One of our focus areas at TACSI is ageing, we work on identifying challenges that people experience as they age and we work with the people to build solutions that will solve these challenges.
We use ethnographic research, or as we refer to it “rigorous hanging-out”, to understand people’s routines and the challenges they face. We dive deep into the context to understand where potential solutions could be implemented and to define best ways to do so.
Through this deep research, we have learnt about the relevance of caring and how important it is as a social act. It is something that we do for a loved one. It is an act that all of us could be involved in one day.
In fact in Australia there are 2.7 million people providing informal assistance (12% of Australians) (1) and the estimated value of unpaid care in 2015 was $60.3 billion (3.8% of the GDP) (2). The quantity of carers frame the challenge dimension, but the most relevant aspect for us is how caring impacts on people’s wellbeing. Carers have the lowest levels of well-being of any Australian population sub-group (3) and 1 in 6 family carers have seriously contemplated killing themselves (4).
Exploring all these challenges in the context of caring helped us frame the potential areas of improvement. Together with carers we have designed 6 possible solutions in response and tested one of these, ’Weavers’.
Weavers is a 1:1 peer support program for carers, people that have been in a caring situation in the past support people that are currently in a caring situation. The volunteers that have lived caring experiences support carers in four main focus areas:
It’s different because…
Weavers adds value to other existing programs. It has been designed for carers by carers, so it really focuses on what adds value and discards what doesn’t. Furthermore, there is a rigour behind it, the model draws on three theories and frameworks: narrative practice (5), 3-A grief intervention model and ambiguous loss theory. After testing and adapting them, we have learnt ways these add value to the support that volunteers give to carers.
Weavers changes lives…
After two years of program testing we conducted an evaluation with an external team. We were aware of the value we were providing to carers because we are constantly meeting them, and we wanted to frame what outcomes people involved in the program were achieving. The evaluation team shared that Weavers was increasing self-efficacy in the carer role and life, it was increasing their assertiveness about their own needs and was decreasing depression.
It was surprising to discover what impact Weavers was having for the other two stakeholders involved: the people being cared for and Weaver volunteers. The first reported receiving more attentive caring by their carer and improved use of services that better suited their needs. The second shared having an increased sense of purpose and receiving high value training and professional development.
Understanding all the value that Weavers was providing propelled the team to find a way we could share it with everyone that could benefit from our learnings. We met carer support, aged care and health care organisations to understand which path would be the best to take. We worked with The Difference Incubator team who helped us make sense of all the information, reflect on it and reinforced our decisions. After some months of work we decided the best way to give back what we have learnt was open-sourcing the model. Sharing all the resources online for free, so that anyone interested could take on board Weavers.
We have put together all the resources to run Weavers on our website weavers.tacsi.org.au. There you will be able to find all the descriptions of what the program is, the value behind it, all the activities you need to follow and the resources you would need.
As our chair Nicholas and Director of Impact Chris mentioned in an article about Weavers in The Mandarin, in this website you will find all the knowledge that we have been able to codify, the systematic knowledge that will be helpful to implement Weavers. We are aware that there is uncodified knowledge, the tacit and pragmatic knowledge that is hard to register in a website. This is the reason why we are also are offering packages of support from our team to organisations, institutions, hospitals, councils, groups of people, that might be interested in starting-up Weavers in their community.
We are currently supporting Helping Hand in Adelaide and we are very excited to hear that more and more people are interested in Weavers. We would love to see an Australia in which all carers receive the support they need, when they need it and how they need it; support that will help increase their wellbeing and life quality.
By Ione Ardaiz-Osacar, Kerry Jones and Erin Martin, TACSI. This is the first in a new four part series on the journey to open-sourcing Weavers and taking this solution to scale.