52.30

We created a wordle last time we met for no real reason but people seemed to like it, so we’ve done it again. There are three Amandas and three Richards, so if you forget who you’re talking to you could always plump for one of those options! There will be no name badges and no requirements to wear your conference branding either. As with previous eat-ups you come as yourself and leave your organisation, title, airs or graces at the door, as detailed in the ‘about us’ page:

Is there a plan for the evening? There will be no presentations or key note speeches. All you have to do is chat and eat curry. If this works well there is the possibility of a trip to the pub afterwards. If it doesn’t, run like the wind! The curry club is a gathering of folks who wish to discuss and debate, no-one attends as as a representative of an organisation or group, so lift all that baggage off at the door and collect in on the way out when you have a nice full tummy and brain.

As on the last occasion we’re delighted at the range of people, job roles and organisations represented (even if we insist on you leaving those qualifiers at the door)! We have social work students, people using services, carers, providers, community interest companies, independent consultants, those working in sector led improvement, local authority managers, assistant directors and directors, councillors and lead members, academics, researchers and others working in education.  A full range of experience and learning opportunities. Given the national nature of the conference we also have a spread of attendees from across England.

Just out of interest to check the balance of people booked on, we banded curriers into five arbitrary groups: government (inc LA, NHS, Cllrs and CQC), knowledge (inc academics, lecturers, students, researchers and sector led improvement), providers (inc CICs, housing, support services, services and other selling organisations), independent consultants (because we didn’t check what they independently consulted in) and unknown/other (where it wasn’t immediately clear from a quick google/twitter search). This is what the results looked like:

Screenshot 2013-10-14 22.07.52

So we’re quite pleased with that spread and the fact that no one group dominates any other. In addition this is the first time Matt and I have hosted (we didn’t really bother with a host in July) but we’re delighted to have three former hosts from September to guide us: Angela, Eddie and Jemima, along with a number of curriers from September who I’m sure will make new people feel very welcome. Also we again have a spread of tweeters (47) and non-tweeters (23). You can check all the currying NCASCing tweeps out on the twitter list here.

The final thing to mention before Wednesday is that we’ve had lots of feedback that the success of curry has come partly from the lack of hierarchy and partly from the no sales rule. We sincerely hope that will remain the case on Wednesday. We will also be using the #socialcarecurry hastag as before so those not in the room can join in the conversations if they wish.

Logistics: Curry starts at 8.30pm (this is later than previous occasions to account for people in sessions at conference that run into the evening). The venue is Jinnah on Cheltenham Parade, and we will retire to a (yet to be determined) pub venue afterwards and liaise with some curriers who are otherwise engaged and can’t make it for food. The curry is a buffet and it will be £12 per person + your own drinks. We are going to try and collect payment on the door to save negotiations at the end of the night (and then everyone can sort their own drinks), so if you can bring cash for your curry that would be great, but if not don’t worry we’ll sort card payments on the evening.

Cancelling/booking: If you need to cancel on the day please drop a tweet to the curry account, or an email to the curry club account and/or let me or Matt know via twitter. If you don’t have a space and would like one please sign up on the waitlist and leave your mobile/twitter details and we’ll contact you if space becomes available/we’re able to extend the booking.

As soon as NCASC #socialcarecurry is out the way we’ll move on to agreeing locations and hosts for December 5th, so keep your eyes peeled on the blog and twitter account for more info.

The club for those who love curry and social care

After the success of the September eat-ups we were delighted to be asked to write a piece for The Guardian Social Care Network. Published a couple weeks ago it got a brilliant response and no doubt raised awareness and helped NCASC #socialcarecurry again exceed our wildest expectations; we now have 65 people booked on with final five spaces available here. This week I’m in Canada presenting at #KTNConf and there has been a lot of interest in the idea when I’ve mentioned it over coffee. I realised I’d not cross posted the Guardian article here, so what follows is the text from that piece. We’ll return to the blog again after next week is out the way and start organising Dec 5 in earnest.

The club for those who love curry and social care: This ‘edible’ networking initiative – where hierarchies don’t apply – enables people to share ideas and views

Earlier this year a chance conversation on Twitter led to the most unusual of networks forming, the Social Care Curry Club. Variously billed as edible networking, curry induced knowledge exchange, and a good excuse to eat curry and chat social care, the appetite for curry has surpassed all expectations.

The basic premise is very simple. If you love curry and love social care, then you’re in. There are no more requirements than that. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you know about social care, where your experience comes from, whether you consider yourself an expert or a novice. The only requirement is that you can answer those two questions positively and that you follow the one rule: no sales. People come as themselves, they are not representing their organisation, there are no pitches or presentations, no powerpoints, prezzis or podcasts. This is quite simply curry and chat.

Recent budget cuts have had a phenomenally detrimental impact on social care. Services are cut, jobs are lost, morale is low, and yet people are spending their own money and giving up their own time to attend Social Care Curry Club. At a time when large scale conferences are seeing a drop off in attendance, perhaps due to issues of cost, travel restrictions, work overload and relevance, why is curry club proving so popular?

We’ve asked ourselves that question many times and to be honest we don’t know, it’s too early to tell really. Our hunch is that it’s something to do with the simplicity of the idea; the ease of access for people to attend, the September event had 12 eat-ups across the UK and one in Canada; and the lack of hierarchy, feedback stressed this a lot, whether you are someone who uses social care services, a newly qualified social worker, a researcher or a policy maker, or indeed the Director General for Social Care (and yes he did attend), is irrelevant.

The lack of rules or structure is also key. There are no stipulations of how the evening should be run, how bills should be paid, what people should talk about. In fact we have no idea what people talked about, and we are quite happy with that. It is for each individual to set their agenda and manage their own experience, so autonomy is key too.

So far supported by a twitter account, a blog and an eventbrite page, we have built a network of 700 people. What started with one small gathering of nine in Birmingham in July, was followed by over 200 people coming together internationally in September. Our other killer ingredient is that the network organises itself. Local gatherings would not have been possible without the support of our volunteer hosts who take responsibility for booking the curry house, meeting and greeting on the day and ensuring the bill is paid at the end of the night.

The ultimate question has to be whether this will improve social care? Honestly, we don’t know. This was just a throwaway conversation that led to a simple idea, and our growth is very organic. Hopefully coming together over curry will enable people to share experiences, ideas and views about social care. Doubtless that will mean different things to each person, but ultimately we hope it supports people to build their resilience and connectivity, and that in turn will have a positive impact on practice.

George Julian is a freelance knowledge transfer consultant and Matt Bowsher is assistant director at Dudley Metropolitan borough council.

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