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.