Just Ideas’ Summer Review 2024

Bringing diversity, creativity and lived experience

This year, we’ve committed to reflecting on our progress on a regular basis and sharing that with you. Here are our reflections on the work we’re doing in the spring of 2024, highlighting what we’re learning, and recognising with gratitude the contributions of everyone involved.

Covid-19 Inquiry – Every Story Matters

Working with Ipsos, in partnership with WSA Community, we’ve started Module 6 of the UK Covid-19 inquiry listening exercise – Every Story Matters. This focuses on the experiences of people with care needs and in the care workforce, as well as unpaid carers and loved ones of people needing care and support during the pandemic.

Our team will be doing 48 interviews between now and September, working to make sure we hear and support people whose voices may not be heard through more mainstream methods. Because of our specialism in this area, we will be supporting people with learning difficulties, and those that care for them, to share their stories.

We’ll be going into care homes, talking to the workforce, residents, loved ones and unpaid carers. It’s obviously very sensitive work. We’ve refreshed our trauma-informed research practice training and made sure that appropriate emotional support is available, for our team and for participants.

We’ve faced challenges in working out what’s appropriate in terms of ethics, and managing expectations as to the stories that we can appropriately capture. We’re working hard to make sure that conversations happen in a way that doesn’t retraumatise and that provides a positive opportunity to reflect, talk and be heard.

We’re really excited to be doing this work with a great team, including two new members who bring their youth and diversity of experience.

The Magpie Project

We were put in contact with this brilliant charity by one of our team. The Magpie Project provides a safe and fun place for mums and preschool children seeking safety, who are living in temporary or insecure accommodation in and around Newham, East London. They invited us to work on their Preschool Pathways Project, listening to the difficulties families are facing in meeting the emerging needs of their preschool children, and working with local health professionals to help them access support.

In the first phase, we’re providing specialist facilitation for eight workshops to support the mums in talking about their experiences, so they can be heard by a range of healthcare professionals, from speech and language therapists and special educational needs coordinators to health visitors, social workers, midwives and staff from children’s centres.

The second phase will build on what we know about the barriers these mums face, exploring what will help them get the specialist support they need for their children – identifying where there are missed opportunities. We’ll be supporting the codesign of pathways and tools that enable people in this situation to be looked after much better by the system.

One of our real strengths is the team that we’ve been able to bring to this work. It’s been really important to represent ethnic diversity, and to include team members with lived experience of some of the challenges these mums and children are facing. We’ve found a really good match with The Magpie Project’s values and person-centred approach, and are delighted to be working together.

Berkshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy

Our engagement work on the Berkshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy (LNRS) culminated in a webinar for Reading Climate Festival in June, updating people on our progress. Through this project, Just Ideas has organised and facilitated:

six place-based community workshops, attended by a total of 235 people

three workshops for farmers and landowners, attended by a total of 140 people

an online workshop with 35 participants

400 responses to an interactive survey.

We’re delighted to have achieved such a successful level of engagement, making sure that community voices have really been heard. We’re proud to have created an approach that was informative, enjoyable and allowed people to learn from each other.

“Just Ideas were friendly and professional, working hard to reach timelines with a complex and changing brief! I always enjoyed meetings with them, coming away feeling supported and empowered about the project. The workshops received very positive feedback, and the notes they painstakingly collected are being used to shape the strategy.”
Rosie Street, Berkshire Nature Recovery Strategy Manager

Again, our significant strength was in putting together a team of people who specialise in facilitating workshops and creating visual resources related to nature and ecology. Through our creative approach to workshop design and communicating information, we’ve seen people and nature really come alive.

New Local

We’re excited to be working on two projects with New Local. One is working with the council and communities in Ealing to codesign ways for communities to get engaged in influencing the council. Events so far have included our team getting involved in impromptu dancing, alongside some more traditional engagement and research!

We’re also working with Leicester City Council on a project called Leicester Changing Communities. The aim is to help the council understand what makes its local communities tick and what’s foremost in people’s minds, with a view to being better able to connect with those diverse, changing communities.

St Martin-in-the-Fields

We’re delighted to continue our long-standing relationship with St Martin-in-the-Fields Charity. Recently, we’ve been working alongside their senior leadership team, providing bespoke coaching and leadership support, and supporting managers in the organisation through coaching and mentoring.

It’s a dynamic organisation that has grown a lot recently and had some big changes in the senior leadership team. We’ve facilitated an interactive workshop with managers to identify their support needs over the over the coming year, and a codesign workshop to talk about their learning and development needs over the next month.

Connecting Health Communities

Helen is working with IVAR on Connecting Health Communities in Dudley, exploring how cross-sector partners and communities can work together to shift behaviours and help residents live healthily and happily. We’re looking at childhood and family obesity as both an outcome and a contributing factor to other difficulties.

We aim to help professionals working in the area to deepen their understanding of how children and families make choices about food and exercise, and the barriers to making choices that lead to greater health and happiness. We’re delivering interactive workshops with primary schools, involving asking, listening, imagery, activity and movement.

Helen has also been delivering webinars and training for the Connecting Health Communities Champions Network. It’s been really interesting to explore leadership in situations where people are tackling complex issues, as well as learning about spotting unconscious bias, and sharing practical tools for leading change collaboratively.

Local Trust and Big Local

Reflect | Recharge

We’ve reached the final stage of Reflect | Recharge, which has been a huge piece of work for us over the past two years, involving 15 Big Local areas. It’s been really valuable to reflect on the ten-year process of Big Local, which involved challenges like the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis, and to acknowledge the energy of so many community volunteers.

Richard has been working with groups in Manchester and Warrington, exploring the ongoing change that people want to see in their communities. We’ve focused on valuing people’s contributions to their communities, thinking through lasting infrastructure change, and supporting groups to become sustainable.



“Thank you so much for today, it was very helpful. Members of the group fed back that it has helped reduce stress for them, which is a huge compliment!”

Big Local Area Co-ordinator

It’s helped us to see how much community spirit we have – and a willingness to work together. That passion came through and some great ideas! Thank you!”

Reflect | Recharge participant at Latch Ford Big Local

Big Local Area Profiles

Our work continues on researching and running workshops for Big Local areas. We are currently working on four areas, and will be researching and writing a further four area profiles from July. These area profiles will form part of the Learning from Big Local website.

Just Ideas Collaborative

Welcome new associates

Mike Ball has been working with our core team to support us with our systems. At Local Trust, he successfully set up systems on a much bigger scale, so we’re benefitting from all his knowledge. He’s been particularly helpful in unpicking the complicated processes needed to make the Covid-19 Inquiry listening exercise work well.

We’re happy to be working with new associates, some recently graduated, and broadening the experience of our team.

We’re looking forward to bringing the whole Collaborative team together again in September. Find out more about the Just Ideas Collaborative.

Work with us

If you’d like to find out more about working together, or talk about partnering with us, or just sign up to keep in touch and hear our news, please do contact us. We’d love to hear from you.

We look forward to updating you on our progress again, later in the year.

Richard, Helen, Mary and the Just Ideas Collaborative


Just Ideas’ Spring Review 2024

Real Community Engagement and Meaningful Participation

At Just Ideas, we believe in reflecting on our work and sharing our learning to support future action. Our most recent annual review highlighted how we value and promote the practice of looking at what’s worked well, and why, pooling our collective wisdom and developing principles to help us plan into the future.

This year, we’ve committed to reviewing and sharing our progress with you through the year. Here are our reflections on the first few months of 2024, highlighting what we’ve learnt and recognising with gratitude the contributions of everyone involved.

Berkshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy

Local Nature Recovery Strategies (LNRS) are a new statutory requirement, funded by DEFRA. There are 48 strategy areas covering the whole of England, and Just Ideas has been invited by the Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead to be a delivery partner for Berkshire.

Our role

We have been working with as many different residents and stakeholders from local communities as possible. Our purpose is to find out their views and priorities for nature and make sure their voices are represented in a meaningful way, alongside the contributions of experts. This involves us learning and understanding enough to communicate effectively between these different groups.

We facilitated three workshops with 135 farmers and landowners, to talk about the opportunities their local LNRS brings, which have been brilliantly received. We then hosted six community workshops – for local businesses, residents and community groups.

“Another stimulating workshop last night, well done. Some of the discussions were challenging, but the Just Ideas team did a good job keeping it on track.”
LNRS community workshop participant

The information gathered is being combined with scientific expertise on local species, habitats and ecosystems. Priority habitats and species will be fed into a systematic conservation planning tool, to generate guidance on the best way to achieve recovery targets.

Our team

We’re working with a small team: two with specific expertise around nature, environment and climate, and all with really good local networks in and around Berkshire.

“Just Ideas have been a fantastic support for us. Drafting and leading excellent workshops, putting inclusivity at the forefront and always going the extra mile under tight deadlines. Plus, they are really fun to work alongside during the project.”
Rosie Street, Berkshire LNRS Manager, Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead

Our associate, Natalie, has produced a set of beautiful illustrations of some of Berkshire’s habitats and species, capturing the workshops. Our aim was to bring a wealth of complex information to people in a meaningful way, encourage them to engage with it and get a wide diversity of people participating.

Covid-19 Inquiry Listening Exercise

This year, we contributed to the module of the listening exercise on people’s experiences around vaccines, working in partnership with WSA Community. We also designed and delivered an extra piece of work focusing on the perspectives of people experiencing health inequalities.

We did some intensive work in Cornwall, listening to people with complex health and mental health needs and people who are rurally isolated. We spoke with some inspirational young mums who had babies during the pandemic, about their experiences of pregnancy and childbirth. Often, they were extremely vulnerable, living remotely, not in secure housing or in extremely overcrowded housing.

Through the valued networks that we’ve established over the years, and our Just Ideas Collaborative, we’ve been able to reach out to people whose voices wouldn’t usually be heard – communities in areas experiencing structural exclusion or multiple deprivation. We’re really proud to have been able to offer a breadth and depth of reach in our community engagement that goes beyond traditional expectations.

Looking ahead

We’ll be piloting a module on people’s experiences of accessing and using PPE. Again, we’re reaching out to community settings and putting a lot of thought into how we’ll get a real breadth of diversity of experience.

Local Trust and Big Local

Community Leadership Academy

We’re in the final stage of our work on Local Trust’s Community Leadership Academy in partnership with IVAR. Our role involves understanding the longer-term impact in communities of this innovative programme, and bringing together people involved with supporting community leadership at different levels, to explore the future for community leadership support.

It’s been really inspiring to hear about the powerful experiences people have had. We’ve heard people talking about changes they were able to make in their communities and in their lives. We’ve heard how they value their experience in a range of community roles: advocating, becoming involved in local democracy, and reaching new people through their Big Local or community groups.

Big Local Area Profiles

This year, we’ve worked with Local Trust to research and write profiles of five more Big Local areas for the ‘Learning from Big Local’ website. This website will summarise what Big Local groups achieved, how they worked together, innovative ways they prioritised funding, and what they learned from the experience.

So far, highlights have included hearing about the positive impact of improving the physical environment. For example, creating peaceful mosaics, using path areas more thoughtfully, encouraging people to get outside, and improving access, mental health and community connection.

One local area managed to develop the community centre on a local estate, reaching young people through DJing sessions and events that engaged hundreds of people from the local community. As a result, they’ve been able to raise funds for local groups and see positive changes happen.

Institute for Voluntary Action Research (IVAR)

We ran some bespoke sessions in March for IVAR’s Propel Initiative, which funds charities and community groups in London. The aim is to help them think more strategically about changing systems that aren’t working. Richard continues to deliver these training sessions, focused on evaluation and learning, covering theory of change and participatory approaches.

Just Ideas Collaborative

We had a great gathering of our Just Ideas Collaborative in March, bringing our team together and introducing our newest associates. In a two-hour, online workshop, we updated everyone on our current priorities and gave feedback on some of the projects they’ve been involved in.

We looked at our five main areas work: facilitation, community engagement, organisational development, learning evaluation and research. We shared ideas for how we could develop our offering in these areas – what we thought were the building blocks of each, and the core competencies we needed to deliver them. Our associate, Simon, is taking this work forward, thinking about how we can develop packages to offer to our clients.

Our Just Ideas Collaborative is made up of people with links to a wide variety of different communities. The diversity of our team, in terms of ethnicity, age, gender, geography and neurodiversity, gives us a real advantage when it comes to community engagement, because we’re able to reach and engage with so many different communities of people.

Reflecting on our strengths

Throughout our work so far this year, and in the years leading up to it, we notice three really important elements that run through what we do and support our success:

  1. Our commitment to real community engagement and meaningful participation
  2. The diversity of our team, thanks to our Just Ideas Collaborative
  3. Our ability to reach and engage with so many local, community-based groups.

Work with us

If you’d like to find out more about working together, talk about partnering with us, or just sign up to keep in touch and hear our news, please do contact us here. We’d love to hear from you.

We look forward to updating you on our progress again, later this year!


Richard, Helen, Mary and the Just Ideas Collaborative


Berkshire Local Nature Recovery Strategy workshops – registration is open!

We are delighted to be working with Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead (RBWM) to deliver these workshops next month across Berkshire, engaging communities in developing the Local Nature Recovery Strategy for Berkshire. If you’re in Berkshire, please join us at your nearest event – or for the online workshop – and do spread the word.

Thank you.

Book your place here: Public Engagement Events | Eventbrite


Sharing highlights from Just Ideas’ 2023 review of the year

Empowering Patient Voice: Showcasing our work with NHS England 

A big part of what Just Ideas do is to grow the voices, confidence and influence of individuals working and volunteering within community engagement roles. This includes delivering training for patient voice representatives – volunteers who share their lived experience – within NHS England.

Working with our long term partner organisation – WSA Associates – we are commissioned by NHS England to deliver training which supports these Patient and Public Voice (PPV) partners to grow their influence and impact in role.

NHS commissioners have a legal duty to ‘make arrangements’ to involve the public in commissioning. Consequently PPV partners work within all parts of the NHS to aid the development and delivery of services across healthcare.

The training that Just Ideas and WSA deliver has evolved over time, including moving online in 2020, and has continued to be well received by those who attend. The value to them is in the connections built with other PPV partners, as well as with the NHS staff who attend.

“The PPV training has empowered me – made me realise I am not the only one. I put my armour on – I am unstoppable!”

PPV partner attendee

For more information on our work with NHS England, please visit the 2023 Annual Review

To discuss your organisation’s facilitation and training needs and how we can help please contact us.

Guest blog: Inspiring Change – Reflections on the Reading Schools Climate Conference 2023

In 2023 our work with InterClimate Network (ICN) has scaled up due to the formation of a team of climate conference associate facilitators. We have worked with ICN to expand the conferences delivered to include a range of formats, hosted by individual schools, as well as in town halls across England.

The 10th Reading schools’ climate conference was held in December, organised and facilitated by the Just Ideas’ team. Here Just Ideas’ associate and guest blogger Farid Abdurrahman (pictured) shares his reflections on the day:

On the 8th of December, the Reading Council Chamber became a hub of enthusiasm, ideas, and positive energy as schools gathered for the much-anticipated Reading Schools Climate Conference. Stepping into the council chambers, my initial impression was marked by a palpable sense of positive competition among students, a testament to their dedication and passion for addressing global climate challenges.

The participating schools were divided into various countries, each representing a unique perspective on climate issues. From South Africa to the UK, USA, India, China, Marshall Islands, and Uganda, it was evident that extensive research had laid the foundation for their presentations.

One striking aspect of the conference was the students’ keen awareness of global injustices in trade. As they delved into the complexities of international commerce, it became clear that the next generation is not only concerned about the environment but also actively engaged in critical thinking about the systemic issues contributing to climate change.

During the discussions, a notable example arose when the UK representatives acknowledged their country’s excessive oil imports. What set this apart was their simultaneous recognition of the need for collaborative action. They emphasised that the USA, too, should scrutinise the impact of the oil they import. This level of critical thinking and nuanced understanding of the interconnectedness of global issues was truly heartening.

Equally impressive were the concrete, credible, and collaborative solutions proposed by the students. Their commitment to addressing climate change went beyond rhetoric, as they presented actionable steps that reflected a deep understanding of the challenges at hand. This commitment was further underscored during collaborative sessions, where students from different countries were tasked with developing joint initiatives to tackle environmental issues in their respective communities.

The collaborative element of the conference added a layer of richness to the discussions. Witnessing students break into groups and earnestly brainstorming ways to address environmental challenges in their communities was a testament to their sense of shared responsibility and a promising indicator of future collaboration on a global scale.

In conclusion, the Reading Schools Climate Conference was more than just an event—it was a gathering of passionate minds determined to make a difference. The pleasant vibe in the chambers mirrored the positive energy and collaborative spirit that permeated the entire conference. As we reflect on the outcomes of this gathering, there is a sense of hope for the future, knowing that these young minds are not just aware of the challenges we face but are actively working towards creating a sustainable and harmonious world.

Comprehensive Eco-Initiatives: Transformative Strategies Across Reading Schools

The schools, in addition to their insightful presentations, also formulated impactful solutions aimed at making a positive difference to address environmental challenges within their respective communities.  Some of the initiatives that the students came up with were :

  • Embrace composting of vegetable food waste for use in school gardens to reduce environmental impact.

  • Enhance waste reduction efforts by strategically installing or repositioning recycling bins throughout school and incentivising increased participation.

  • Amplify awareness of climate action urgency and opportunities through the Student Leadership Team while fostering increased environmental action within the school community.

  • Revitalise an Eco Committee and a geography club with the support of the Student Leadership Team and teachers, focusing on enhancing green spaces and waste management. Plans include showcasing and disseminating successful ideas throughout the school’s Academy Trust.

To find out more about hosting a Model Climate Conference please get in touch 



New Report for Local Trust: ‘Building Community Leadership’

We’re delighted to share the publication of ‘Building Community Leadership’ the culmination of work with IVAR as evaluation and learning partners to Local Trust’s Community Leadership Academy (CLA).

Learning from the experience of participants and delivery partners over the last three years, the report sheds light on how the CLA supported individuals in communities to take action during the difficult years of Covid-19, and what will be needed in future to take forward this learning and sustain community leadership.

Learn more about our work with IVAR as learning evaluation partners for Local Trust’s CLA on our blog here